It's a weekend morning. Y, a lesbian woman, changes out of her usual masculine attire and puts on an elaborate woman's outfit to go and visit the parents of A, a homosexual man. The visit is to inform the parents that Y and A are getting married, and hope that they will approve of their marriage.
This kind of marriage is called Xinghun, literally meaning a marriage of formality in Chinese. It can involve little of any true substance. Both Y and A respectively have had hid a girlfriend and boyfriend for years, while being constantly pressured by their parents to get married.
In the past, gay men and lesbians felt obliged to get married due to social pressure and traditional necessity, winding up in loveless and sexless marriages. The Xinghun, a sort of reductio ad absurdum, is emerging in developed cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Through mutual cooperation, China's homosexuals and lesbians are composing superficially normal families — with a man and a woman — while in reality the couple continues to have their independence both physically and morally. The formality of marriage is simply used to fend off exterior pressure and to go on loving who they love: indeed, it is also called a mutual support marriage. And they can even, through artificial insemination or adoption, have offspring.
Short of gaining authentic acceptance by society, Chinese homosexuals find the Xinghun a breakthrough. To facilitate the search for a husband or wife, QQ groups, a variety of instant messaging platforms, are dedicated to finding a suitable faux partner. It was through a friend's introduction that Y joined a QQ group and got linked up with A. Soon after, they decided to visit each other's parents and set up together as a family as soon as possible.
Often the search for Xinghun can be even trickier than finding a conventional match. Since the couple doesn’t have any real emotional attachment, external factors are the only standard for choosing their “spouses." Whether the man owns his own house is even more important in a Xinghun, for example.
There is also a "code of conduct" for the Xinghun couples. Generally, accompanying in public places is the major right and responsibility of the two parties. However, since the marriage is not out of affection or sexual love they are not obliged to support each other financially, nor provide health care or emotional support. Both parties usually sign a premarital property agreement specifying that matrimonial property is not to be shared.
Since Xinghun couples do not have any obligation to care for each other they mostly live separately. Of course if their parents also live in the same city, they may be obliged to live together to maintain their cover. Such cohabitation is similar to a roommate relation where the involved parties share the living costs, though in general men tend to pay a bit more.
Similar to ordinary marriages some of the Xinghun couples also end up divorcing, others actually sign a premarital agreement specifying that they will get divorced after a certain number of years. Usually they are the ones who believe this is the way to make their sexual orientation obvious to their families and to society so that they will no longer be burdened with a heterosexual marriage.
However, Y has a dream — to “emigrate to where I’m allowed to marry my girlfriend.”
It’s worth noting that apart from parental pressure and sheltering oneself from the eyes of society, more and more homosexuals are getting married for their own future. Whereas in the West many homosexuals might choose to adopt children from an orphanage or have a child through artificial insemination from a sperm bank, most Chinese homosexuals are more conventional and would prefer having their own biological children. Due to China’s strict household registration system and protection of children born in wedlock, the marriage of convenience becomes even more useful.
In the Xinghun QQ groups, most men express their aspiration to have children. This is also the case of A.
As for Y, she was initially reluctant, but finally compromised. “I think at the end of the day women all like to be a mother. Although I don’t feel strongly that I want a child now, but I’m afraid to end up regretting it, so I gave in,” she said. Like others, the couple will probably use artificial insemination.
When asked how she will feel having a child with a partner for whom she feels no love, Y replied, "I know it's hard for a woman to bring up a child herself. But it will be helpful for me in my old age."
As to whether or not the child is to be told the reality of their parents' "marriage," most Xinghun couples are hesitant. Though they see Xinghun as the only way to satisfy their own parents' expectations while pursuing their own happiness, they are not sure what the next generation will think.
"Maybe I'll tell the child when he or she grows up," Y says.
Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.
[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]
Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine
The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:
Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?
In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.
This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.
Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."
Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.
No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.
According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.
Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.
Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.
— Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos
• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.
• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.
• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.
• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.
• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.
• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.
• Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.
"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.
After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.
What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia
While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.
👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.
🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.
⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."
— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."
An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! firstname.lastname@example.org