Tears, jokes & heartache

Published: November 9, 2010

Most of the afternoon, the gray-haired mother bows her head, listening intently to the speakers.

Then her husband stands up and tells the meeting their story: how he took their son from their home in Hebei Province to a Tianjin therapist 10 years ago to "cure" him of his homosexuality.

Only after treatment – not before – did their son really begin to exhibit serious mental problems.

Now, at last, she stands.

"We understand his homosexuality can’t be changed," says the 70-something woman.

"We should never have done that to him…"

She explodes into tears and weeps uncontrollably.

Until 2001, homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness in China. Zhang Beichuan, a professor at Qingdao University and an expert on homosexuality and HIV/AIDS prevention, estimated the real number of gay people in China as 30 million.

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