The Author of Boy Erased Hopes His Experience in Conversion Therapy Makes People Angry


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Focus Features

“I’m aiming an arrow directly into the heart of America.” That was Joel Edgerton’s promise to Boy Erased author Garrard Conley from the very beginning when Edgerton began writing and directing the film adaptation of Conley’s vulnerable memoir about his experience with “conversion therapy.”

By: Elena Hilton\Esquire.com

It was a risk for Conley to share his story in the first place, let alone allow other artists to interpret his life in the form of an Oscar-hopeful movie. But thankfully he took the leap, because the trauma he endured at Love in Action, an “ex-gay” Christian ministry that attempted to change people’s sexual orientation, is something that America desperately needs to recognize.

 

Currently, 15 states and Washington, D.C. have laws to protect minors from “conversion therapy” practices, and the Trump-Pence administration’s bigotry-laden rhetoric and policies are a stark reminder that the fight isn’t over. “We’re getting so close to the finish line that I’m becoming more radical and more of an activist each day,” Conley says.

Conley’s Southern, ultra-Christian upbringing—his father became a Baptist preacher in their small Arkansas town when Conley was a teenager—is similar to so many other LGBTQ adolescents who are still being told they’re wrong for who they are. The hope is that this film, along with Conley’s 2016 book, will open people’s eyes to the real effects that bigotry has on lives.

Prior to Boy Erased’s limited theatrical release (it opens in theaters this weekend), I sat down with Conley to talk about what it was like seeing his memoir translated into a Hollywood film and how he’s used his experiences to become an activist for the LGBTQ community.

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Joel Edgerton directs a scene in Boy Erased Focus Features

Joel Edgerton proved right away why he was the best person to adapt Boy Erased.

At first I was very nervous about the whole thing, partly because I hadn’t met a lot of movie stars—I’m just not in that world, I’m a writer. Just going into the meeting with Joel was stressful, but then I was like, “He’s a straight guy, what’s he going to do the story? We’ve been burned before.” But at our first meeting he asked to meet with other conversion therapy survivors in addition to me, and I loved the fact that he wanted to hear all of our stories.

Plus, I had just watched Loving, which he was in. It was a movie about the first interracial marriage and all the legal battles that went along with that, and he was using that publicity tour to talk about marriage equality now, much to the detriment to some of the family that was involved with the making of that film because they didn’t actually want that. [Edgerton] was like “I don’t care, I’m not going to work with a film that doesn’t recognize bigotry across the board.” So I already knew that he was a good ally, but he also asked if I wanted to write the script. I said I couldn’t write it again for a different audience and I don’t know how to “Hollywood-up” a story. So he wrote a script really rapidly, and throughout the process he made me feel better by always sending me the drafts of the script and asking if there was anything problematic or anything that didn’t feel right, and he would change it anytime I said there was an issue.

Conley fought to keep the ending of the movie similar to his real-life experience.

I think there’s a natural desire to have Russell Crowe’s character [Crowe plays Conley’s father] to come around and show what that kind of acceptance would look like. And I can see why that kind of editorial vision would exist, because it gives parents a path for rehabilitation. But I strongly argued for a closer truth, which is that it’s still complicated, and my dad’s not completely there yet. The film might lose a bit of money because it doesn’t have the redemptive arc for the parents that the studio originally wanted, but I pushed pretty hard on making it complicated at the end because I knew other survivors hadn’t had happy stories with their parents. So [Edgerton] changed that, and one of the producers was like, “Well, we might have just lost millions of dollars, but good job with your principles.”

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                  Author Garrard Conley on the set of Boy Erased with Lucas Hedges

Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

He was blown away by Lucas Hedges, who plays him in the movie.

