Mandy Duan (left), 26, and Cat Liao, 25
Homosexuality is still viewed as a sickness in Chinese society. Duan, a graphic designer, and her girlfriend, Liao, a shop clerk, both left their hometowns for Beijing, where there are growing underground support networks. They met at a lesbian gathering and have been dating for a year. It’s still common for gays to marry straight spouses to hide their sexuality. At 19, Liao’s parents discovered she was gay and forced her to marry a man. Now divorced, she had to give up custody of her daughter to her ex-husband. There are a few positive signs of gay acceptance, however, such as the recent lifting of a state ban on lesbians giving blood.