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First same-sex wedding in China gets major coverage in state-run press
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First same-sex wedding in China gets major coverage in state-run press

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

On January 13, China's government-run newspaper China Daily gave front-page coverage to a Gay wedding in the country's Sichuan Province.

Zeng Anquan, 45, and Pan Wenjie, 27, were married at a Gay bar in Sichuan's capital city of Chendu on January 3.

Pan's former girlfriend volunteered to be his bridesmaid at the wedding. Zeng was previously married to a woman, but is divorced.

"We are no longer hiding any more. The wedding is our happiest and most precious moment," Zeng told the China Daily. "We don't care how others consider us, as long as we are together."

While they were surrounded by Gay friends, the families of the two men boycotted the wedding.

"My sister warned me she would never call me her brother unless I break up with Pan, and I have answered hundreds of phone calls from friends and relatives who say they feel ashamed of me," said Zeng.

"But we are deeply in love and will never desert each other," he said of his relationship with Pan.

Same-sex marriages are not legally recognized in China, and the couple told reporters they regret they cannot receive a marriage certificate from the Chinese government.

"Thousands of Gays and Lesbians get married in France, Finland, the UK. Why couldn't we?" Zeng asked.

The government had no official response to the wedding, but its approval would normally be required for articles to appear in China Daily. The English-language newspaper is considered a reliable guide to Chinese government policy.

Homosexuality in China used to be both illegal and classified as a mental disorder.

In 1997, however, the crime of "hooliganism" was deleted from China's criminal code, in effect decriminalizing homosexuality.

On April 20, 2001, the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders formally removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

In December 2009, China's first government-backed Gay bar opened in the tourist town of Dali in southwestern Yunnan province, in a bid to boost HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

On January 15, China's first Gay pageant will be held in Beijing to choose the country's candidate for the Mr. Gay World contest in Norway next month.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, the country's top state-run radio network plans to launch a new program about AIDS that features an HIV-positive host, although the report did not mention the host's sexual orientation.

While the Chinese government is becoming more tolerant of its LGBT community, social pressures can still make life difficult for Gay Chinese.

Zeng told China Daily he discovered at the age of 20 that he was not attracted to women.

"What could I do at that time? I felt embarrassed to think of that tendency," he said.

Zeng married in 1983 and had a daughter, but said he could not feel attracted to his wife. "I felt I was embracing a lifeless tree while holding a woman," he said.

When their daughter grew up and found a decent job, Zeng came out to his wife. "She was shocked and kept crying for several days. Finally, she agreed to set me free."

The couple divorced in February 2009.

Zeng met Pan at a bar. They fell in love with each other at first sight, he said.

"His bright and enchanting smile almost blinded me. And I am so addicted to his gentle and soft voice."

He added that Pan is tall and masculine.

China has some 20 million Gay men and 10 million Lesbians, according to estimates by Zhang Beichuan, a professor at Qingdao University and an expert on homosexuality and HIV/AIDS prevention.

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