Lucas is a dream. The first time we met, we were walking around DUMBO, and he said, “You know, I wasn’t going to do this, but do you want to come back to my apartment and talk?” He still has a room in his father’s [director Peter Hedges] house. So we went over there and he invited me into his childhood bedroom and said, “If you’re going to show me everything, then I need to show you everything.” And then he showed me his copy of my book, which was marked up on every page. I felt it was the greatest tribute someone who was going to play me could do. I was already pretty convinced, and then when Lucas started to share his identity on the spectrum with me—he wasn’t quite aware of where he was, but he knew that he wasn’t entirely straight—that was the last hurdle where I thought, “Okay, this guy can play it.

He’d explained to me a sense of shame that he’d felt, and he later talked about it in the New York magazine piece, and he wasn’t really specific about it, but he did tell me he that he thought he was fluid in some way. So he had the shame aspect, and the actual identity, so that was going to play well on the screen. And he’s phenomenal in it. [His performance] is understated in many ways, but it’s very accurate. The way he’s able to depict fear and shame on his face is actually really terrifying. He’s my favorite thing in the movie. Just watching him is mesmerizing.

Writing the memoir was an emotionally draining, but necessary, experience.

Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family
RIVERHEAD amazon.com$10.87

I had to really look at it like a story, which is hard to do, because you have to cut through all the trauma and, in many ways, the false memories you’ve created to get over stuff and to go back to those places mentally which is incredibly difficult. And it’s harmful for the people around you—my boyfriend at the time suffered through a lot of episodes where I was not okay. He was always like, “Why are you doing this to yourself, why are you writing this?” And I didn’t always have a clear answer to that, it was just that I had to.

Any time you turn anything into a story, you lose the “life-iness” of it, because you’ve got to shape it into art, and that feels uncomfortable because it’s all true, all these things happened, but you’re shaping it for an audience. It feels like a bit of a sacrifice because I’m very precious with my memories and my internal account of things. And whenever you’re told that you’re crazy or corrupt in some way, you’re a little suspicious about putting it out there into the world again. But I did it because, from the very beginning, with the book and this film, the project has been to make something compelling enough to drive the conversation forward. I’d seen the same old arguments and the same old depictions of conversion therapy over and over again, which is it’s a joke, it’s a farce, and it’s not true. It’s soul murder, and I wanted that story to be told.

The memoir was released before Trump’s election, and Conley probably wouldn’t have written the same version now.

It’s a very anti-LGBT administration. It was so different, rhetorically, to humanize people like my parents or even the [conversion therapy] counselors when Obama was president than it is right now to humanize them, because it’s almost asking too much empathy from people who feel like their lives are on the line. I don’t know if I would have written the same book right now. I think I would have been angrier and I might not have been so forgiving, so it might actually not have worked as well to write it now.

There is kind of a weird irony in the fact that because all the stuff came out about Mike Pence supporting conversion therapy, it’s actually made conversion therapy a headline and now it’s easier to get people’s attention. I wouldn’t say I’m grateful for it, but it’s an opportunity. It’s unfortunate, but this is something the right has been invested in for a very long time. They’ll throw [the LGBTQ community] under a bus at any moment just to score political points.

We’re definitely at a turning point. It’s either going to go, hopefully, in the way of, “Let’s stop pretending respectability politics exist and let’s be as radical as we need to be in order to get shit done,” but it could easily go the other way.

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Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in Boy Erased Focus Features

He hopes people realize that conversion therapy and toxic masculinity affects everyone.

One of things I always say is conversion therapy doesn’t have to be done in a facility. If you’re taught to be a “certain type of man”, to act a certain way, and you’re taught by authority figures that being gay is evil, then that’s conversion therapy too. Conversion therapy can function as a metaphor for the kinds of brainwashing that we’ve all been given. Once you’re done looking at everyone’s side of the story, you can begin to see a system in place that harms everyone.

I often think about how I feel ashamed to be a man in this culture, and I talked to a trans activist named Thomas Page McBee who wrote Amateur and Man Alive about those feelings, and he was like, “You need to consider the fact that you’re harming yourself whenever you believe that masculinity is one thing and that it’s just the toxic brand.” It was just so eye-opening to hear that from someone like him who’d grown up conditioned to be a woman, then transitioned to a man, and had to deal with all that bullshit. I realized we need to look at the systems in place, and those systems can turn people into monsters.

