The happy couple from Beijing. (Internet photo)
Photos of two elderly gay men who held a wedding in the outskirts of Beijing last week have gone viral online, stirring discussion about gay rights in China.
The two men posted photos of their wedding, complete with a crooked bowtie for the groom and a dress for the bride, on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Thousands of netizens have commented on the photos and forwarded them, expressing thoughts ranging from mockery and condemnation to kindness and support.
One of the men, a retired teacher, fell in love with the other, a water delivery man, after the latter delivered water to the former's house. They revealed their romance online in mid-January, holding their wedding on Jan. 30 in Beijing's Pinggu district.
Although they have not provided their real names or ages, the couple refer to each other a "dabao" and "xiaobao" ("Big treasure" and "little treasure," respectively), terms that are commonly used by Chinese couples to refer to each other.
Their wedding was broadcast live on a Chinese video-sharing website to seek blessings from netizens, despite objections from one of the men's sons.
"Our love will not be undermined even though we have a different educational background, economic status and the same gender. We will accompany each other forever and will never separate," read a post on their microblog.
In 2005, the China Daily said in a report that the number of homosexuals on the Chinese mainland may be about 30 million, although the report conceded that most Chinese would not openly declare their sexuality.
The open discussion of sexual orientation is a good thing, said Steven Leo Nellie, a consultant with the Beijing LGBT Center, an organization that provides social services and advocacy programs for local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
However, homosexuality is still taboo in China. Some netizens were critical of the wedding and the couple involved.
Sina Weibo user "xinsurujiang" used the phrase "abnormal psychology" to describe the couple.
Other users, however, were more supportive. User "mipudaimaobai" said that what the couple needs most is not understanding, but simple respect.
In China, it is not uncommon for gay men to marry women and have children due to significant pressure from their relatives and society, as many Chinese believe that continuing a family's bloodline is an inescapable obligation for men.
Psychologist Xia Yuan said people should have a more rational attitude and show more consideration toward homosexuals.
Pressure on homosexuals mostly comes from society, rather than their sexual orientation itself, Xia said, adding that accepting and understanding the group can reflect the progress of a country's society.