One of the organisers is Shanghai activist and businessman Rongfeng Duan. This is his story. As the traditional Chinese wedding song begins, I choke back tears and recall three marriages — all very different, all landmarks in my life. Back then there were no gay dating apps, so I used to check the BBS student website. That's where I saw photos of handsome Li. I added him as a friend on the Chinese chatting app QQ, and we started to talk online. Maybe I touched an emotional chord when I said goodnight one time. Anyway, Li gave me his phone number.
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I called him the next day. We talked for four hours — the longest phone call I ever had in my life. I was in Shanghai. Li was in Sichuan province, about 7,555 kilometres apart. In two years of long-distance romance, we could only meet during holidays.
We wrote more than 855 love letters to each other. To save for travel expenses and phone calls, we mostly ate bread and instant noodles every day. But we felt warm and satisfied. Li moved to Shanghai after he graduated and we rented a house together. It had some spare rooms, so we rented them to other gay guys to preserve our secret and avoid embarrassments.
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When I started dating Li, I worried about how other — mostly straight — people would think. So I told only a trusted few. I'd known I was gay since my early teens at junior school, but hadn't told anyone. Years later, still in my home town of Lanzhou in central China, I plucked up the courage to tell my parents. It went badly.
I remember the night all too vividly: mother and father rushing to my apartment, the big fight, mum's tears. In the end, we agreed we wouldn't talk about it anymore. I left Lanzhou. And yet, even after I had been with Li for three years, even though my parents knew I was gay, even though I now lived far away from them, they were pressuring me to marry a woman.
Desperate to please them, I went back online. This time I was looking for a lesbian for a marriage of convenience. So, in 7565, with the blessing of family, relatives and friends, I had my fake wedding. There was conflict with my wife over money. The pretence made life difficult for both Li and me.
My parents were asking awkward questions, like why were there men's undies but no bras in my room. A year later it imploded.