Coming out as gay at Chinese New Year

Fang Chao tells his mother he's gay in the PFLAG film Coming Home Image copyright Ah Qiang/PFLAG

How did a video about telling your parents you're gay at Chinese New Year become a viral hit in China?

New Year is a time for millions of Chinese families to come together to eat, celebrate and set off firecrackers. For many Chinese sons and daughters, it's also a time to endure a barrage of questions from parents demanding to know when they're ever going to meet someone and settle down (many have been there).

This spring festival there's a chance they may also be discussing homosexuality thanks to a film called Coming Home, about a man named Fang Chao, who goes home for New Year and tells his family he's gay.

Image copyright Ah Qiang/ PFLAG

As BBC Trending radio has been finding out, the film has racked up more than 100 million views on QQ, one of the biggest social media platforms in China. In the film Fang's parents disown him for two years after he tells them he wants to be with a man. At the end there are real clips from the mothers of gay men offering their advice, and leaving messages like: "Share the story of your life with your parents - they're willing to hear you out," and "Don't allow social convention and traditional views on marriage get in the way of your kid coming home."

Attitudes towards homosexuality in China are mixed and the comments reacting to the video reflect this. Some have been overwhelmingly supportive, others less so. "Some say gays and lesbians are OK and normal. What will you think if YOUR sons and daughters are?," one comment read. "Are they afraid to socialise with women? Can they differentiate fraternal relations from love?" another said.

Image copyright Ah qiang/PFLAG

One of those behind the video is Ah Qiang, who runs the Guangzhou branch of the not-for-profit organization PFLAG. It began in the US and campaigns for the social inclusion of all people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Ah Qiang told BBC Trending his coming out story. "My mother died in 2006 and I never got the chance to tell her. [I'm] very sad about that," he says. Two years later he decided to tell his father and stepmother he was gay. He invited them over, explained why he had no girlfriend and why he did not come home for New Year. "At the end I said 'have you got any questions for me?' [My father] had just one. 'Who will look after you when you are old?'

"I said, 'I will have friends and I am saving for my old age'."

Image copyright Ah Qiang/PFLAG

Despite China's policy of internet censorship, Ah Qiang says social media has given people in China an outlet to discuss issues around homosexuality.

He told BBC Trending that QQ, the Chinese social media site that hosted the Coming Home video, initially said they couldn't put it on the front page because of its pro-gay message.

After a few days however, it had proved so popular it was moved to the site's front page.

To hear the full interview with Ah Qiang check out the BBC Trending podcast.

Blog by Gemma Newby and India Rakusen

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