There hasn't been a terrible lot happening in China lately that could be filed under ltgbq news. There's been stories of a lesbian hotline in Beijing, the opening of the country's first university campus queer club, and the usual excitement over pro-gay marriage politician and public intellectual Li Yinhe‘s latest provocative declaration, none of which amount to much.
Or do they? Judging China's major blog portal websites by Western values, if nothing earth-shatttering has been in the news today, why is queer content getting prime placement on most of their front pages? Have gays stomped in and hijacked the offices? Are they selling out to the seductive pink yuan? Satisfying the market share of closeted and curious married men? Or has queer gone mainstream among China's urban, upwardly-mobile, white collar, websurfing crowd?
If it ever were a taboo topic, it hasn't been for a while. Starting with mega Hong Kong popstars like Danny Chan in the 1980s to movie and song icons Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui (not to mention Aaron, Andy and Jordan) in the 1990s, later to Mao Ning on the mainland and now with public personas like the transsexual host of Gossip Queen on Taiwan's Star TV or Jin Xing, ex-colonel in the PLA and current owner of the Shanghai Ballet.
That said, Chinese gay culture is defined by how much of it is fostered by the internet. For a long time, and to a large extent to this day, lack of social space was of made up for by the boom of websites which opened in nearly every city. Lan Yu (aka Beijing Story), for example, which began as a novel published anonymously online and ended up becoming one of the best underground movies out of mainland China in the 1990s, featuring several actors that went on to become mainstream celebrities.
Chinese instant messenger QQ [zh] has the topic front and center on [zh] its blog page right now. ‘Same sex love, can you handle the weight?’ asks the title post, followed by links to two discussion forums, ‘Being gay is a neverending road’ and ‘homosexuality is just another kind of love.’ Lots more on their ‘gay section’ deeper inside [zh]. News portal site Sina.com has had a feature section embedded up top on its blog site for weeks now. Here are some of the blog posts it currently showcases, the first [zh] from Ah Qiang's highly-read blog, where the blogger openly posts pictures of himself as he documents life with Ah Wei, his partner of over ten years:
Ever since the World Cup began, he's “passed” his dishwashing duties over to me, or to put it nicer, ‘family ought to maintain logistics, support the fans’ great and honorable ball-watching work.’ The reasoning may sound a bit weird, but I still agreed. It all comes down to that old saying: deadbeats get what they have coming to them!
While watching the game, he stretches both legs straight out, crossed and rests them on my lap, ceaselessly shaking, telling me, ‘
the left heel, the left heel's itchy. If you don't scratch it, don't even think about surfing online peacefully.” “Help me rub between the big toe and the pinky,” “Oh, hey, massage my knee a bit, I knocked it playing football and now it's a little sore, a little softer, up a bit, now down a bit.” His mouth doesn't stop shooting out directions but his eyes never leave the television screen.
When the game gets good, he'll suddenly pull back his legs and sit straight up, cheering loudly, “beautiful!” “ha ha ha” “damnit, idiot, moron!” “No! Missed again!” He yells out commentary to himself. Sometimes he'll start cursing over some controversial penalty. I don't need to see the television, I just listen to his sporadic outbursts and I know what's happening in the game. When the game gets good, he forgets I even exist, his feet don't itch, his knees suddenly don't hurt, and I seize the chance to get my hand back. “Then it starts all over again. In just one game, he wears me right out, all the way out.
Half-time, is when we take our shower. As payment for my ‘foot-rubbing love’, he helps me wash my back. Although it's just going through the motions. Even so, I feel I finally have some return on my ‘investment’, and a warm feeling spreads from the bottom of my heart throughout my body.
If that isn't the sweetest thing you ever heard, further down there's this:
My friend exaggeratedly burst out, “no way! are you saying you're never going to get married?” “Maybe not in this lifetime,” I ambiguously answered. “No, no, how can you say that? Is big brother Qiang worried no pretty ladies want him?” My friend clearly misunderstood my point.
What I meant by saying I can't get married is that in this lifetime I might not ever see a law that allows same-sex marriage. That's what I was saying five years ago, and five years later I still don't see any hope. But I fully look forward to it.
On our eleven year anniversary, Ah Wei and I had our photo taken, blown up and put on our bedroom windowsill. My thinking is that as soon as same-sex marriage is legalized, I'll immediately take down that picture above our bed, and put up our photo together, or else go and get a wedding photo of the two of us in suit and tie, and hang that above the bed. That would be a grand souvenir, a vow, a sort of goal…
A patient search around shows a serious lack of lesbian content. Here's one piece [zh]:
Carrying on with the Sina collection, if you're not hot, says Liang Yongqi, you better have money [zh], not that one doesn't hear that all over these days [zh]. But what's a working class gay lacking the strength or financial means to eke out an independent ‘bachelor’ existence to do? Judging from Heng Guang's story [zh], it seems that many men, having fulfilled the societal obligations of getting married and having kids, feel free to seek satisfaction on the side. In Heng Guang's case, however, his wife sees the QQ messages his lover has sent him, threatens to kill herself if he doesn't break it off which leads to him attempting suicide and the end of his brokeback relationship. That seems to be the dominant narrative, followed by divorce, or the increasingly seen choice to abstain from traditional marriage. Blogger Distracted by the Tian Mountains chose to follow his urges and recaps the last ten colorful years [zh] in vivid detail, including how he first got started:
It's not all fluffy comfort food Sina has laid out. Like Lie a Little in his post [zh] ‘Comrades, please live your lives like normal men’, who argues that although it may be tough being gay, it's not easy for straight men either, so stop your bellyaching:
Then there's the top ten lies gays [zh] tell each other:
There's more! Also on Sina are two pages [zh] devoted to the gay blogger community [zh], a page for straights interested in gays [zh] and one just for the ladies [zh] as well. Don't forget the Perez Hilton types here here here and, jumping to Sina competitor Bokee, here [zh].
Moving on to Blog China's front page is the post from Zhang Tuo_001, ‘When homosexuals end up in heterosexual marriages‘:
Independent blog aggregator Bullog.cn has a queer correspondent of their own in dzl who just in the past week as posted a look at persecution and progress of homosexuals worldwide over the past seventy years and a look at queer characters in recent films and books and some celebrity speculation, leading to a post in which dzl—who claims to be straight—responds to readers who took issue with it [zh].