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On a Friday night in Beijing, You Yi, a gay volunteer at PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) China, was ready to go live online to talk about sexual identity and share his experience of coming out to his family.
“By doing live streaming, we hope to tell everyone what homosexuality is really about,” You Yi told TechNode.
In the hope of advising more confused and struggling parents and children, PFLAG China, a non-profit organization aiming to serve the LGBT community in the country, began broadcasting live online in August. Volunteers share their coming-out stories, give suggestions and educate the audience about HIV, sexual knowledge, sexual identity, expression and sexual orientation—hoping to eliminate misconceptions from the general public about the LGBT community as well as misunderstandings within the community.
“We invite parents who have gay children to share their stories,” said Flora, the head of volunteer management at PFLAG China. “They would talk about how they first reacted when their children came out to them and how they coped with it.”
Often times, the nature of live streaming—real-time audience interaction—brings in the most exciting discussions. “Sometimes people don’t care what our theme (of the live streaming) is,” said Flora. “They would just throw in random questions like ‘I’m falling for a straight guy but I’m a gay man, what should I do?’ or ‘I just came out to my parents and they were furious, what should I do?’”
“Even though we may not get that much interaction on Yizhibo, we think it’s an important platform for the general public to get to know us more,” said Flora.
Despite the vibrant LGBT app scene in China, it hasn’t been a smooth sailing for PFALG since starting to do live streaming, especially when the authorities released regulations last year to ban portrayal of homosexual relationships on television dramas and web series (in Chinese). PFLAG’s accounts on some live streaming platforms have once been suspended due to the “sensitive” online discussions during live streaming.
“We’d avoid saying highly sensitive terms like ‘tongxinglian (homosexuality, 同性恋 in Chinese)’ and instead say ‘tongzhi (slang for homosexuality, 同志 in Chinese)’ or ‘LGBT’ or ‘sexual minorities’ during live streaming,” said Flora.
Even though the organization’s online activities have come under scrutiny, the live chats seem to be quite popular online. As of the end of October, the total views of the live stream and playbacks on Yizhibo exceeded 1 million since starting out in August. The number of real-time viewers, on the other hand, vary from video to video, but there was one live stream in October that drew in over 71,000 real-time watchers during the live streaming.
“We find live streaming the best way to promote information related to LGBT,” said Flora. “It’s very helpful especially when we’re doing advocacy work and hoping to change how people see the sexual minorities.”