The competition was a franchise of the international pageant Mr. Gay World.
Six years ago, organisers tried to hold the contest but the Chinese government shut it down.
This time, the competition was successfully held with no opposition. Organisers revealed that they avoided censure by highlighting the values of ‘being healthy, positive and energetic,’ and even offered free HIV tests at the venue.
Meng, who is a dance teacher, won by a landslide at the end of the four-week long competition, reports the Guardian.
‘Something like this event is a great platform to raise awareness of the LGBT community,’ Meng said. ‘Many people don’t really know what LGBT is, and coming out can still be difficult, so you really have to prove yourself to be an upstanding person.’
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Homosexuality is still a taboo and a controversial topic to publicly talk about in the conservative Chinese society. Thus many in the LGBT community prefer stay in the closet.
Even among the Mr. Gay China contestants, only a few were out.
‘It’s very hard to do this in China,’ one contestant confessed. Another added: ‘I will never tell my parents that I’m gay. I’m their whole life – I don’t want to let them down.’
However, Steven Paul Bielinski, the founder of the Chinese non-profit WorkForLGBT, said that that country and its people’s attitude towards the LGBT community is definitely evolving and a good part has to do with business.
‘Here in China many companies are starting to see LGBT people as a new market opportunity, without feeling obliged to invest in their welfare,’ Bielinski said. ‘Whereas just a few years ago anything related to LGBT was viewed as potentially destabilising, the growing number of firms targeting the Pink Market today is something much more understandable to officialdom.’
He added, ‘Now it’s become a business issue – and business is something the government understands.’
For Meng, he hopes to increase the visibility of the LGBT community within his country and without.
‘Next I want to go to Mr. Gay World,’ he said. ‘I want to stand on the world stage and say to people, “I’m gay, and I’m from China,” and show them that the LGBT movement in China is vibrant and active.’