homosexuality and tongzhi culture


homosexuality and tongzhi culture
In China, homosexuality has always conflicted with the traditional importance of marriage and posterity, but has rarely been regarded a crime. In the 1980s, homosexuals in the People’s Republic developed their own subculture, referred to as ‘tongzhi culture’ (tongzhi wenhua). Tongzhi literally means ‘of the same intent’. In Chinese Communist discourse, it means ‘comrade’, and it was widely used as a form of address until after the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Nowadays, the word tongzhi has been appropriated by homosexuals to mean ‘gay’.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, homosexuals in big cities secretly met in parks and public restrooms, and sometimes in clandestine gay bars. They were occasionally arrested for ‘indecent behaviour’. The rise of the Internet in the 1990s provided Chinese homo-sexuals with a convenient medium to communicate, and Chinese gay and lesbian websites have mushroomed ever since. These sites spread information about homosexuality throughout the Chinese-speaking world. As a result, some bars and clubs in big cities are now commonly known as ‘gay places’. The Internet also forms a breeding ground for ‘tongzhi literature’ (tongzhi wenxue). Gay novels often reflect on problems that a Chinese gay reader has to deal with in daily life: coming out, social pressure and relationship problems. Some stories have an erotic or pornographic character. Most authors are amateurs, but some have become celebrities among their Internet readership. One of the earliest and best-known stories in this genre is A Story from Beijing (Beijing gushi), that has been circulating on the Web since 1996. Hong Kong film director Stanley Kwan based his movie Lanyu (2001) on this novel. After the movie had won prestigious awards in Taiwan and Hong Kong, it immediately appeared in PRC video shops.
television and popular journals. The issue is no longer Many Chinese know about homosexuality through taboo.
In the official guidelines for Chinese psychiatrists of April 2001, homosexuality is no longer listed as a mental disorder. In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, transvestites go to public places without being arrested. However, homosexuals in the PRC still feel heavily pressured by mainstream morality, and sometimes enter into heterosexual marriage to please their families. For the time being, heavy restrictions remain on free discussion of politically sensitive topics, such as gay rights and the government’s attitude towards the growing problem of HIV/AIDS and STIs.
Chinese Society for the Study of Sexual Minorities (estd 1 September 1997): www.csssm.org
Chou, Wah-shan (2000). Tongzhi: Politics of Same-Sex Eroticism in Chinese Societies. Binghampton, NY: Harrington Park Press.
Damm, Jens (2000). Ku’er vs. tongzhi—Diskurse der Homosexualität. Über das Entstehen sexueller Identitäten im glokalisierten Taiwan und im postkolonialen Hongkong [Discourses on Homosexual Identities in Taiwan and Hong Kong]. Bochum: Cathay Skripten.
Gil, Vincent (2002). The Cut Sleeve Revisited: A Contemporary Account of Male Homosexuality’. In Susan Blum and Lionel Jensen, China Off Center: Mapping the Margins of the Middle Kingdom. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press: 238–48.
Kam, Louie and Low, Morris (eds) (2003). Asian Masculinities: The Meaning and Practice of Manhood in China and Japan. London: Curzon Press.
Li, Yinhe (1998). Tongxinglian yawenhua [The Homosexual Subculture]. Beijing: Jinri Zhongguo chubanshe.
Xiaomingxiong [Shao, Mingxiong; a.k.a. Samshasha] (1984; rev. edn 1997). Zhongguo tongxing’ai shilu [A History of Homosexuality in China]. Hong Kong: Pink Triangle Press.
REMY CRISTINI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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