Chinese gays step quietly toward progress

The first time director and movie buff Cui Zi'en tried to hold a gay and lesbian film festival in 2001, it was shut down by police before it even opened. When he tried to organize a gay cultural festival in 2005, five dozen police officers swarmed the venue, closing it. But this Wednesday, Cui and other organizers managed to pull off the opening to the five-day Beijing Queer Film Festival with no police and no disruptions - drawing only an appreciative and low-key crowd to the Songzhuang Art District on the city's outskirts. For China's gay community, this week's film festival and an art exhibition on sexual diversity in Beijing, along with last week's first gay pride festival in Shanghai, are quiet steps forward after years of slow but unmistakable progress. Cui, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, said the events mark a significant moment for China's fledgling gay movement. "The biggest change is that I'm not the only one doing this," he said. "There's more support from the gay community. Society has become more relaxed and open-minded in its thinking."