Playing mahjong, doting on the grandchildren, and cooing over the chihuahua – these are the things that Beijing women are supposed to delight in after retirement. Not so Lu Rong who, instead, went online, found a group of gay men to befriend, and then wrote a book about it.
Those Gay Children of Mine (我的那些同志孩儿) by Auntie Ou (Lu’s pen name) was recently released in Mandarin, possibly the first time in China that a straight mother in her sixties has openly published a gay book complete with an ISBN number. The digits make it above-board.
Lu, 61, divorced and with one son (straight), tells Time Out that she never even knew anyone gay until she was in her late fifties. She grew up during the Cultural Revolution, when sodomy was still officially listed as a crime. Until she retired at 55, she says, she only had a vague idea of what being gay actually meant. It was taboo, she says. Something you didn’t talk about.
As soon as she quit working, Lu taught herself how to use a computer and started her own blog. One day, about a year later, she stumbled over a young man’s blog article titled: My mother’s phone call fills me with dread. ‘When I saw it, I thought it was very strange,’ explains Lu. ‘He obviously loved his mother very much, so why was he scared to pick up her phone calls? I’m a mother, I have a son myself.’
She read more of his website and came to the slow realisation that the author, whom she calls Er Dong in her book, is gay and was reluctant to talk to his mother because she was pressuring him to get married and have a family. Lu says she was open-minded and curious, and just wanted to help. That night, she posted a message on his blog suggesting that he find a lesbian to marry. That way, his mother would be happy and the pressure would be off.‘
The very next day, he replied,’ continues Lu with a sparkle in her eyes. ‘He said he was very moved; he never imagined that a woman my age would have this kind of attitude, would be able to accept him. He said it made him cry and he told me: “Because of you, I am now filled with optimism about the future.”’
And thus started a wonderful friendship. Through Er Dong, Lu made many more gay friends and started a network where men would get together and discuss issues such as coming to terms with being gay, coming out to your parents, and so on. Many of the gay men asked Lu to intervene and help them to explain to their own parents.
After the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, Lu started thinking that these gay men’s lives were buried like the bodies under the rubble in Sichuan, and so she decided to put their stories down on paper.
Those Gay Children of Mine chronicles the lives and loves of some of the gay families that Lu met. The first chapter dwells on Er Dong, another is the story of a man who found a boyfriend when he was in prison but fell in love with a woman upon his release. A third documents the story of a divorced man who now lives with his boyfriend and mother, while in another, Lu interviews the divorcee of a gay man. Their names are made up to protect their identities, Lu says, but the stories are all true.
The book so far has been well received among the gay community, but, explains Lu, that’s not her target audience. ‘My aim is to write out these stories to tell the parents of gay children that their children are exactly the same as other kids,’ the author stresses. ‘This book is not for gay people, it’s for the parents of gay children.’
While Those Gay Children of Mine is currently published in Mandarin only, there are plenty of other books on the market in English about China’s LGBT community. We select the best of the bunch.
Beijing Blur, by James West
In Beijing Blur, young Aussie journalist West recounts his year in China’s capital, mixing politics and social observation with his experiences dating Chinese men and partying hard at Destination.
Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China, by Bret Hinsch
A thorough and insightful delve into the history of gay men in China, from naughty monks to omnipotent emperors.
Red Azalea, by Anchee Min
The tragic and erotic love story of two women during the Cultural Revolution.中文版