Li and Xu fell in love in a country where gay marriage and surrogacy are illegal. Their struggle and success is part of a growing trend
Before Qiguang Li could pass through customs and step on to US soil for the first time, he faced a three-hour detention where he learned that he needed to be more candid about his identity. It was September 2015, after a long flight from Shanghai to Los Angeles. Li came with another man, Wei Xu, who asked a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer whether the two of them could go through the border screening together. Whats your relationship? asked the officer. They said they were friends. Then you cant.
So Xu went first and passed the screening. He forgot one important thing, though: Lis travel documents were in Xus bag. Li, 37 at the time, spoke poorer English and couldnt properly explain to the officer what had happened. After a while of anxious waiting, Xu returned to the checkpoint to look for Li, still unaware of his mistake, and they were both sent to a room for additional screening.
In the secondary screening room commonly referred to by Chinese travelers as the small dark room Xu and Li waited almost three hours, believing that they would be denied entry. An officer asked them why ones documents were in the hands of the other. Xu kept explaining that they were very close friends, until at one point the officer asked: Are you two partners?
Yes, Xu admitted.
And then everything changed. Xu learned that if they had said they were partners from the beginning, they would have been allowed to go through border control together, avoiding all the drama. But we felt kind of ashamed to say that, he recalls.
The unexpected incident was the prelude to a carefully planned trip into another country where their sexuality was much more accepted than at home. There were a few other things they didnt mention to the CBP officers. Li and Xu, a gay couple who have been together since 2007, would walk out of the airport, get married two days later in Los Angeles, and, more important, start their journey toward parenthood.
From 2015 to 2018, Li and Xu made four transpacific trips as part of their gestational surrogacy processes. They traveled nearly 50,000 miles, spent more than $200,000, and went through countless days of distress, all to fulfill the dream of having their own family.
An increasing number of Chinese gay men, like Li and Xu, are traveling thousands of miles and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pursue a dream that is impossible at home. Like Li and Xu, many of them refer to their surrogacy process as their journey.
Xu and Li met in Shanghai on 15 November 2007. They had both grown up in rural China before moving to big cities. Theyd chatted online and had a few phone calls, but when they met in person, it was love at first sight. By 2014 they owned two properties together and had just started a small business, a dry cleaners in Shanghai. Because gay couples are not allowed to marry or adopt in China, they started thinking about surrogacy. Li was 36; Xu had just turned 30.