“It’s a lot of pressure for gays to hide their real identity,” says Geng Le, founder of China’s largest dating app for Chinese gay guys.
“Once you reach a certain age, colleagues always ask about your marriage or even want to introduce girlfriends for you. When you are with other male colleagues, they always talk about women and it is not like you can say sorry, I’m not interested in women,” he added.
“There are still a lot of misunderstandings about gays,” he told Shanghai Daily.
Although same-sex relations was in the early 2000s removed from China’s list of mental illnesses, the deeply held Chinese belief that children are required to marry and bear offspring to continue the family line makes it still heavily stigmatized forcing suppression of gay relationships in men and women.
Nonetheless, the LGBT community has been increasingly more active in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where the annual Shanghai Pride event has been up and running for six years and where there are many more gay bars, gay saunas and gay websites for helping community members be themselves.
However, there is still a long way to go.
The American Pew Research Center 2013 survey on “Should society accept homosexuality?” showed that from more than 3,000 responses from 12 cities, 12 towns and 12 villages across China, only 21 percent said yes. This was however up from just 4 percent from the same survey in 2007.
Even so, the present acceptance rate is much lower than neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea, with acceptance rates of 54 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
As for the young in China, only 32 percent of those between 18 and 29 years old answered yes.
Last November, Community Business, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization specializing in corporate responsibility, launched a resource guide for employers entitled “Creating Inclusive Workplaces for LGBT Employees in China.”
“Our choice of country for a resource guide is largely based on need,” says Joy Tsang, communications manager of the organization. “The resource guide aims to raise awareness of LGBT as a workplace issue in the Chinese mainland and help push companies to adopt best practice.”
That guide led to the lesbian group NVAI, or woman love, launching a local guide early in the year.
Steven Bielinski, an American who has worked in Shanghai and founded an LGBT professionals business networks said same-sex relations was a taboo topic and that many colleagues often make jokes about gay people.