Can I be gay in China?

The first time, I was in China, I went to Chengdu to travel for a week. At that time, I’d realized that the Chinese guys were quite cute but when I arrived in the capital of Sichuan province, I soon discovered that this was not the place to find a boyfriend for me anyway because every time I started talking to a handsome boy, I fast learned I’d met another gay friend. One nice guy even told me that Chengdu was the place to go for a more relaxed atmosphere when being gay in China. Later on, back in Beijing, I was invited to the biggest gay club/ gay museum in town with my Chinese friend. I was surprised by how open Beijing’s citizens were towards homosexuality (well some of them anyway). Today’s topic is homosexuality in China.

Traditionally, Chinese families had many children and the eldest would take on the family name and the parents would be satisfied that their lineage was saved for another generation.

Homosexuality has always been a part of Chinese society. You can easily find old paintings of men drinking tea and having sex together. After 1949, homosexual activities weren’t criminalized although during the Cultural Revolution, some homosexual behavior could lead to execution. Homosexuality was officially legal in 1997 and it was also removed from the official list of mental illness in 2001.

The problem with homosexuality and the traditional Chinese way of thinking is that when having a son who doesn’t want to find a wife and make her pregnant, the lineage and name of the family won’t be able to continue. Furthermore, when the One-Child Policy was implemented in 1979, the problem of having a gay off-spring became even bigger because before the family would have more children who could continue the family line but with only one child, the child had to respect the parents’ wish of having a grandchild which put a lot of pressure on the child, especially when being homosexual. Therefor, it is very common to meet married Chinese men who have a wife, a child and a male lover.

When I started to think about writing this post, I was thinking about my friend, who is a western guy but who lived in China for a year. He was willing to participate and I asked him a few questions about being gay in China.

Can I be gay in China?

‘Yes, you can! Being gay in China is sweet.’

How did you meet Chinese guys?

‘There were different apps for it. Because China’s internet is blocked for many foreign websites, so I tried a Chinese one where I could barely read a word of it but I saw the guy’s pictures and I tried my best to communicate with different people there. The biggest problem with meeting guys online was the fact that the Chinese guys didn’t have enough confidence to put their own photo online so I talked to one guy and when I met him, he didn’t look like the picture at all.’

How were the Chinese guys compared to guys from abroad?

‘The Chinese guys tend to be really shy. They didn’t believe in themselves. Furthermore, they always started out by saying they knew their penis was way too small. I think the problem here is that porn is banned in China so when downloading illegal porn, it’s usually from abroad. Everyone knows that the porn industry’s penis is much bigger than average but the poor guys seemed to believe it. Even though my own is average, they always looked shocked at me when we got down to business.’

How is the gay community in China?

‘There are a lot of gay clubs around. You don’t really see the gay community in China unless you’re in it but when you are, you’ll feel like a king. There aren’t many foreigners in China compared to Chinese and when it comes to homosexual foreigners, there are even less.’

What kind of guys did you meet during your time in China?

‘I met all kinds of different guys. Many of the guys were from the Chinese countryside where the parents don’t understand their way of thinking and still keep pressuring them to find a wife and get married which many of them also do. I met more men who were already married, had a child, and was all in on the fun anyway. They told me that their wife already knew and that they lived separate lives because they’d both done what was expected of them and now they could enjoy their lives as they wanted to.’

Did you encounter weird conversations about being gay?

‘Yes, one girl was confused when I said guys who like guys have sex with each other. She asked me what gay sex was like and I tried to explain it to her. Sex is already quite a taboo in China but gay sex is even more so there’s still far to go before being gay is socially accepted.’

According to my friend and other sources, I’ve read online, it’s fine to be foreign and gay in China. On the other side, it can be harder to be Chinese and gay. I have heard of a girl who had a Lesbian bar which was sponsored by her parents who was okay about her sexuality but I have also heard of the growing business of renting a girlfriend to bring home for Chinese New Year to make sure the parents are happy and not too concerned about your activities in the bigger and much more open-minded cities.

I personally believe that the Chinese society will be able to accept homosexuality at some point, especially when the next generation of modern-minded people are grown-up in like 20 years or so. Information from all around the world reaches the Chinese and with more Chinese going abroad, the traditional way of thinking will slowly but hopefully steadily change to an accept of difference in society.


What do you think?

The post is based on personal opinion, my friend’s experience and what I’ve found while researching before writing this. I would love to hear your personal opinion as well. Maybe you can help me shed some light on the Chinese part of it.

xx lingling

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