How gay Chinese hide their relationships behind ‘sham marriages’

In China – where same-sex unions are not legal and homosexuality remains taboo – gay men and women are marrying each other

When Xiaoxiong and her lesbian lover wanted to hide their relationship from their parents, they decided to find men willing to marry them. They had a specific type in mind: gay.

Searching out suitors for such a marriage of convenience proved difficult, so she created an online matchmaking forum to help others like her conform with family and societal pressures in China, where same-sex marriage is not legal and homosexuality remains taboo.

“I was so relieved that there was a way to please my parents without getting trapped in a marriage with some poor straight man,” said Xiaoxiong, self-described tomboy, who did not want to give her surname to protect her privacy.

“Some of us wish we could trick ourselves, too,” the 35-year-old added.

She lives with her partner, Xiaojing, 36, their dog and two cats in Shenyang, the capital of northeastern Liaoning province, one of China’s more conservative regions.

But during holidays and special occasions, they separate to be with their husbands and families, pretending to be traditional wives.

In China being openly gay is still fraught with difficulties. Dressing a certain way or public displays of affection can draw stares and lead to family turmoil.

Some Chinese parents have even brought gay children to “conversion” clinics for treatment.

Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in China until 2001 and a crime until 1997, and authorities have arrested gay rights activists.

Around 90 per cent of 20 million gay men in China are married to women who are usually straight and do not initially know their husband’s real sexual orientation, according to a 2012 study from Qingdao University. The study did not look at lesbians’ behavior.

But gay men and women are increasingly marrying each other in so-called cooperative marriages.

There are no estimates on the number of gay-lesbian marriages, but several websites dedicated to them have popped up in recent years.

The largest one,, says it has amassed more than 400,000 users and facilitated more than 50,000 cooperative marriages in the past 12 years.

Homophobia in China

“When I turned 25, my parents started to really pressure me to get married. So I searched the internet for ideas,” Xiaoxiong said.

She started her own forum on the popular QQ social media platform to help gays like herself find the ideal fake spouse in northeast China.

Some of the men she spoke with had unrealistic expectations, such as wanting her to grow out her buzz cut or move to a different city to live in the same house as in-laws.

In 2012, she married a high school maths teacher 10 years her senior whose laid-back demeanour immediately made her feel comfortable.

But she cringes at the wedding photos of herself in a white gown and curly black wig. The video makes her “want to vomit”, she concedes.

Within weeks of the ceremony, Xiaojing, her partner for eight years, had also wed a gay man.

The two women run a traditional Chinese medical practice together, and they dedicate several hours each week to answering questions on the online matchmaking forum.

But Xiaojing warns people interested in cooperative marriages to be prepared for potential complications.

“Some people rush into a marriage with someone they barely know,” she said. “But just like real marriage, it only works between people who agree on important things like where to live and whether to have children, and who genuinely care about each other.”

But some gay rights activists frown upon such arrangements.

“By pretending to be straight and enjoying the social benefits, they are abandoning other LGBT people to face the pressure alone,” said Ah Qiang, a prominent activist who leads China’s PFLAG group – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

“I think a reason homophobia is still so strong in China is that many straight people don’t know any openly gay people,” he said.

Xiaoxiong and Xiaojing believe their families likely know the truth about their relationship, but nobody wants to acknowledge the obvious.

“We don’t wish for much,” Xiaoxiong said. “When we are home, when we are sitting side by side, we just feel so peaceful and happy.”

South China Morning Post


Uganda bans Dutch film The Dinner Club for ‘glorifying homosexuality’ and ‘smoking especially by women’


Uganda’s media council has banned a film because it “glorifies homosexuality”, the Dutch embassy has said.

Made in the Netherlands The Dinner Club also contains “steamy sex scenes”; “lurid language”; and “smoking especially by women”, according to officials in the landlocked African nation, where gay sex is illegal.

“While glorifying homosexuality two women say marriage (presumably to men) is hard work! This is against Ugandan values,” the council added in its rejection letter

It claimed the dinner club formed by the women in the film “is in reality a sort of brothel”. The council also objected to one man in the film calling another a “hot chick”.

They have banned it from being screened in the country as a result.

Released in 2010, the film was due to be screened at the European Film Festival in Uganda.

