BEIJING – Police canceled what would have been China’s first gay pageant just an hour before it was to start Friday, the event’s organizer said.
The Mr. Gay China pageant, featuring a fashion show and a host in drag, was set to take place in an upscale nightclub in Beijing, but police arrived and said it could not take place, Ben Zhang said.
“They said the content, meaning homosexuality, there nothing wrong with that, but you did not do things according to procedures,” Zhang said.
He said police told him he needed to apply for approval for events that included performances, in this case a stage show.
The forced closure comes even though a successful rehearsal was held Thursday night in the same location. Official media had also reported on the pageant.
Zhang had said he hoped it would mark another step toward greater awareness of homosexuals in a country where gays are frequently discriminated against and ostracized. Eight men were competing for the title and a spot in the Worldwide Mr. Gay pageant, to be held next month in Oslo, Norway.
Gay rights in China have come a long way since the years just after the 1949 communist revolution when homosexuality was considered a disease from the decadent West and feudal societies, and gay people were persecuted. Sodomy was decriminalized in 1997, and homosexuality was finally removed from the official list of mental disorders in 2001.
While treatment of gays has improved in recent years, many are still reticent to draw attention to their homosexuality, particularly in the workplace.
China is officially atheistic, and without religious reasons for opposing homosexuality, attitudes are slowly shifting among city dwellers from one of intolerance to indifference. Gays living in big cities, like nearly all the men participating in the pageant, say their biggest challenge is dealing with parents and deeply ingrained expectations for them to get married and have children.