Here's one thing you likely won't see live-broadcast across state television in China: Two old men—one a retired school teacher and the other a water-delivery man—getting happily married. But thanks to social media, thousands were able to watch the two exchange vows on Jan. 30.
It's another sign that social media is undercutting ancient cultural biases of one of the world's oldest civilizations. The school teacher and the water delivery man may be at the forefront of a Chinese LGBT rights revolution.
The two have been sharing their experiences on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging service, where they have more than 20,000 followers and post under the handle 两个老头的爱情 or “Love Between Two Old Guys.”
Their rise to Weibo fame has been swift. The two men only began posting on Jan. 17. On Jan. 21, they showed their faces for the first time in a video, where they proclaimed their love.
“The two of us are old men," one of the men says to the camera, according to a translation provided by Tea Leaf Nation.
"But a little bit of romantic love happened between us. Just a little bit. So what? What does our love have to do with you? America is giving out marriage licenses to gay lovers. We are not even lovers. We are not there yet. Why are you against it? We are just kissing. What’s the big deal? We are just good together… Don’t be so stubborn. Don’t be so closed-off.”
On Jan. 30, they live-cast their wedding to their legions of online fans.
With rampant censorship and tight state control over China's social networks, it's safe to say sites like Sina Weibo will never foment political revolution. But social and cultural ideas filter through the censors grasp much more easily. Two men can't legally get married in China. But they can do it symbolically online, to an audience of thousands.
“Attitudes towards homosexuality have begun to change among certain groups in China, particularly young urban Internet users who may be accustomed to news of celebrities coming out of the closet or have friends or acquaintances who are openly gay. In 2012, a young gay couple also held a wedding that was live-tweeted on China’s social media.”
Sina Weibo users have mostly been supportive. In fact, it's easier for the two men to find understanding online than in their private lives. One of the men posted this message shortly after the wedding concluded:
“Our wedding was going along smoothly and happily, but my son, who is an animal, disrupted the event, flipping tables and shooing away guests. His actions stripped away our dignity and deeply pained us. Our followers on Sina Weibo, QQ and other social media users who supported us were all saddened and disappointed since the “live broadcasting” of our wedding had to be stopped. Why is it that strangers can give us their blessings but my own son can not? He has no heart. The child I raised ends up undermining my happiness.” (Translation via Tea Leaf Nation)
But a few flipped tables and a pissed off son won't stop these two. They're not backing down.
"Friends and relatives accuse us of being shameless, of never taking things seriously, of being a couple of old perverts," they posted on Jan. 18. "We are determined that even death won't separate us."
Keep fighting, guys.
Photos via 两个老头的爱情/Sina Weibo