Chengdu, Is It The Queer Capital Of China?
Have you considered traveling to China? All we hear about this massive nation is economics, trade, and iPhone construction. We do not hear about China (or #Jhina) in regard to human rights, equal rights, or LGBT rights. We know it does not have marriage equality since no nation in Asia does currently (Taiwanese Lawmakers Currently Working On 3 Bills In Support Of Marriage Equality- Would be first nation on Asia to do so). So can there be a gay mecca in China? There has to be one city in that vast nation that is moving forward with LGBT rights, right?
Chengdu is famous for three things: pandas, spicy hot pot, and a gay old time.
The capital of Sichuan province in southwest China has garnered such a reputation for its LGBT scene that some even call it “gaydu.”
But others say the moniker exaggerates the city’s queer credentials.
“It’s a little awkward to be honest, because to earn that title, [Chengdu] needs to have real cultural content, but actually it’s not like that,” says Matthew Huang, a 24-year-old gay man who co-founded LGBTI organization Milks Friends, also known as Mr. Milk & Her LGBTI Friends.
Huang feels that the city is relatively inclusive and open-minded, but no more so than Shanghai or Beijing — and like everywhere else in China, there are limits to what activists can do.
Chengdu is small by Chinese standards – official statistics show that the population was around 14.6 million people in 2015, narrowly ranking it among the 10 largest cities on the mainland. Compared to China’s urban hubs, such as Beijing and Shanghai, Chengdu has a reasonable number of bars, clubs, saunas and social services catering to various age groups, social circles and income brackets within the LGBT community.
Nationally, the cultural and political climate is improving for LGBT people, though change has not reached everywhere. In recent months, China has seen legal action across a broad swath of the LGBT community, as people, for example, fight for gay marriage rights or oppose discrimination against transgender people. Still, prejudice remains.
In the past, Chengdu was known for its drag queen shows; these days, many of the old performance venues have given way to nightclubs that blend pulsing beats and strobe lights with the Chinese penchant for dice games, chain-smoking and table service. Neon letters that spell out “fingering” and “semen” in English light up the bouncing dance floor at Max, a gay bar in Chengdu’s Dongmen Daqiao area, the city’s de facto gayborhood.
Next door is a lesbian bar, Queen Bee, where dapper young tomboys mostly stare at their phones until lingerie-clad hired dancers take to the stage. On a Friday night in mid-October, both bars are humming with patrons who spill out into the street in front of the barbecue joint downstairs to continue smoking and flirting.
As far as China goes, it is not a bad place to be gay, says Yu Fei, the chief operations officer for Tongle, a Chengdu-based nongovernmental organization that has been running since 2002, with a focus on gay men’s health and social well-being. “It’s much better here compared to the north, where people have more conservative attitudes and traditional family structures; they’re less able to accept homosexuality,” Yu, 35, tells Sixth Tone. - thenewlens.com
For more on Chengdu, head over to thenewlens.com for their full report where they elaborate on the demographics of the city, more of its inclusive history, how it is quick to embrace differences, how being online has helped the city become more inclusive, and how come citizens believe the gay mecca honor may be given prematurely since there is so much more growth to go.
Have you traveled in China. Do you find it accepting to LGBT travelers?
What about our readers in China? Do you recommend travel to your country?
Stick o the larger cities like Chengdu, Shanghai, Beijing?