OutUK's Adrian Gillan has visited the spectacular Beijing the capital of China and a country that's home to one in four of the world's LGBTs - that's over 100 million queers!
First things first, being gay never was explicitly illegal in China where no law has ever banned homosexuality per se. However, us queers did make it onto The Party's official "hooligan" list - reserved for more "subversive" elements - until our removal in 1997. Likewise we were officially classed as "mentally ill" by the state until the description was dropped in 2001.
Moreover there are still tales of gays being detained or harassed by police whenever disgruntled neighbours allege we are members of some "cult", another outlawed classification within this gigantic and populous country. Despite the new "opium of the people" that is economic reform - there's still only one Party in China, accountable to no one but itself, and you still can't speak your mind in public, whether at open meetings or via the media - remember that fateful night in 1989 when the State army cold-blooded slaughtered several hundred students in Tiananmen Square?

China's homophobia doesn't derive directly from religion or cultural machismo, but rather from a control-freakish, mechanistic and strangely soulless State terrified of all aberrations from the norm and from a society yet more obsessed than our own by the notion of family and the duty to reproduce and continue "the line".

Nevertheless the scene has opened up tremendously in the past 20 years with the spread of the internet, accession to the World Trade Organisation, the highly successful 2008 Olympics and the need to stem the rapid spread of HIV/Aids. There are now gay information websites containing serious articles, HIV/Aids prevention/care, discussions on gay art and films, LGBT groups, matchmaking/dating sites, agony aunt columns, personal blogs, advertisements for everything from underwear to penis enlargement to massage parlours - you can find all colours of the rainbow if you know where to look.

In fact even the old Emperors - before they were replaced by equally draconian and unaccountable 'Chairmen' and Politburos - were themselves renowned for their intimate relationships with male servants. Boys have been - and by all accounts ever will continue to be - boys, not least amongst the masses in rural areas less in the public gaze.

Most Chinese regional capitals have at least one or two gay bars - photography is unofficially forbidden in all of them by the way - Shanghai a few more. So homosexuality goes on - men shag, they fall in love and live with other men as they do the whole world-over.

Chinese Opera performer.
Today, the government's approach to LGBT rights has been described as "ambivalent", "fickle", and as being "no approval; no disapproval; no promotion". There is much resistance from conservative elements of the government, as various LGBT events have been banned in recent years. Since the 2010s, authorities have avoided showing homosexual relationships on public television, as well as showing effeminate men in general.

More on Beijing


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