Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gays Living in Secrecy

BEIJING (UPI) -- Like most Chinese homosexuals, Han Yue strives to keep his secret from all but a close circle of gay friends. Like others, his biggest fear is that someone, someday, might find out he is gay.
``I've lived with this deep fear of discovery for years, and it knocks all the self-confidence out of you,'' he says, looking much older than his 32 years. ``Now I just feel inferior.''
Han Yue, a pseudonym, has been arrested twice. Once the police beat him and then informed his boss, costing him a promising job as a clerk at the Ministry of Culture.
His first homosexual encounter at 16 was snatched in the dark during a violent earthquake in 1976 that knocked out Beijing's electricity supply.
Subsequent encounters took place in parks, toilets and once at the so-called ``Democracy Wall'' in Beijing which, he says, was a favored meeting point for homosexuals during the brief democracy movement in 1979.
Han Yue is unsure of how many sexual partners he has had, but he knows the figure is high. He knows he has never used a condom and he knows, but does not care, about AIDS.
``Most of us think, 'The sooner I get it, the sooner I'll be dead,''' he said. ``We wouldn't think like that if we hadn't been hurt so badly.''
Now he shares a cramped Beijing flat with his mother. But he leaves every Lunar New Year -- China's equivalent of Christmas when families come together -- because his elder brother a few years back stumbled across a private diary recording his homosexual encounters.
``If I'm there at New Year my brother will eat, then he'll drink, then he could start talking about me and I would be finished,'' he says.
In secret, he attends ``Men's World,'' China's first support group for gay men set up in late 1992. But he is skeptical of recent official attempts to publicize the existence of homosexuality in China.
``The newspapers talk about how hard it is abroad, about how gays in America and Europe are mistreated, but they never talk about how hard it is for Chinese homosexuals,'' he said. ``We don't live like human beings. We live the life of ghosts.''
``The Forest of Ghosts'' also is the title for a book Han Yue has written recalling his experiences and those of gay friends. Stories of arrest and beatings at the hands of the police that, he says, happen every day.
The book includes a particularly disturbing passage describing the arrest and rape of one of his gay companions by members of the People's Militia, the volunteer civilian force that often patrols homosexual haunts.
``It broke him,'' Han Yue recalls. ``He wanted to commit suicide.'' ``The Forest of Ghosts'' has attracted the interest of a state-run publishing firm in south China's freewheeling Hainan Province, but so far the company's managers say the book is too sensitive to put on the market.
To Han Yue, their decision comes as little surprise. ``This is still China,'' he said. ``I really love my country like I love my mother, but she's not perfect and in some respects I hate her with all my heart.''

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