It is widely acknowledged that China has been slow, in general, to warm to LGBT lifestyles. Indeed, outside of major metropolitan areas, heteronormativity continues to be perceived to be the only viable option for many seeking romantic relationships. However, as the Shanghaiiist notes, ongoing interest in Chinese newsmedia reports on the lives of Anwei and Yebin, who live openly as a gay couple in a small village near Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, suggests that support for gay partnerships may be growing.
Anwei and Yebin, who met on QQ in 2011 and moved to Yebin’s natal village together shortly after, have found support for their relationship from unlikely sources—including their parents, who state that they would rather see their sons happy and settled than eating the bitter fruit of an unhappy relationship. Yebin’s mother has even gone so far as to improvise a marriage contract for the two, who cannot marry legally under Chinese law. The contract protects the men, for example, by defining who will care for the men in old age (Yebin’s nephew’s have agreed to rise to the occasion), and outlining beneficiary rights should one pass away. She has also offered to counsel other gay people or their parents.
Nevertheless, Yebin and Anwei have overcome considerable obstacles on their path to partnership. In the past, both men’s parents sought to impose a heteronormative lifestyle through increasingly coercive measures—from setting them up with women, to hospitalizing them, and even, in Yebin’s case, by hiring a traditional medical practitioner to exorcise them. Even today, in their small village, the men face varying degrees of curiosity, judgment, and stigmatization from their neighbors.
Yet Yebin and Anwei persevere, and domestic support for their story, as reported in popular media sources, suggests that such perseverance is not without its positive effects. For Yebin and Anwei, knowing that the attention they’ve garnered may help to improve conditions for other gay men in similar situations brings its own rewards.