Activists should recognize that there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Faith is such a strange thing. It can be an incredibly powerful tool to survive something and it can also be something that keeps you locked in a fundamentalist worldview for a very long time. It covers up the moments of doubt. Getting out of that system is incredibly difficult. There are a lot of activists who call for people to move out of their towns and go somewhere else, but they’re often forgetting that people don’t have money, they don’t have the social capabilities to even do that without getting lost in the shuffle.

They also kind of ignore the psychological toil that comes from splitting from everything you’ve ever known. It’s not easy, and I think in larger metropolitan areas there can be a tendency to forget what it’s like to be on the ground in many of these towns across the country, and even if we don’t want to, we have to educate people who have perpetuated this bigotry from the very beginning.

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Garrard Conley and his mother, Martha, on the set of Boy Erased Kyle Kaplan/Focus Features

Conley’s own relationship with the South and Christianity is still evolving.

I try to be a strong voice for the South being a complex place, because I do believe there are pockets of real, amazing, radical work that’s being done in the South. Even in the more fundamentalist communities, there are people within that are fighting the good fight. That being said, I think the South and many churches have not reckoned with their past. There are affirming churches who do not talk about what they did in terms of conversion therapy and the lives that were lost as a result of the choices that they made, and I call bullshit on that.

They need to hold themselves accountable, just like they did in terms of how they treated other races or what they did with slavery in the past. They should continue to talk about that, because unless you do, you’re not going to have any moral standing whatsoever. You’re trying to say “come here, learn how to be a good person,” but how are you going to do that if you don’t address the horrible things that you’ve done to the [LGBTQ] community? And if you just say, “I did it out of love, but it was wrong, and I’m sorry,” then that’s fine, I’m okay with that. But you’ve got to say something.

In terms of my own personal faith, I’ve actually begun praying a lot more lately, which is an unusual and unexpected development. I don’t necessarily believe in fate, but I do feel like I’m in a very intense position with a lot of responsibility in terms of how I represent the survivor groups, how I represent LGBT people through the culture at large, and how I can end conversion therapy, while not sacrificing our community to do so. Because that’s incredibly confusing and scary to me, I’ve just started praying, and I don’t know who I’m praying to, but I try to just ask for guidance in some way.

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Gay Couple Had to give up their plane seats to a Straight Couple


This Gay Couple Had to Give Up Their Plane Seats to a Straight Couple
By: Bobby Schuessler/Gay Star News

Last weekend, the founder and CEO of The Abbey David Cooley, and his partner were told to move seats on an Alaska Airlines flight in order to make room for a straight couple,

The well-known gay businessman took to Facebook to discuss the incident. A flight attendant approached them and told his partner he’d have to move to the main cabin from their premium seats because a straight couple wanted to sit together—even though Cooley explained that they were a couple. Humiliated, they chose to exit the plane altogether.
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdavid.cooley.507%2Fposts%2F10156301768776285&width=500

In a statement to Gay Star News, a representative from Alaska Airlines acknowledged the incident. They are investigating the situation.

               

 Alaska Airlines released a statement on this matter. 

“This unfortunate incident was caused by a seating error, compounded by a full flight and a crew seeking an on-time departure and nothing more than that. It’s our policy to keep all families seated together whenever possible; that didn’t happen here and we are deeply sorry for the situation. We’ve reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. All of us at Alaska value inclusion for our guests and each other.”

“Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of Alaska Airlines. We are an airline for everyone and reflect these values through our work with dozens of nonprofit LGBTQ organizations, Pride Parades along the West Coast and a perfect score in the HRC’s Equality Index. We’ll keep building on this commitment, with our employee-led LGBTQ business resource group

When boarding flight 1407 from JFK to LAX, a couple was mistakenly assigned the same seats as another couple in Premium Class…We are deeply sorry for the situation, and are investigating the details while communicating directly with the guests involved to try and make this right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind, and our employees value inclusion for our guests and each other.”