The Dutch embassy, which posted the list of objections on Facebook, said it “deplores” the decision to ban the film and would withdraw from participating in the festival .

Eating the Moon


Mainstream media broke through the gay glass ceiling (“Will & Grace”), but portrayals usually erred on the side of comedy.
By: Mark Campbell/The American in Italia

Living in Italy, I’ve discovered the English-speaking expat community contains lot of writers, both amateurs and professionals. Maybe it’s because making do in a foreign culture creates a unique perspective that outsiders are eager to express and describe. This magazine is an example.

A number of years ago I was lucky enough to join an English-language writing group composed of Americans, Canadians and Brits. It’s still going strong. We meet once a week in Milan to criticize each other’s writing. The only rule is to bring something you’ve written. Criticism is rarely easy to accept, but we’re always serious, direct and honest. We all share the same goal, wanting to make the story better. But in the end, the author has the final word.

The group’s contribution to my writing has been immeasurable. The experience has allowed me to reach a level of competence I couldn’t have achieved alone. Though I’m the only gay member of the group, and I write gay literature, I’ve always been treated — and my work has always been treated — with dignity and respect.

Like expats, LGBTI+ people can feel like strangers in a strange land. We’re often socially alienated or isolated and as such possess a slightly different perspective on daily life (essential to a good story). That may be why literature is such a strong aspect of Queer Culture.

LGBTI+ readers are generally drawn to queer literature through affinity. The hetero-normative perspective — transmitted via books, TV, radio, advertising, the internet — can be like an oppressive tsunami that drowns out everything in its path. For me, reading a queer novel feels like poking my head out of deep water and taking a breath of fresh air. All too often, gay stories and LGBTI+ experiences are censored or edited out of the mainstream, or made palatable to heterosexual sensibilities. At best our stories appear as titillating or humorous sidelines embedded within overwhelming heterosexual romantic experiences. How many times is the funny, lovable gay character the only one in the story who never even gets kissed?

We’ve fought hard to claim our place in history and our right to love. To me, the gay or LGBTI+ romantic genre represents far more than just entertainment. It’s at the core of our struggle for identity and legitimacy. After all, gay people are defined and marginalized largely based on they love.

Mark Campbell’s “Eating the Moon” is published by Florida-based DSP Publications.

In 1992, during my first Gay Pride parade in Toronto, I was watching throngs of people marching when a friend posed a rhetorical question, ‘What if it were the other way around and gay people were the norm and straight people were on the periphery?’

It hit me that gay people don’t really have a gay Shangri-La or utopia. My friend’s comment inspired me to try to write a book with a fictional society in which almost everyone was queer. My training in anthropology helped. More than a critique of society, I wanted my story to represent a “safe place” where LGBTI+ people could go to dream and fanaticize about other possibilities for living and loving.

On Aug. 29, DSP Publications will release my latest novel, “Eating the Moon.” Shameless self-promotion, you say. Not really. I’m just proud. It’s a gay adventure story about a young man, Guy, who washes up on the shores of an uncharted island in the Bermuda Triangle, where he and his best friend Luca discover a society that’s almost exclusively gay and lesbian. On the island Guy learns to love and accept himself. After numerous trials and initiations he eventually wins the love of a local man.

Although the island is a gay utopia, both Guy and Luca soon discover that even paradise comes with a cost.

For gay readers, a sexually open society of homosexual men on a tropical island is a paradise-fantasy come true. But my homosexual society is an imperfect one, with many flaws and injustices of its own. In fact, the society is threatened by its inability to accommodate and accept heterosexuality and bisexuality.

Just as gay people embrace and hold dear stories of straight romances, many straight people, both writers and readers, recognize that gay/LGBTI+ stories of love and romance, be they sticky sweet or rough and tumble, are an intriguing and important part of the human story. For straight readers, let this column serve as a challenge to enter into the world of our fantasies and reexamine what society might look like from our side of the fence.

An unfair split

In Italy, trusting a partner to do the best by you isn’t always a safe bet.

That’s Queer 

In a gay relationship, 50-50 isn’t an equal proposition and can unexpectedly leave a trusting partner on the brink

My move to Italy in 2001 sharply curtailed my career possibilities and earning power. The best I could do was become an English instructor, a job that would never pay well or give me much chance for advancement. My companion Alberto, on the other hand, was a doctor with a secure position in a local hospital. What’s more, he already owned a modest apartment in Milan and had inherited part of a house on Lago Maggiore.

