It is still hard for us to realize that the extraordinary experience we had in China was for real.
China was the first country we wanted to visit during our World Tour and we couldn’t have expected such a Human adventure full of emotion.
How this Chinese adventure started
Everything started with an article from Anthony Kuhn about a Chinese Lesbian couple welcoming their newborn Twins.
I contacted this journalist who gave me, Rui’s contact (one of the two moms) and a great experience just started here!
During almost six months we exchanged messages through WeChat with Rui, sharing about our projects, about rainbow families in France or just sharing pictures of our daily life.
Rui co-founded with her partner an organization named « Rainbow Babies » which is a Wechat support group for LGBT willing to start a family in China. We will publish later an interview of Rui and her partner Chen.
Rui was a big supporter of our World tour project and wanted to help us meet rainbow families or LGBT couples willing to become parents. She translated a presentation of our Love makes a family project and published it on their Wechat group and many people contacted her as they were willing to meet us, to invite us for dinner or even to host us.
A very warm welcome from Chinese LGBT community
Before our plane took off for Shanghai we already had two different couples willing to host and offering us a place to sleep in their home and we received messages from Rui mentioning that a Party and a conference will probably be organized.
It was just the beginning of tens of amazing encounters in different cities.
We have been so touched by all these amazing lesbians and gays willing to meet us, to ask us questions about our life in France as a rainbow family.
They opened their home to us… they opened their heart to us…
Sometimes we even met their parents who were happy to cook delicious Chinese food for us.
We really appreciated spending time with them discussing about our daily life as a rainbow family, comparing the family traditions in China and in France while eating at restaurant, visiting museum or walking through peaceful parks and gardens.
All this generosity, the kindness of the people we met really contrast with the behavior of the thousands Chinese we saw in the streets during our trip who were not particularly smiley, always in a rush, pushing us to make their way through, trying to pass us while we were standing in line to buy train tickets… These kind of conducts in a western society is considered as rude. In China, it seems to be okay.
We discovered a China with two faces, either you are a « nobody » walking in the street (even though we were noticeable because of the color of our skin and because of Sacha who was often seen as a curiosity), or you are part of a community, a family and people will take care of you. Isn’t it the same in France ? Isn’t it one of the distinctive feature of any modern society ?
During this trip we discovered that some people, a couple of years ago had the courage to create local LGBT organizations.
They wanted to raise awareness about LGBT rights and promote equality but firstly they wanted to create a safe place where people can meet and discuss about their homosexuality.
In Suzhou, we met with people from LES GO association, a women LGBT community established in 2010 to promote communication about homosexual, bisexual and transgender people in Suzhou and surrounding areas. They are hosting regularly events like movie watching, conferences…
In Xian we met with the Relax association, created in 2009. They started as a student association organizing events for LGBT people
In Chengdu, the organization Les Chengdu welcomed us.
These three associations organized conferences in no time in their city to give us the opportunity to share our story. Each time between 20 to 30 people (both gays and lesbians) attended the conference. It was a first for us to talk about our family in front of an audience with a Chinese translator. We prepared a PowerPoint presentation and we talked about our love story, what was the process to have a baby, how do we live as a rainbow family and then some information about LGBT rights in France.
The most interesting part in these conferences were the questions & answers. They asked us many questions from how we were dealing with other parents at school to what is the best way for LGBT to get rights in their country. This Q&A also generates a lot of discussions between them and they started to talk about how they want to create their family, about donors….
Summary of the conference in Chinese published by the Chengdu association
Life of a rainbow family in China
It was really enriching to spend time with rainbow families. Rainbow families in China are really diverse and situations are more or less complicated. Same sex marriage is not legal in China, as well as adoption or medical assisted reproduction so LGBT have to find different solution to start a family. We discovered some of the issues they are facing.
- First it is difficult to come out as gay or lesbian in China.
Family is really important in China. Kids, parents and grandparents are often living all together. With the single child policy that existed until 2015, the child was the only hope for the family to perpetuate the name of the family by getting married himself or herself and having a child. Children can really feel the pressure from their parents and coming out is often perceived as a shame because you will not fulfill your parent’s expectation (getting married and have kid). On top of that homosexuality is not well known, especially in rural areas. We met at least 2 lesbians who told us that their parents had no idea what homosexuality was or how you could have sex (technically speaking) with someone of the same sex.
The luckiest Gays and lesbians have parents who accept the situation when they realize their kid happiness depends.
- How to have a baby if you are a lesbian or gay couple
The first option is a Gay marrying a lesbian. This marriage of convenience allows the “fake” married couple to avoid many questions and sometimes this gay and this lesbian will never come out to the society. They can have a kid together and it will be easy to get official identity documents for the kid as they are a married couple. We met at least two lesbians who married gay men and had a baby together. These lesbians had partners (lovers) and the situation seemed a little complicated to handle for the partner who was not officially part of the family.
