When gay couples began kissing on a Beijing street yesterday to mark Qixi — Chinese Valentine’s Day — passersby were first surprised, then began cheering and applauding.
“The festival is not only for heterosexuals. I also hope to be blessed on this day,” said Xiao Li, after kissing his partner.
“Love — no matter what kind it is — is worth blessing,” said an onlooker.
On this traditional Chinese day of romance, many gay people felt no awkwardness in celebrating their love.
Wang Xiao, who came out in May, took part in a matchmaking party organized by the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province.
“I hope I can meet someone special on this special day,” said Wang.
In an increasingly open China, gay people, particularly the young, have grown accustomed to observin Qixi, a holiday that originated from a folk tale about the love of a herdsman and a fairy.
“Qixi festival is about love, so it should be a day for all Chinese lovers, including gays,” said Xiao Tie, a member of the non-governmental Beijing gay center.
As recently as 10 years ago, homosexuals would not have dared to show their love in public for fear of discrimination, said Xiao Tie.
The center held a ceremony and various other activities yesterday to celebrate the festival and call for understanding and tolerance towards the gay community.
During last year’s Qixi Festival which fell on August 23, two young men from Dongguan in south China’s Guangdong Proviince married with the blessing of parents and friends, as well as hundreds of strangers. Their wedding ignited debate over the legality of gay marriage.
“China has become more open-minded and tolerant of homosexuality along with economic development and the advancement of society,” said Li Yinhe, a noted sexologist from Beijing.
On weibo.com, microblog web users forwarded posts saying “Happy Qixi festival to all lovers, no matter if you are gay, lesbian, heterosexual or bisexual.”
Countries including the Netherlands and Belgium and parts of the United States recognize gay marriage.
In China, homosexuality was deleted from a list of mental illnesses in 2001 and the number homosexual organizations has sharply increased in the past five years.
“Only a minority of people still regard homosexuality abnormal,” said Xiao Tie. “Homosexuality adds to the diversity of society and culture, and it should be accepted.”