Trending marriage proposals are nothing new. From flash mobs to travel, scavenger hunts to musical and theatrical performances, couples across the world are finding new and creative ways to publicly propose to one another. One such story that is currently trending comes out of the Beijing underground, where one man proposed to his boyfriend with a watch in a subway car. While the men were first greeted with negativity from a few fellow passengers, when the boyfriend said “yes,” the car broke into applause.
It is unfortunate, however, that the couple cannot get married in China. Same-sex marriage is illegal under Chinese law, though some couples will travel out of the country to get married. Homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses by the Chinese Psychiatric Association in 2001. However, this hasn’t necessarily brought about a great deal of acceptance from the population. While a growing portion of the population supports equal rights for the queer community, this tends to be localized to urban areas.
One of the pressures related to homosexuality in China involves the now-relaxed one-child policy. Families often worry that their child’s homosexuality will end the familial lineage. Some queer people in China are even resorting to “fake marriages”, in which couples meet other members of the LGBT community and marry someone of the opposing gender to appease their parents.
While it is great that this couple got a positive reaction on the subway, and it is wonderful that they are engaged, there is a level of sensationalism with this story. Why is this story share-worthy? The concept of a viral public engagement is really nothing new, but this story has launched into popularity based on the fact that is a Chinese couple, and that they are gay. No song and dance, no banner, no skydiving. Just one man getting down on his knee in a crowded subway car. Of course this is sweet, and I am not criticizing the couple on their engagement. But is this video going viral across the world because it is cute, or because the couple is same-sex? I think we need to look at LGBT content through the lens of what is and isn’t moving the community forward. Of course sweet proposals are lovely, but does sharing this particular video help the community and bring light to international prejudice, or does it bolster ally morale in thinking that they are an ally by sharing this content?
Congratulations to this still anonymous couple, and may you have the best of luck with your life ahead.
Mehek Naresh is an Indian American lesbian, living and working in Florida after recently graduating with a Bachelors in Political Science. Her hobbies seeking out small talk with cashiers, reading, and spending more time staring at tumblr than she’d care to admit.