July, Straight Pride Month?


He said his column “That’s Life” in the Dixon Independent Voice on friday was “tongue in cheek.   Ted Hickman, the vice mayor of Dixon, California (23 miles southwest of Sacramento), Declared July 1, was the start of  Straight Pride Month.

In his column he writes “ We are different from them.  We work, have families, (and babes we make)  enjoy the love the company (and marriage) of the opposite sex and don’t flaunt our differences  dressing up like faries and prancing by the thousands in a parade” 

The Vice Mayor defended his column after several readers in this small city of twenty thousand. called the piece homophobic.  He said his piece had nothing to do with his position and thin skinned people took offence to his column.

His position they. (LGBTQ) have their pride month why can’t we have ours?

This is not really legally anti anything; instead its a pro family ; and proud to be a straight American, and me expressing a private opinion, so there!

Last month, he wrote.  ” I’m proud to be a heterosexual, monogamous, married to the opposite sex, straight individual that knows what  goes where and why.   AND that he has lesbian tendencies.

CityFella

 

 

Daddy left Mommy for Tommy, or what to do when a parent comes out as gay


Coming out to the kids in the midst of a divorce can make a fraught process even more difficult

SUDI “RICK” KARATAs
Excerpted from “Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids about LGBTQ+ Families and Friends” by Sudi (“Rick”) Karatas. Copyright 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Just in time for Pride in June, “Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids About LGBTQ+ Families and Friends” (May 8, 2018) is a collection of intimate, real-life stories and advice about coming out to family members—parents to children, aunts and uncles to nieces and nephews, grandparents to grandchildren.

The concept for “Rainbow Relatives” was born when author Sudi “Rick” Karatas asked his sister if her children knew about his (their uncle’s) sexual orientation. She said they didn’t, as she hadn’t been sure how to approach the topic and wished there was a book she could read to help her have those conversations. So, Sudi wrote that book. He hopes Rainbow Relatives will make readers more accepting of all people and families, especially in the LGBTQ+ community.

 

I like to view things with a sense of humor (hence the title of this essay). However, it can be a serious family matter when one parent comes out as LGBTQ. The situation will often result in a divorce, which can be devastating for a child and can result in their conflicting feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, and self-blame.

During the early 1980s, when I was in high school, I remember watching a movie alone with the volume turned low because it was such a controversial subject for that time. The film was called “Making Love,” and it came out (pardon the pun) in 1982, starring Michael Ontkean, Harry Hamlin, and Kate Jackson. Ontkean plays Zach, who is married to Claire (Jackson). Zach is gone so much that Claire believes he is having an affair with another woman. When she confronts him, he admits his affair with his patient, Bart (Hamlin). Back then, many believed that playing a gay role hurt Hamlin’s career for years, whereas today such roles have actually bolstered many careers. In 2005, “Brokeback Mountain” won a number of awards and was nominated for best picture at the Oscars. In 2009, Sean Penn won the best actor Oscar for his performance of controversial gay rights activist Harvey Milk. In 2014, Jared Leto won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his compelling role as a transgender woman in the film “Dallas Buyers Club.”

However, while these movies certainly helped to bring the LGBTQ community into popular culture, they did not portray situations that directly involve kids. In 2011, “The Kids Are All Right” became one of the first movies to do so with its portrayal of a lesbian couple raising two children born from a surrogate father. The film won a Golden Globe for best picture and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay. Hopefully, this has opened the door for more film and television portrayals depicting the reality of children with LGBTQ parents and the common situations that result when one parent turns out to be gay.

When a Parent Comes Out

The following is an amusing story told to me by a friend: A man was married many years to a woman and together they had a daughter. When the daughter was almost grown, the man came out to his family, announcing he was gay. He wasn’t sure how the daughter was handling it until one day, as they were both taking a walk along the beach, two very attractive and muscular men were walking toward them, each carrying a surfboard. His daughter said, “Look, Dad, one for you, one for me.”

The father was relieved, seeing how comfortable his daughter was with his sexuality. So he joked, “Okay, I’ll take the blond.”