The second option for lesbians is to find a friend (male) willing to help them and do the insemination themselves.
The third option for lesbians is to go abroad to get access to medical assisted procreation. We met couples who went mainly in Thailand and in the United States. We were surprised by the number of couple who are doing Reciprocal In vitro fertilization. This is a version of IVF which refers to the creation of embryos using one of the women’s eggs and transferring those embryos into the uterus of her partner, ensuring that both women are part of the creation and birth of their child (source: lgbtqnation)
- Get official papers for your child.
Rui explained to us that originally in China there were two systems to regulate the population: the identity system (ID) and the birth control system. The birth control system meant a family must be composed of a father, a mother and one single child. The two systems were connected which means any new born should apply to birth control policy to be registered and get an official Identity document (which will allow him/ her later to go to school, get access to healthcare, travel….). If the birth control policy was not respected (2 kids, single mother) the parent could be punished by paying a fine and/or loosing his/her job.
However in the beginning of 2016, the state council issued a policy disconnecting the birth control policy and the ID system. This means that any newborn child in China can be given an official ID as this is a citizen basic right. So lesbian mother can now register their babies as a single mother, without providing any information on the father. This is possible in most of the Chinese province.
- How to face society when you are a rainbow family
For most of the families we met, it seemed to be hard to be totally transparent about the structure of their family when they were asked questions by strangers or by the teacher.
The topic that surprised us
During many conversations about medically assisted procreation, the topic of the origin of the donor was raised.
Many couples chose to have a non-Asian donor, in other words a white donor from a western country. For future parents, it was sometimes subject of controversy. We were really surprised about this choice as, on our side, when we met doctors in Belgium clinics, they told us that we didn’t had a choice: it will be a donor with the same physical characteristics (eyes, hair, color of the skin) as the two parents (or at least one if parents don’t have the same ethnic origin). We found that logical.
We tried to understand why they prefer a white donor and here are some of the answers we received:
“mixed race babies and kids are really good-looking”;
“our baby will be more intelligent”;
“people will focus more on the baby as he/she will be different rather than on the two mums”;
“if people ask where is the dad, we can say he is leaving abroad”;
“our kid will have better chance to be accepted in an international school”
These conversations opened us to a new way of thinking about diversity: “this child will have two mums so he can have something else special in addition, it’s even better”.
What about the truth…
In the presentation we made during the conferences, we insisted on the fact that we explained really early to Sacha why he has two moms and informed him about all the different structures of families existing today.
We were also asked how Sacha was calling us. We explained that we were both Mums: Mummy Sara and Mummy Natacha. When we asked them the same question, sometimes they told us it is the same for us, but sometimes we heard:
“we did not explain our kid that we were two moms”;
“My son is calling me Dad. He asked me the question one day about why I was going to the Ladies restroom if I was a Dad, I told him that I have a woman body but inside I feel like a man”;
“we are explaining that I am an aunt or the god mother when people ask who am I (the mother who is not the biological mother)”.
We also met some couple wanting to tell the truth and very interested by the books for little kids we talked about. One book is already in preparation, it didn’t exist at all in Chinese before! It is a slow process but we could feel that there’s a movement toward more visibility and when more families will be out, others will follow and kids will leave without lies and secrets about their parents.
It is now time to leave China
We discovered a fascinating country, with so many paradoxes if we look with our western culture eyes. How can Chinese pay everything with their smartphone (even to a person selling fruit on his three-wheeled bike in the street), but spit in the street or use squat toilet.
I think what we will remember the most is the kindness of every single Lesbian and Gay we have met. We met people with hope, hope that the rights towards LGBT people will evolve, hope to raise kids as a rainbow family, hope that the society will accept them.
All the families we met had the same anecdotes about their kids or questions/concerns about education as any other classical families. We did not meet any kid older than 3 years old, so none of them shared with us what they thought about their rainbow families. But the rainbow babies we met were happy, joyful, curious and alert kid. These rainbow babies were surrounded by Love: love of their parents, love of their grand-parents.
Despite the lack of laws protecting rainbow families in China, we can really conclude that this is Love that makes a Family!
A special Thanks to Rui thanks to who this adventure was possible!
Some Chinese Slang about LGBT (source Wikipedia):
Here are some of the words we heard many times in the conversation… even though we did not understand any single word….
|同性||tóng xìng||same sex|
|基||jī (Canto : gay1)||gay|
|基佬||jī lǎo (Canto : gay1 lou2)||gay guy|
|P （婆）||po||High femme/lipstick lesbian|
|C||Feminine male (short for “sissy”)|
|出柜 (出櫃)||chū guì||come out of the closet|
|掰弯 ( 掰彎 ）||bāi wān||to turn a straight person gay|