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I often ask my gay friends if they can imagine marrying the one they love.
Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.
So, in 2010, with the blessing of family, relatives and friends, I had my fake wedding. We learned we had another choice if we were gay in this world — to come out of the closet. For ages she had regarded me as the "best and most reliable friend". In 2015, after Li and I had been together 11 years, Pflag China joined with two websites to take selected gay couples to get legally married in the United States. We told our love story via photos, videos and online. All the sweet feelings and mixed emotions came out. As a volunteer, I was responsible for the stage equipment and sound.
She even once said that if Li had a sister, she would marry her to me. Among the stories of 400 gay couples, ours stood out, according to the judges. All dressed up, Li and I waited impatiently to make our entrance to the ceremony. I could tell Li was very nervous — his palm was sweaty. The marriages would not be legally recognised in China, but when the nine couples entered in their exquisite red finery, with blessings and red envelopes from their parents and a traditional wedding song playing, I couldn't stop my tears flowing.
Years later, still in my home town of Lanzhou in central China, I plucked up the courage to tell my parents. I remember the night all too vividly: mother and father rushing to my apartment, the big fight, mum's tears. The pretence made life difficult for both Li and me. Eventually, another big step: Li's mum decided to move from Sichuan to Shanghai and live with us. They neither object to Li and me, nor do they support us. Maybe when we want to have a kid in the future, I will try to have a long talk with them.
In the end, we agreed we wouldn't talk about it anymore. And yet, even after I had been with Li for three years, even though my parents knew I was gay, even though I now lived far away from them, they were pressuring me to marry a woman. This time I was looking for a lesbian for a "marriage of convenience". My parents were asking awkward questions, like why were there men's undies but no bras in my room. The lesbian I had married broke up with her girlfriend and also decided to end our marriage. Soon Li and I met some volunteers from Pflag, an NGO for gay rights in China. But I did marry a woman once, so maybe it takes the pressure off me. This year we celebrated our second anniversary by joining a special Pflag China event — a cruise ship adventure where nine gay couples would get married in traditional Chinese style.