Embarrassed and turning red, the daughter said, “I was talking about the surfboards.”

I spoke with and surveyed a number of other people who had been married and had children when one spouse came out. Hopefully, some of the following stories will help those who are in similar situations, and they will be comforted to know they are not alone.

Honesty is the Best Policy

After fifteen years of marriage, Anna and her husband sat down together with the kids and told them about her husband’s sexual orientation. The kids were fourteen, twelve, and eight years old. They were sad and surprised, but they were relieved to know there was a valid reason as to why their parents had separated. Prior to that, no one could understand why this had happened because they’d always had a good relationship together.

“My advice to others going through this is to be honest with everyone involved and tell people as soon as you are comfortable,” Anna said. “If you do it too soon, you may wind up hurting yourself and the people around you, especially the children. My kids did not want anyone else to know because they studied in the same schools as their cousins. I couldn’t tell any of our relatives because children can be cruel at school. I would have liked to tell people sooner but my kids would have been hurt.”

Hide That Gay Porn

After a year of being separated from his wife of twenty years, Fred’s sons were visiting him from Texas. At that time, they were thirteen and fifteen years old. He had told his wife he was gay, though he’d never acted on it, and they had decided to separate. However, they had decided not to tell the kids the reason until it came up during his sons’ visit.

While his sons were visiting, his fifteen-year-old left the room to take a shower when his thirteen-year-old asked him, “Are you gay?” Taken aback, Fred asked, “Why do you ask?” His son said, “Well, you used to watch both straight porn and gay porn on the internet and now you only watch gay porn.”

The fact that his thirteen-year-old knew how to find the porn that he thought he had hidden so well was a little scary. (Kids today are very computer savvy, if you haven’t noticed.)

“My son was actually okay with it,” Fred said. “I told my other son a couple weeks later and he laughed at first—he thought it was a big joke. Once he knew it wasn’t, he was okay with it, too, until they got back to Texas and their religious school. Then they told me I was an embarrassment because everyone gave them a hard time about it. Today they are both adults and fine with it.”

Dealing with a Bitter Spouse

Sometimes when one parent comes out, their spouse resents it and causes a rift or even sabotages the relationship between the gay parent and child. This may make it difficult for the child to understand and accept their gay parent, but it doesn’t make it impossible. Take Waylon’s experience, for example.

Waylon was divorced, and his ex-wife did not take his being gay very well at all. Waylon’s daughter lived with his ex-wife and her new husband while Waylon provided financial support for his daughter but lived in another state. The relationship was strained for a long time because of the negative things his ex-wife would say about him and his sexual orientation. The daughter also didn’t know that other family members had accepted her father for who he was. When Waylon’s daughter was sixteen, she finally visited her dad and his partner, Willie. Not surprisingly, it was a little awkward at first, but he assured her that their relationship wouldn’t change. He asked her if she’d get to know Willie, since he was important to him.

She asked questions about their relationship—how long they’d been together, how the relationship was going in general—and she also had her own private conversation with Willie and asked him questions as well. She was able to see that her father’s relationship with Willie was no different from other relationships, and by the end of the day, she had even given Willie a hug.

However, once she returned home to her mom and stepdad, the situation became more difficult. Waylon soon got a call from his furious ex-wife, Maybelle. “How dare you introduce my daughter to this lifestyle!” She continued to flood him with homophobic voice mails, emails, and even threats. Maybelle never did come around; in fact, she tried to poison her daughter against her ex-husband with lies about him and used parental alienation to prevent her daughter from seeing her father. The daughter was finally told the truth, and the relationship between Waylon and his daughter (who recently came out as gay herself) is now healthy and strong.

I think it’s good that Waylon showed his daughter that he and Willie have a nice, loving relationship that offset the negative things his ex had said. Setting a good example is important. I think when one spouse (in this case, the mother) has resentment toward a divorced spouse, it causes a lot of harm to a child, and if any adult finds themselves pitting the child against the other parent in situations like these, they should, of course, do their best to stop.

