While one state after another recognize same-sex marriage in the US, China’s official stance towards homosexuals has remained ambiguous. Over a decade has passed since homosexuality was taken off the list of psychological disorders, yet an overwhelming amount of China’s LGBT community still only has limited choices: receive electroshock therapy to be “cured”, have a fake marriage, stay marginalized under societal and family pressure, or keep the closet closed.
Despite the LGBT community’s low-profile in the public realm, the virtual public sphere has begun to profile them into the mainstream. Taobao, the largest e-commerce platform backed by Alibaba, is making same-sex couples the benefactors of their major campaign “和TA恋爱吧” for Valentine’s Day, before extending it to heterosexuals.
“As long as yours is true love, Taobao will help you realize your dream,” the tag line ran. Ten lucky gay couples will win a trip to California for a marriage registration and a honeymoon. The couples will receive a welcoming party, also attended by “mysterious TV star”, a wedding witnessed by the mayor, and Hollywood stylists accompanying them throughout their trip.
“Heterosexuals, please wait for the next round.” “7-day Honeymoon & Wedding in California, All Paid”
A letter from the mayor of West Hollywood, John D’Amico, welcomes “committed and loving LGBT couples from China” to marry there, and specifically addresses Taobao’s efforts to celebrate “love and equality in China”:
This campaign perhaps marks the first time for same-sex marriage to be recognized in such a significant way by THE tech giant in China. For older homosexuals like “Old Paris” profiled in an article several months ago, this warming-up in public opinion has come too late. The 75-year-old man has lived through times when being gay was a crime, and he himself went to jail twice and was sent to labor camp three times for a total of seven years for his sexual orientation from 1977 to 1986. When Brian Davidson, a consulate general, and his partner Scott Chang married in the British Consulate in Beijing last September, their wedding became a beacon of hope for the LGBT community. But “Old Paris”, like many homosexuals who are no longer young, is content enough to just sneak around and stay in his underground relationship with his boyfriend: “If I could have gotten married before, I definitely would’ve. Now he (his boyfriend) has a family and kids, so there’s no need.”
For younger couples, hope, once just a dream, already seems to hang on the dawning horizon.