On the day a judge ruled that male civil partners turned away from a hotel in Cornwall should be paid £3,600 in damages, here are some observations on a recent news item from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
On January 1st, so reported the Yangcheng Evening News under the headline “A lala Wedding” (lala is Chinese slang for ‘lesbian’), 32-year-old ‘Paco’ and ‘Crystal’, 28, went through a wedding ceremony in a hotel in Zhongshan City. At 9.09pm the band struck up and the guests strewed the couple with rose petals as they entered arm in arm (in Chinese numerology, 9 is the most yang or ‘masculine’ of numbers, and also sounds like the word for ‘a long time’).
“We’re lalas,” they announced, “and we probably won’t be accepted by society, but... we’ll be with each other night and day, and we’ll never be separated....”
Crystal had grown up in a village in Guangxi, a province which brings to mind timeless scenes of water buffalo and rice terraces more readily than it does gay weddings. Her parents had long accepted the fact that their daughter only liked women and had no plans to force her into a marriage she didn’t want. “You choose your own path,” they said. “So long as you’re happy it’s okay.”
The snag, of course, is that Paco and Crystal’s ‘marriage’ has no legal effect in China, whose statute Marriage Law defines marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. There have been several attempts in recent years to introduce laws legalizing homosexual civil marriage, and though they’ve all fallen at the first hurdle there’s a growing gay-rights lobby in China demanding change. Don’t hold your breath: a quick peek at a web forum where somebody posted a positive and thoughtful opinion on Paco and Crystal’s marriage quickly attracted a more representative cross-section of contemporary Chinese attitudes towards homosexuality. I’ve translated some typically obscure internet slang as directly as I can....
“Sofa!” (that is to say, “I’m sat on my sofa, turned on by this story...”)
“I’m still not for this - it means another two guys left on the shelf.”
“I’m supportive of homosexuality, but not gay marriage.”
“Very honest. I feel really sympathetic.”
“I can put up with gay women, but not gay men.”
“I’m totally against gay women, and even more totally against gay men. For every pair of gay men there’s a little more hope for us normals.”
That last post doesn’t seem to have realised that, by his reckoning, he ought to be all for gay men...