China is not exactly known as being all warm and fuzzy to the LGBT community, but that hasn’t stopped Anwei and Yebin, together since 2011, from creating a life together in a village near Shijiazhuang in Hebei province.
Anwei added Yebin on QQ and the men started dating almost immediately. A month later, Yebin flew out to Urumqi so the couple could meet in person and shortly after that, Anwei quit his job, packed up his things, and moved to Yebin’s small hometown village. The couple lives next door to Yebin’s parents and work on the family farm, Global Times reports.
Yebin’s mother has been a total rock star. Since there are no legal structures in place for a committed gay couple in China, she drew up a sort of “marriage contract” to protect and provide for them. She says, “I’ve thought this through. I’ve got two houses, one for Yebin and one for Yebin’s brother. I want Yebin and Anwei to stay together.” According to the contract, Yebin and Anwei share their house, their earnings, and if one of them passes away the other receives their shared property. Concerned about who will take care of the couple in their old age (as it’s usually the couple’s children, especially in such an isolated village), Yebin’s nephews have agreed to shoulder the responsibility, which is also stipulated in the marriage contract.
Yebin’s mother has even become a bit of a gay rights champion, telling Yebin that if any gay people or their parents want to talk to her, she can meet with them and help them with their problems. She also Skypes with Anwei’s parents in Xinjiang often, assuaging their fears and assuring them that Anwei is being taken care of by his partner’s family.
Of course, Anwei and Yebin did not receive this kind of support in the beginning. Their parents were unsurprisingly unsupportive, trying to set the men up with girls to change their mind (Yebin was briefly married), hospitalizing them, and in Yebin’s case, a traditional doctor tried to exorcise the gay out of him (yes, this still happens). But the parents agree that it is better to see their sons happy as who they are than miserable trying to be something they are not.
Life in a small-town village as a gay couple has not been easy. In their tiny community where everyone knows everyone else, there was (and still is) a lot of gossip in hushed tones and side-eye. Things are a bit different in big cities, especially Shanghai and Beijing, where there is a larger gay community and support groups for parents who might feel uninformed. But Yebin hopes that his story, which has been gaining traction in Chinese media, will help others in a similar situation.
Even though the press has made Anwei and Yebin into small celebrities, the couple just want to enjoy their time together. Yebin says, “We are nothing special, we are just trying to live our lives.”
Photo c/o Global Times
By Briel Waxman