|¨Mama Wu¨ Unlikely Hero for Homosexuals in China|
When Wu Youjian’s teenage son told her on a spring night in 1999 that he was gay, Wu did something rarely heard of in China. “I told him, there’s nothing wrong with liking boys and it’s no big deal,” said the 63-year-old retired magazine editor.
Five years later, when her son discussed his sexuality on local television in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, Wu made another groundbreaking decision. She became what state media calls the first Chinese parent to go on television in support of her gay child.
Zheng Yuantao, 30, knows how lucky he is to have such a mother.
“Many of my gay friends are afraid of going home during holidays, because their parents would ask about girlfriends and press them to get married,” he said.
“I grew up in a very open-minded family,” he added. “I didn’t have too much of a struggle about my sexuality.”
Wu now devotes her time and energy to speaking up for gay acceptance by family and society. Her small frame belies her big role in China’s gay community, where she is affectionately called “Mama Wu.”
She taught herself to use a computer three years ago and now writes a blog that has clocked more than 2.2 million hits. She also tweets frequently, has launched a hotline and founded the country’s first PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – group in her hometown.
“I just followed my instinct and my love for my son,” Wu said.
For other Chinese parents in her situation, however, instinct usually means a deep sense of shame. Many refuse to face the reality and some sever ties with their gay children. Others scheme to break up their children’s relationships. Some may insist on psychiatric treatments, while others may threaten to commit suicide if their children don’t change.
‘Mama Wu’ inspires other Chinese parents of gay children
“In China, we consider carrying on the family line of paramount importance, but we don’t value the happiness of individuals,” said Li Yinhe, a sociologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Societal pressure cooker
Suicide is high among Chinese homosexuals, Li said, with some surveys saying as many as 30 percent of gay youth attempt to take their lives. That trend mirrors the United States, where a spate of suicides by gay adolescents in recent months has shaken the nation.
Most gay men in China still succumb to social pressure and marry women. It once meant heterosexual marriages, often with children, Li said. Now, gay community activists say a small but growing number of young gay men in big cities are tying the knot with lesbians to both placate families and maintain their lifestyles.
Li conducted China’s first comprehensive surveys on gay men. She published her findings in a 1992 book, which Wu credited for shaping her views on homosexuality.
While society at large has loosened up on homosexuality, Li said, family pressure on gay people remains strong because of deep-rooted Confucian ideas and the government’s one-child policy – making Wu’s words and actions all the more powerful.
“No one would listen to an outsider, but she is not – she is a mother whose only son is gay,” Li said. “Others would wonder, if she can handle it so well, why can’t I.” read it all HERE
· Thanks to Behind the Mask, sidebar
· Thanks to Mama Wu Youjian, China
· Thanks to Zheng Yuantao