Living in sunlight

For celebrated playwright and film critic, Cheng Qingsong, being true to oneself is the key to happiness and career success. 

The soft-spoken, happy man, says being proud of being gay is a prerequisite of a productive life.  “I’d rather live in the sunlight than in hiding,” he told the Global Times.  “If you live a lie, your work will come out fake too.”

While many people believe being gay means being marginalized and rejected by society, Cheng takes it as an opportunity. “It makes you independent, makes you think how you want to live and requires you to make choices,” he said.

In December 2005, the 43-year-old author came into the sunlight by posting stories and photos of his former boyfriend on his blog. He had already seeded his blog with posts supporting homosexual rights. 

“I was trying to see how people would react,” said Cheng, adding that he was prepared to lose some friends but that didn’t happen. “Instead people thought I was honest and they encouraged me and supported me,” he said.

Since then Cheng has been a strong and articulate voice in the gay community. 

A part of society 

“I believe that gay people are like the left-handed, we’re not the majority, but we are a part of society,” said Cheng, adding they are no different than heterosexuals or right-handed people.
Cheng was 14 when he realized that he was attracted to the same sex. “I was scared in the beginning, because the education I received had been all about heterosexuality,” Cheng recalled. “Later when I read descriptions about homosexuality in Dream of the Red Mansion, I started to realize that I was not alone.”

Luckily, Cheng is a member of the first generation of gay men in modern China to be able to live so openly.  He says his sexual orientation hasn’t caused him much trouble professionally or personally, but it hasn’t always been easy, especially with his family.  

Cheng recalls how his parents forced him to break up with his first love when he was 18.

Cheng was working as a film projectionist at a movie company in his home county of Yunyang in Chongqing. His boyfriend’s mother reported Cheng to his boss and the whole town found out. Cheng’s parents couldn’t accept it. 

“They didn’t understand and thought it was just two kids messing around,” said Cheng. As time past his parents realized it wasn’t a matter of teenage confusion, and learned to turn a blind eye. 

In 2005, Wu Youjian became the first mother in China to talk openly on television about supporting her gay son. The broadcast turned Cheng’s parents completely around. 

Parents learned to be supportive

“My father told me that he would support me like Wu did for her son,” Cheng recalled. “That’s the first time he ever said that to me. I almost cried.”

Cheng, who said he has always tried to stay positive, encourages other gays and lesbians to live true to themselves. 

“Your honest attitude toward life will move people around you,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

In 2006, Cheng posted on his blog a list of 26 mainland showbiz celebrities who he implied were homosexual but did not name. His oblique “outing” triggered a wild guessing game and he took a lot of criticism.  Cheng said he didn’t mean to harm anyone but only hoped that more people, both gay and not, would show support for the gay community.

More recently Cheng has been a vocal critic of actress Lü Liping’s virulent attack on homosexuality that is laced with biblical references.  “It’s inappropriate for her to express such comments so publicly,” he said.

He points out that Lü has worked with people who are gay. “She should have known better and respected people’s differences and be more understanding,” said Cheng.

Ending bias and discrimination

Cheng also believes condemning or attacking the actress is not going to help. “The important thing is to start a discussion and let people know about the gay community,” said Cheng. “So eventually we can end bias and discrimination.”

While Chinese movies and dramas are still mainly projecting a stereotypical image of gay people, portraying them as effeminate and girlish doesn’t really bother Cheng.  Many in the gay community say the media’s stereotyping feeds discrimination, but Cheng thinks just having a presence and a discussion are good. 

“The talk online isn’t going to lead to major changes in real life, but it gets the word around and raises people’s awareness that our rights are being ignored,” said Cheng, who works for the China Film Association and helped initiate the Gold Broom awards, spoofing the country’s worst films. 

While homosexuality is no longer a crime in China, Cheng is working to lift the many restrictions that affect the lives of gay people.

Source: Globle Times

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