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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Being Gay in China

An interesting article by an American writer about being gay in today's China. This was originally published in Global Gayz:

Gay China From the Inside
A Gay American Living in China Tells Stories about the 'Good Life'

My name is Jason Moore. I have lived in China now for five years plus. I own my home here. I have a couple of small businesses here. My home is in Beijing. I have traveled to 98 different cities around China , mainly for business but also for visiting.

The one thing I have done is to always check out the local city to see if there is any gay life of any kind. What I have found is very interesting: I have found gay life in every city I have visited, which has amazed me.

China is actually very misunderstood. During the last three national Peoples Congress meetings in China proposals have been presented to legalize same sex relationships. In fact in 2006 one of China's best known sociologists presented a study that had been done during the previous year that documented the general populations attitudes on same sex relationships. What she concluded was that most Chinese did not have any problem with the idea of same sex relationships. What their main concern seemed to be was that their children would not have someone to take care of them when they became old (not understanding that same sex relationships can last) . She concluded that it would not cause any problems with social harmony if the government were to legalize same sex relations due to the fact that the Chinese people have a history of accepting changes in laws by the government.

The refreshing part of China is a lack of prejudice-creating Christian beliefs that fuels the fires of the U.S. I came to China five years ago. I had a relationship that had lasted 22 years. After coming to China my life partner decided he wanted to date Chinese men. So we altered our lifestyle and we still live together but each of us has found a new partner. I have been with my new partner for two and a half years and he is with a new partner now for just three months. We all live in the same home with zero problems.

We designed our current home to accommodate this change so that we can live together but still have privacy. We do have the usual relationship problems with our respective lovers. There are the cultural differences to be aware of also. But for the most part being gay in China is much freer, no one is yelling at queers, throwing bottles, or being just rude because they do not like your lifestyle. I enjoy the fact that it does not matter if we go to a ‘straight’ bar or gay bar. We can dance and be ourselves wherever we are and not have to worry about the gay bashing that I was always aware of as being a potential problem.

During my travels in China (and I have traveled a lot) I have never been threatened, felt uncomfortable, or ever been in any situation where I was concerned for my safety. Once I was in a disco in a city called Tongzhou and I was told that two gangs were having a fight in the lobby entrance and that I should not go out there for a few minutes. But I wanted to test an idea, so I went to the lobby. Sure enough there were about twenty or thirty guys attempting to bang each other around with a few bats and a couple of those big trash cans. The bathrooms were directly across the room so to get to them I had to walk right thru the middle of the guys fighting. So I did.

As I walked they actually managed to not stop fighting but to also separate so I had a path to the bathroom . They saw that I was a ‘weiguoren’ so that makes me off limits. I walked to the bathroom and then came back and each time was the same.

One other story I found interesting. One day I was inspecting a company outside of Taiyuan . My translator (I do speak mandarin but not well enough for business negotiations) knows I am gay. She and I have a game of trying to spot the gay guys. (She is straight) . What really threw her and me for a surprise was that after our inspection we sat down to have lunch and one of the V.P.'s from the company we were visiting sat down next to us and starting talking as we were eating. He spoke pretty good English. He started off by saying he had a bad day because his "lover" had the flu and he had to take him to the hospital the night before because he could not stop throwing up. I then said sorry to here that I hope she feels better soon, but he then said his lover is a man , not a woman. He then told us how they had met and how he had left his wife after three years of marriage because he realized he actually loved this guy more then his wife.

Now this is a situation you had to be present to understand just how unusual this was. This was in a small town in China where I never would have imagined this conversation. He said that his ex-wife hates his lover but he was ok with that because he is happier then he had been before.
There is a very large foreign gay population in Beijing where we live and we have created a pool of friends. The bet is that China approves same-sex relationships and marriage long before the United States even gets past the "don't ask--don't tell" hang up.

I have been surprised by the truth about China ever since I first came to realize what China is all about. I have been constantly amazed about how much misinformation exists , particularly in the United States. I came to China by mistake , but quickly realized that everything I was afraid of before coming was misinformation. I believe the U.S. (government) feels there is a need to have a boogey man (so to speak) to enable the U.S to maintain it's military expenditures. Currently it is centered on the middle east, but after it will need a new target.

China will be the largest economic super power within the next 15 years. The fastest growing middle class is in China. More people are buying homes and cars. China is predicted to be the largest car market, the largest consumer goods market in human history once the middle class is fully established. (I am not political in any way , and I do not get involved in politics).

But there is so much inaccurate information concerning human rights in China I have made it a point to pay attention. I was a practicing psychologist in San Diego in the '80's so I have an interest in many facets of society here. I also have spoken at Peking University on two occasions after being invited to discuss same sex relationships to a couple of small groups that were interested in understanding the lifestyles in the United States.

I do have many other experiences that I was totally surprised by (in a very good way) as I traveled around China. One very important point that is necessary to understand about China is that this is not a "communist" country in the way we were led to believe communism is supposed to be. It is what I like to call capitalistic socialism. China is actually the fastest growing economy of independent successful small businesses you could ever imagine.

What I have really enjoyed about China is that I can go to any disco, any bar, and I "never" have to give a single second of thought to prejudice or homophobic behavior. Many times Chinese men will dance with me--straight ones--and have a great time. There is not the attitude here that gay people get from most "straight" bar environments. Many Chinese gay people are now becoming open about their lifestyles (but it does still have a long way to go). Many of my friends will talk to me about not telling their parents about their boyfriends, but also many times they come up to me and tell me that they finally did and their parents already knew. Just didn't talk about it to them. But because it is their son they still love them anyway. (I can think of five or six friends in the last few months that have told their parents and now feel better).

One problem in China is you have two separate cultures, so to speak. You have the well educated middle aged Chinese who understand and therefore are more accepting when their children tell them. Then you have the rural parents who have a tendency (from the years of being large families) to feel that their sons need children to be secure in their old age.

So many things are transitioning. That is what makes China such an interesting place to live. What is today will be different tomorrow. There are many active gay groups on college campuses (they are small groups). I have the dubious label of being the oldest full time student to ever attend Beijing Second Foreign Language University. In China ‘older’ people do not go to college as a rule. I even had to have special permission to attend classes due to my age, which at the time was 49. Everybody kept telling me I should be one of the professors instead of a student. (They also told me on a regular basis that they ‘know’ because of my older age that I cannot learn as fast as the younger students, so the professors would be easier on me).

There are also many active gay business groups. I belong to a group in Beijing known as PROMEN (there are others). This is a group with around 700 total members. We are mainly gay businessmen, both Chinese and foreign. We meet each week on Thursday. Our current location of choice for regular socials is a place known as the "Q" bar. The object is to be able to network thru the gay business community and support each other.

What I am trying to point out here is that there is a healthy, active, growing gay population (granted we are new and evolving), but the reality of China is that it is a great place to be and it is not the dangerous, prejudiced, repressive country that so many people seem to believe. It isn't perfect. As a gay man I feel safe and able to live my life without the fear of gay bashing, egg throwing homophobic straight men trying to eliminate our existence from this planet.

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