Friday, February 08, 2008
Gay China and the Year of the Rat
If the astronauts on the space station had looked down on China the other day they would have seen the night turn into day. As millions of fireworks exploded everywhere to ring in the Lunar New Year and Year of the Rat .
I am a big fan of China, and of the awesome history and culture of the Chinese people. And when I saw the fireworks explode on tv I couldn't help but think of all my gay Chinese friends. And of all the tens of millions of others. And how this year ....once again..... they have a bit more to celebrate.
The Chinese government has come a long way towards recognizing the rights of gay people. Much remains to be done. But slowly but surely the country is moving forward.
There has never been a better time to be gay in China, but as Destination's somewhat schizophrenic combination of outer reserve and inner exuberance demonstrates, it still pays to be careful.
For their part, China's gays seem content to live within the government boundaries, albeit not without the occasional snipe at the authorities. Young gay men, for example, have co-opted a venerated communist term—tongzhi, or comrade—when referring to one another.
And things are getting better and better.
"It gets freer every year......And every year more and more gays come out of the closet. In Beijing and the big cities, you can see couples walking around the shopping malls holding hands. In the smaller cities, I hear it's getting better all the time."
Although it's still hard, and many gay Chinese people live lives of quiet desperation. Because they can't find someone to love.
The government may be loosening its restrictions. Religion isn't a problem because the ones who introduced homophobia to China were the Christian missionaries...and they're gone.
But the strong role the traditional family plays in Chinese society means that some things change more slowly than others.
And as my friend Richard....a young gay guy from Shanghai points out...sometimes those kind of cultural barriers are the hardest to overcome.
First you should know that most Chinese are reserved. They don’t want to cause problems so sometimes they don’t express their feelings and talk about themselves. They’d rather be kind and nice to everyone. What can’t be denied is that many people still can’t accept us and mock us. As some brave guys coming out are treated unfair, some hide like me. However in my hometown Shanghai, the whole of Huaihai street belongs to us and the chance to meet gay me in satisfying. What we want is some big space where we can meet Mr Right.
Just like every other gay boy on the planet...
But as I said before the good news is that things ARE changing for the better.
And I can't wait until millions and millions of gay Chinese are able to come out freely. So everyone in China can see how happy gay people can only enrich their already amazing culture...and strengthen not weaken the country and the family.
That will be the day that the great Middle Kingdom will truly be back where it belongs.
Which seems to me deserves some fireworks.
Or the view from a balcony in Beijing the other night ...
Wow! Now THAT'S a fireworks show.
To Richard and all the other tonghzi in China.
And all my Chinese friends in Canada.
Happy New Year everyone!!!!
P.S. Richard....according to my research the Year of the Rat is:
A time of hard work, activity, and RENEWAL. This is a good year to begin a new job, get married, launch a product or make a FRESH START.
Which when translated into International Gay can only mean....THIS is the year you meet Mr Right !!