Chinese gays are chasing the elusive rainbow

08:17, June 18, 2010      

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Watching gay men and lesbians in China struggle for basic rights and dignity is like hurtling through a time warp to the past.

Job discrimination. Social ostracism. Broken-hearted parents. Lives of deception, denial and depression. Police oppression. Brutality from vicious straight men or teenage hoodlums looking for easy targets.

And those are just the visible hurdles of being gay in a straight society.

They're the consequences of the invisible assumptions, the unenlightened attitudes that feed poisonous outcomes.

Because of cultural differences, the fight for gay rights here is bound to take on Chinese characteristics, whatever those might be. So the paths to gay rights taken in Western countries probably diverge from those that will be available here.

Nonetheless, here's a description of what gay life can be when people stop hiding, win their rights and live with pride, a look through the time warp into the possible future.

This month, cities all over the United States will be hosting their annual Gay Pride parades. These have evolved from a few dozen people marching with paper bags over their heads to hide their identities into massive celebrations that attract tens of thousands of families, politicians and sponsors.

The best-known is in San Francisco, home to one of the country's biggest gay populations.

From a single afternoon featuring a parade, this event now spans several days. Its activities range from picnics in the park for families to a gigantic carnival featuring booths selling food, souvenirs, arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry and services.

Some of the items are blatantly sexual. But some of America's biggest businesses also set up booths to show their eagerness to cater to this sizable, well-organized and generally well-heeled population. These include resorts, luxury housing developments, airlines and banks.

Even The Walt Disney Co sets aside a week in June every year to hold Gay Days at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Minnie and Mickey don't mind.

The parade in San Francisco a couple of years ago was led by a large contingent of lesbian bikers, clad in black leather and riding big, noisy, powerful motorcycles. People in the audience, as well as parade participants, dressed (or undressed) in amazing costumes of lingerie, lace, leather, feathers, jewelry, body paint, boots, masks and lots of attitude.

Even dogs were dressed up or dyed in the colors of the gay-rights symbol, the rainbow.

In every city, state and local politicians march or ride in the parades or come to mingle with the gay voters. The biggest parades, such as those in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, attract national celebrities from sports, politics and entertainment.

All large American cities have gay enclaves. These tend to be among the trendiest and more expensive neighborhoods, with some of the best restaurants, hottest clubs and chicest boutiques. As a population, gays and lesbians tend to be highly educated and financially comfortable.

In fact, when gays and lesbians start moving into a run-down fringe neighborhood, you can bet that property values there will rise through the roof. First, they'll renovate the housing. Then upscale cafes and bars will appear. Finally, straight people who appreciate good restaurants and can afford high-quality housing begin moving in, too.

Gays and lesbians buy houses together, open businesses, get married, have children and in general conduct their lives in the same ways as the straight population. Schools have learned to accommodate children, without fuss, who have two mommies or two daddies.

None of this came easily. It took more than 40 years of struggle, individually and as a group, to win the political and social rights supposedly guaranteed by law to all.

But it can be done, and the rewards made it worth the struggle.

Source: China Daily(By Linda Gibson)


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