China’s gay cultural revolution
Being gay is not a crime in China, but less than a decade ago gay people were still being arrested as “hooligans,” and it wasn’t until 200 that homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness “People are busier making money now,” says the owner of Shanghai’s Vogue gay bar, Tony Li, 39. “They don’t have time to bother other people, and they are getting more and more information from outside, so they are becoming increasingly tolerant,” he adds, referring to the rise in foreign visitors to China and the appearance of over 250 gay-related Chinese Web sites–the latter a major force in the way closeted gays meet each other. Some estimate that there are dozens of gay bars sprouting up around China as well. And metropolitan China’s gay sauna scene is growing too.
But Eddy Zheng, 39, who set up Eddy’s, one of the country’s first gay bars, in 19%, says, “There are all these different excuses that authorities can use to close places down.” But he says harassment has eased off in the past few years, and a scene is beginning to establish itself. It’s a trend being felt in Beijing and especially Shanghai, and to a lesser degree in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Nanjing. But for foreign tourists, locating any gay establishment without a gay local is difficult.
But Confucian ideals and an agrarian tradition mean marriage is still perceived to be the only path to true manhood. Until marriage, most children continue to live with their parents and grandparents. And female deviation from familial expectations are met with even greater disapproval. Lesbian bars are consequently very rare, and many gay Chinese women become “good Chinese girls”: married with kids.
But change is in the air: Shanghai’s Fudan University started the country’s first course on homosexuality last September, and petitions have been placed before the National People’s Congress in 1999 and 2003 asking for gay rights and same-sex marriage. With China’s increased involvement in the outside world, future social revolutions are only bound to occur.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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