In the previous essay, Local media can write about gay pride events in China, not Singapore, I wrote about Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao reporting on gay pride events in China. In a way, our local media was only following the lead of western media. For example, the New York Times too had a long story about Shanghai Pride and took the opportunity to describe something about the social conditions faced by gay people in China:
For most gay men and lesbians in China, revealing their sexuality to their families is unimaginable. Parents expect their sons and daughters to produce heirs, an obligation that has become even more intense in a society where single-child families are the standard.
— New York Times, 14 June 2009, Gay festival in China pushes official boundaries
The story also told about cover-up marriages like Huang Jiankun’s:
To assuage his parents, he orchestrated a fake wedding to a lesbian friend, but eventually the truth came out. “The problem is when you lie, it becomes connected to another lie and you can’t keep it up,” he said.
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This was the subject of a blogpost I stumbled upon last month. It sprang out of a seminar the blogger attended. The post discussed the problems faced by women who only found out after their marriage that their husbands were gay. The following is a merged translation by my friends Russell Heng and Petrus Tan of the relevant portion of the blogpost:
Caring about homowife
I attended a forum that discussed the problem of “homowife”. The so-called “Homowife” (tongqi) is the wife (qi) of a homosexual (tongzi). It has been said that China has 20 million male homosexuals, of whom 80 per cent would marry a woman. These women are the “homowives”, and there would be 16 million people.
The homowife phenomenon is a phenomenon characteristic of China, seldom witnessed in other countries. In other countries, homosexuals would remain single or live together or marry other homosexuals. Very few would contract a heterosexual marriage. This difference comes about because Chinese culture places such a great emphasis on marriage and reproduction, as to make them compulsory.
During my visit to Hungary, I found out that only 10 per cent of people of marriageable age got hitched. The rest fell into three categories: single, cohabiting (living together), LAT (lovers who live apart). In this kind of society, homosexuals do not have any need at all to enter into a heterosexual marriage. People would not gossip about them and parents do not apply pressure. Unfortunately our Chinese culture is oppressive with its dictum on men and women having to get married when they reach a certain age and naming the lack of progeny as the most serious breach of filial piety – “there are three kinds of unfilial behaviour and the greatest is have no descendant”. It thus forces a community of male homosexuals to marry women to have children.
The situation of the “homowife” is extremely tragic. At the seminar, there were homowives who burst into tears as they spoke, leading all of them to hug each other for a good cry. Most days, they wash their faces with tears. I heard what I considered the most shocking testimony that from a woman who told of how she even doubted her ability to attract men — why wouldn’t her husband even want to look at her or touch her? Am I really that unworthy as a woman? She assumed that all men would treat her like that, not knowing that this is far from the truth. She did not dream that her husband would be gay. Under the circumstances, even the most beautiful and accomplished woman would not arouse him.
Homowives have started to get organized in an effort to help themselves and help others. They have started a website and a helpline to assist fellow women who have fallen into the same predicament.
Their highest priority is to prevent women from marrying homosexuals, help those who suspect the sexual orientation of their boyfriends to analyse their situation better; and in the event that the other party is a confirmed homosexual, to persuade the woman not to proceed with the marriage.
Secondly, they would like to extend a helping hand to those women who are already married to homosexuals and who would like a divorce. This includes helping them to make up their minds, relieving the pressure on them and reduce the financial and psychological damage that comes with divorce.
Thirdly, they would like to address the problems of homowives who do not want a divorce for a variety of reasons. This would include helping them to analyse the cost of keeping such a marriage going, how to communicate with their husbands and how to get along with their children.
They proposed a slogan: “Homowife ends with me”. This slogan is full of hurt and also extends concern to those who may follow in their footsteps. The slogan gives one a feeling that it is a noble cause.
I hope the majority of male homosexuals do not enter into heterosexual marriages any more and spare a thought for the feelings of the homowife.
As you can see, social pressure to maintain the pretense of heterosexuality has tragic effects of people. So long as we maintain stigma and disadvantage people for being gay though law, policies and custom, this problem will continue.
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Yet, that is exactly what we do. For example, the Media Development Authority banned the film “Boy” by Filipino filmmaker Aureus Solito, from the Singapore International Film Festival earlier this year, accusing it of “normalising” homosexuality.
The second film, Boy, revolves around a teenager who is attracted to a young dancer in a gay bar and ends up having a homosexual relationship with him.
The film includes a prolonged and explicit homosexual love-making sequence between the teenager and the dancer.
The panel was also consulted about the film. Members felt that the film normalised homosexuality and that the homosexual scene was prolonged and explicit and filmed in a romanticised manner. The panel chairman, Mr Vijay Chandran, observed that ‘the homosexual love-making scene has exceeded the guidelines and the board, by allowing it, will shift the markers set by the community’.
The board agrees and hence Boy has not been passed for classification.
— Letter by Amy Chua, Chairman of Board of Film Censors, published in the Straits Times’ forum, 11 April 2009.
Get real. Normalising homosexuality is exactly what we need to do. Shifting the markers is exactly what we need to do.
No doubt, some readers will say, why is there a need to portray two gay men in an explicit love-making scene? While I haven’t seen the movie myself, I can understand an artistic purpose — that of taking the audience into the romance and joy of a budding relationship. Filmmaker Solito, described “Boy” as a “coming-of-age” story about a young poet who “discovers his sexuality and falls for a macho dancer.”
But more importantly, the point is this: whether you agree or disagree with his artistic decision, why should the film be banned? Classify it for adult audiences if need be, but why ban it? Why are we afraid that it might change people’s minds about homosexuality?