Many people still hold to the idea that one partner, usually the man in a heterosexual relationship, must be the primary wage earner, the so-called breadwinner. My father told me this in no uncertain terms, calling me a “parasite, living off Alberto’s money.” While it’s true my standard of living is higher than what I could manage on an English teacher’s salary, I still pay my own bills, including half of our second-hand car and our old boat. Though I share living expenses with Alberto, we don’t split things 50-50 and he contributes more.

If anything were to go wrong between us, Alberto could continue living as he does now. I’d have to return to Canada and find a way to reinvent myself in the workplace.

I married Alberto in Canada, but the Italy I moved to in 2001 contained no legal mechanisms to protect me. Same-sex civil unions didn’t exist. Alberto named me as his heir in his will. He added an insurance policy and also drafted a contract stipulating I had rights to a certain percentage of his estate. Unfortunately, as many wives would attest, not all husbands are as careful or considerate.

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Take a Stand on Your Grindr Profile

Grindr Op Ed Via Deuchebags Of Grindr

Discrimination runs rampant on the most popular gay hookup app. Writer Lenny Gerard informs fellow users he won’t accept stereotyping and wants you to do the same.

By: Lenny Gerard/The Advocate

In my time spent on Grindr, I’ve seen about one in five profiles include lines like “no fatties, no fems, no Asians, no Blacks/Latinos, white only.” Willful ignorance and the normalization of it further spreads the notion that it is OK to be intolerant and hurtful.

I often find that people on Grindr have discriminatory beliefs about their personal, romantic, and sexual preferences. People think it’s OK to discriminate when it comes down to whom they spend their time with (dating or “smashing”). They say it’s merely a preference, but enforced separation of racial groups and communities on the app is simply segregation.


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What Ben Carson doesn’t understand about “extra rights”: LGBT people aren’t asking for special privileges, just basic equality

Ben Carson thinks extending more public housing benefits to the LGBT community amounts to “special rights”

By: Nico Lang/


Image result for ben carson

Ben Carson doesn’t think the LGBT community deserves special rights.

Last week the retired John Hopkins neurosurgeon began his testimony before a Senate committee, which is considering his nomination to be the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson was asked by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, about his controversial statements about protections for the LGBT community. During his failed 2016 presidential campaign, Carson had claimed that the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage amounted to “extra rights” being conferred. Carson has repeatedly reiterated this belief — that LGBT equality affords the community undue, unnecessary privileges.

On Thursday the Trump nominee did not back down from that argument. “Of course, I will enforce all the laws of the land,” Carson said, adding, “No one gets extra rights. . . . Extra rights means you get to redefine everything for everyone else.”

What’s alarming about Carson’s statement is that he wasn’t being asked about his opposition to marriage equality. Brown, who serves as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, was grilling him on whether he would protect the LGBT community from discrimination in federal housing, which Carson had dismissed as a frivolity. This is a grave reminder that Carson could do serious damage to federal housing programs by ignoring the egregious bigotry that queer and trans people face every day when trying to find something as simple as a place to live.

Carson, who has repeatedly made headlines for his incendiary, outlandish statements about the LGBT community, is no friend to queer people.

The “Gifted Hands” author is one of the nation’s most vocal opponents of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, whom he has described as practitioners of bestiality,polygamy, and pedophilia. During a speech he delivered at last year’s Pensmore National Symposium on Religious Liberty at Missouri’s College of the Ozarks, Carson warned that the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling was a harbinger of an “ever-growing government” that would lead to “utter chaos” as well as mass executions. “The peace we experience now will be a memory only,” Carson said.

The idea that granting same-sex couples the rights to have their relationships recognized and protected by federal law constitutes special benefits for a niche community is an old and favorite one of conservatives. It suggests, much as Sen. Jeff Sessions argued last week during a confirmation hearing on his nomination for attorney general, that gay people don’t experience discrimination. If they’re already being equally protected under the law, why do they need more laws granting them those same protections?