When the Kids Don’t Take the News So Well

Pablo’s son was ten and his daughter was seven when he came out to them. Pablo had decided to tell them because he thought his ex-wife was about to out him. He later told his kids that he needed to tell them because he didn’t want them to find out from a third person. He started by saying to them, “I’ve got something important to tell you.” But then he couldn’t continue.

The three of them sat in awkward silence until his son finally said, “What are you going to tell us? That you’re gay?” Pablo was surprised but relieved. “Yes, that’s why your mom and I separated.” He then told them, “I am still your father, nothing changes, and I still love you the same way.”

Then, both kids started crying. The boy seemed to take it harder than his sister, throwing a puzzle across the room in apparent anger. The crying lasted about fifteen minutes or so, and then later the son suddenly said to him, “Daddy, I’m sorry for those comments and jokes I’ve said about fags before. Don’t take them personally, but I am still going to make them.” It was the boy’s way of trying to use a little humor to break the tension.

Pablo said this didn’t bother him too much because if his son felt free enough to make a joke at this time, he felt his son was partly okay with it. Pablo said he also understood the “macho thing” boys have and his reaction was fairly normal.

His son asked, “Did you ever love Mommy?”

He said, “Of course.” But although the conversation seemed to have resolved things at the time, Pablo told me that his kids didn’t believe that he was born gay for quite a while, and today his son is still not 100 percent okay with it, but their relationship is okay. The daughter is much better with it.

I think the takeaway here is even if you fear the kids won’t be okay with this news, it’s still better to be open and honest and give them time to adjust to it.

What the Therapist Says: Divorce + Gay Parent = Added Shame

As part of my research, I also spoke with therapist David Giella. He provided some very straightforward insight into what children of gay parents go through in these situations. “In any divorce where, let’s say, the father has an affair, the child may feel the following: ‘You misled Mommy; you made Mommy cry; you had an affair; you have screwed up my life because of something you did; I’m scared and mad at you.’ When the father has an affair with another man, it’s mostly the same feelings, except now the child has to deal with having a parent who is gay, and there may be some shame with this, whether there should be or not,” Giella said.

I think what Dr. Giella said is important because parents should be aware a divorce may be a little harder for kids to deal with when it’s because one parent is gay. It’s an additional change and something else to adjust to in their lives; it’s not as simple as their parents not being together anymore.

SUDI “RICK” KARATAS

Sudi now lives in California but grew up in Syosset Long Island.  He is the cowriter of the feature film “Walk a Mile In My Pradas” (starring Tom Arnold, Dee Wallace, and Bruce Vilanch) and the upcoming “Charlie’s Dream,” an inspirational family film. He also writes songs, sketches, loves writing everything except checks. For more info on the author visit his website at www.rickkaratas.com

MORE FROM SUDI “RICK” KARATAS

Is Punk the New F Word?


 

Punk

The word has been used to bully gay black boys for decades.

By: Charles Stephens/ The Advocate.com

I have always associated creativity with a sense of pleasure, and simultaneously, a sense of danger. Self-expression in my mind conjures feelings of the forbidden. Perhaps much of this comes from my Southern black boyhood, as I started to get the sense there was safety in assimilation and considerable risk in being too free.

“Don’t be a punk,” I was told. I imagine many others like me heard this as well. The phrase served as both correction and warning.

Around 7 or 8 years old, I first started hearing other things like “Don’t laugh too hard” or “Don’t smile too much.” I was commanded, “Don’t sit that way” and “Don’t speak with a lisp.” And the most epic one of all: “Don’t cry.”

Being forced to withhold emotion early on stunts us for our entire lives. These are the ghosts that haunt us into adulthood. It’s no wonder so many of us — especially black boys — become people who struggle to articulate our feelings. The words are beaten out of us when we are kids

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Please Click on the Link Below for the full story

https://www.advocate.com/commentary/2018/5/24/punk-new-f-word

 

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, Chinagayles.com, 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’


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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 .