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Parents of LGBT People in China Are Helping Spread Acceptance 

Parents of LGBT People in China Are Helping Spread Acceptance

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Homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness until 2001, but attitudes are changing.

Photo courtesy of PFLAG China

China is still a long way away from legalizing marriage equality, says activist Lin Xianzhi, father of an openly gay son, Lin Xiaotao, but he thinks it's inevitable. Such optimism seems out of place in a country that only deciminalized homosexuality in 1997, and only removed it from its list of mental illnesses in 2001. Lin Xianzhi, however, is on the forefront of the battle to change public opinion, inspired by his son's coming out five years ago.

Family is a central theme in Chinese life, which means that people need to be convinced that LGBT people are compatible with more traditional family models and expectations if acceptance is to spread. That's why the work of parents through PFLAG China is so important. Vice News explored the slow progress China has made so far on the LGBT front. Below are some excerpts from the piece:

"I was in my mid-20s and she was the first person I came out to," says Lin Xiaotao. "She [female best friend] half-heartedly said we should marry. She said she'd help hide my sexuality and keep my mum from being heartbroken. But after thinking about it for a few months, I decided this wasn't the way to go."

"I was so stunned my head went blank," [Lin Xianzhi] says [of when his son came out]. "I felt terrible. I thought my kid had suffered from bad influences or was trying to catch up with some new trend. In the past I'd told him to stay away from homosexual-related things, and that one has to get married."

Five years on, Lin Xianzhi's opinion about his son's sexuality is unrecognizable from his initial reaction. In February he sent copies of a seven-page letter he'd written calling for the discussion of the legalization of gay marriage to 1,000 legislators and political advisers. With gay marriage not an option in China, his proposal is pushing for equal rights for gay couples in areas including medical care, inheritance, and property purchases.

Despite these statistics, recent high-profile court cases and actions such as Lin Xianzhi's lobbying have led to optimism about a sea change in public opinion. There is a spark of hope that a path leading to the legalization of gay marriage can be laid. "Our government loves going with the tide," says Ah Qiang, the PFLAG China founder. "If there is enough of a media wave and people such as Lin are demanding it, there will be politicians working on it. There seems to be a surging call from society."

"Legalizing gay marriage is just a matter of time," Lin Xianxhi says. "Food security, the environment, and so on seem to be the more pressing issues, so it's not on top of the list yet."

For now, Lin Xiaotao will get on with loving his boyfriend and supporting his dad's lobbying, as the boulder begins to slowly shift. "We're stable and like a married couple," he says. "We're joining a gay couples event in the States in June, we may get a license there but it won't hold up here. We hope we can get married on Chinese soil in our lifetimes. But until then, life still goes on."

To read the full article, visit Vice News.

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