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana who also mounted an unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid,  had even used the “extra rights” reasoning to argue for targeting the basic civil liberties of the LGBT community. During a 2015 interview with “Meet the Press,” Jindal claimed that making LGBT people a “protected class” — borrowing phraseology from hate crime legislation — would amount to “extraordinary circumstances.” Claiming that there is now greater “tolerance” in society that makes such “special legal protections” unnecessary, Jindal had backed the introduction of a “religious liberty” bill in the Pelican State to let those running businesses deny services to customers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, so long as the companies involved cite “sincerely held religious belief.” Numerous LGBT advocates have argued that this type of legislation is a clear pathway to unleash broad-based discrimination.

As the secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development, Carson would have little authority to affect already settled cases on nationwide marriage equality. But if he feels that LGBT protections are unnecessary, that would give him the ability to harm particularly vulnerable communities that already experience extraordinary discrimination at every turn.

A survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 20 percent of transgender people surveyed reported being denied housing on the basis of their gender identity, while 10 percent even said they have been evicted for being transgender.

This widespread discrimination extends to homeless shelters. When the Center for American Progress called local shelters to see if they would house a transgender woman, just 30 percent said they would do so. Twenty-two percent outright refused, and one center in Virginia said that having to sharing space with a “man” would spook the other residents, citing unfounded fears of sexual assault.

These practices should be illegal, yet unfortunately they persist. As the Center for American Progress has reported, LGBT people are not explicitly protected under the Fair Housing Act, also known as the Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This law protects tenants under the basis of characteristics like sex, race, religion, or national origin but does not explicitly name gender identity or sexual orientation.

Last year the Department of Housing and Urban Development attempted to remedy this issue by introducing the Equal Access Rule  so that housing units and homeless shelters that receive federal dollars cannot discriminate on the basis of gender identity. This provision, while a necessary step forward in ending the housing discrimination that leads to extremely high rates of homelessness among transgender people, will likely face a fight from the Trump White House.

Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, has already claimed that the incoming administration will seek to roll back protections for trans students put into effect during the Obama presidency. Last year the Obama administration issued guidance saying that transgender youth had the right to equal access in schools. under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

When it comes to public housing, Carson is unlikely to fight against the removal of equivalent protections for trans people. In a speech delivered at the Republican National Convention, he referred to “the whole transgender thing” as “absurd.”

Carson said, “For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is, and now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore.” He added, “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa? Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan [sic]. I know I don’t look that way.’”

These views are ludicrously ill-informed, but with Carson as a part of Trump’s Cabinet, they would have power. His perspectives would have the authority and influence to deepen the extreme marginalization to which transgender people are already subjected.

Trans individuals, particularly trans women of color, are more likely than any other group

to be the victims of a hate crime. They are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line, be underemployed  or not have a job at all people face higher rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide.

And all of this illustrates an important reality. This community doesn’t have extra rights. Trans folks have almost no privileges at all, especially under a hostile administration that seems to be on the verge of stripping them of access to life -saving medical care under the Affordable Care Act.

What Carson doesn’t understand is that trans people — and lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals — aren’t asking for extra privileges, just basic equality. They want the same things all of us desire: safe, fair housing and a life without fear. There’s nothing special about wishing to live your life without wondering whether you’ll be homeless tomorrow just because of who you are.

Stockholm named one of world’s best gay cities

Stockholm named one of world's best gay cities

Stockholm is one of the world’s best cities for gay people, according to a new ranking.

LGBTQ travel site GayCities collected more than 23,000 votes from its members and named Stockholm as the winner in the Up-And-Coming category.

“Sweden has always been a the forefront of the LGBTQ rights movement, so we are proud to provide Stockholm with the Up-And-Coming award in the Best of GayCities2016,” Tim Winfred, director of marketing at Q Digital which is behind GayCities, told The Local.

The Swedish city was picked ahead of US hubs Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Richmond and Buffalo.

“As the only non-American location in the category, Stockholm received one-third of all fan votes and beat several other great cities,” added Winfred.

San Francisco took home the top crown as Best City of 2016, with Orlando in Florida winning City of the Year. The only other European cities featured were London and Berlin  which were tied in the Best Singles Scene category, and Madrid, named a Foodie Paradise.

A major gay rights group earlier this year praised Sweden for recent work to promote transgender rights, and for creating more information for and about the young LGBTQ community.

The Nordic country did then fall from fourth to twelfth place in its ranking, however ILGA-Europe explained that the drop was more a result of other nations improving their policies than life in Sweden getting worse for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.

The Local