China's gay group finds a public place to call home (2)

10:16, June 07, 2010      

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The second-hand book market coincides with a "Queer Literature Forum" launched on May 15 to celebrate June - the "Month of Gay Pride" - a festival created by the LGBT community nationwide.

"Our organization is trying to provide a safe, equal and tolerant space for the LGBT community," said Yang.

The 24-year-old is the only full-time staff member of the center. He also lives in the center.

"Our center cannot afford renting another accommodation for me," said Yang, sitting on a mattress on the floor. Next to him, his boyfriend Yuan Ye played a Bach etude on an electronic keyboard.

The center's five founders provide most of the funding for the center, which derives some support from the sales of self-designed T-shirts, cups, notebooks and postcards. The income is barely enough to cover the 5,200-yuan monthly rent and salaries, Yang said.

"But we have more than 100 registered volunteers to support us."

Sun Xiaowei, who once sought medical treatment when he realized he was gay in college, now is a center volunteer.

"I love the sentence 'I am what I am'. Everyone's individuality and choice should be respected," said Sun, 25, who helps run the book and DVD sale, movie screenings and other activities organized by the center.

Another volunteer Wan Xiaoya, who has worked at the center since last year, introduced the center's various activities to newcomers. As one of few heterosexuals at the center, she said she doesn't feel uncomfortable at all.

"I've made a lot of gay friends here," said the 21-year-old. "Being with them enables me to be more sympathetic toward unfamiliar things, and be more willing to fight against unfair conduct."

Wu Jin, 27, visiting the center for the first time with his boyfriend, said the atmosphere is quite comfortable.

"I like the book market and the place. I'm glad to know more gay friends here," said Wu, who hasn't told his parents of his homosexuality.

Near the entrance of the center is a table topped with publicity materials, free condoms, volunteer application forms and handouts on various activities. A cardboard box is set out for donations of at least one yuan per participant for each event.

"The amount of this donation is too small to cover the electricity fee, but it doesn't matter," Yang said. "By doing this, we symbolize one's participation, support, action and change, to pass on the voice of the LGBT community."

Yang also said the recent one-day book market only yielded about 300 yuan, but center is planning more activities such as an art forum to better serve the LGBT community.
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