27-year-old Meng Fanyu has been crowned the first winner of the Mr. Gay China competition, at the country’s first successful attempt at a national franchise of the international Mr. Gay World pageant.
Meng reportedly won the competition by a landslide after four weeks of competing against other men in heats.
“Something like this event is a great platform to raise awareness of the LGBT community,” he told The Guardian.
“Many people don’t really know what LGBT is, and coming out can still be difficult, so you really have to prove yourself to be an upstanding person.”
Event coordinators first tried to hold the competition in 2010, but it was shut down by authorities at the eleventh hour. This year’s event was held with no resistance, as the LGBTI community slowly gains acceptance in China.
While many of his fellow competitors don’t feel confident enough to be openly gay, Meng told The Guardian he feels free to wear his new title with pride.
“Next, I want to go to Mr. Gay World,” he said.
“I want to stand on the world stage and say to people, ‘I’m gay, and I’m from China,’ and show them that the LGBT movement in China is vibrant and active.”