On Taking Gay Rights From Taipei to Beijing: Don’t Call It a ‘Movement’

On Taking Gay Rights From Taipei to Beijing: Don’t Call It a ‘Movement’:

“My cafe once hosted the Beijing Queer Film Festival. This is an international event that brings directors from all around the world. And when it comes to international events, there’s usually trouble. The police tend to interfere.

The Queer Film Festival has been held about a dozen times, and seven or eight times it’s been forced to shut down midway. Once they held it at Tsinghua University, and when the police came, even a top university like that had to compromise.

So when we held it, we couldn’t openly publicize it. What we did was send emails to people in which we didn’t mention what was happening. We just told them to come watch a movie on which day and at what time. It turned out that a lot of people showed up, and the police didn’t.

Some people joke about this situation. They say that in Taipei it’s called a “gay movement,” but in Beijing it’s “gay activities.” You can have all kinds of activities, but you can’t allow any of them to turn into a movement.

Still, it’s not that hard to live in Beijing as a homosexual, if all you want is a quiet life and you avoid participating in any movements. I’ve seen many lesbian couples kissing each other in the subway. Gays can also host parties at home. But you can’t get involved in any protests or demonstrations. Basically, if you keep a low profile, the authorities don’t interfere.”

I think that the semantics and mental framing involved in distinguishing something from “gay activity” versus a “gay movement” speaks to a not-so-subtle kind of anti-LGBT sentiment of “Oh, I totally accept you but just don’t be too extreme.” We see this when people express things like “I don’t mind gay people, I just don’t want to see them kissing/holding hands/etc.”. It’s this policing of queer bodies that affectively and systemically force us to inhabit these closets that we must stay in – the abject positionality. However, I like this part of the article because although there may not be a “gay movement” in Beijing, there are these small instances of activism. To declare that “it’s not that hard to live in Beijing as a homosexual” is an act of revolution in and of itself. It’s a declaration of I matter, I exist, and I know my worth. It’s these smaller steps of affirmation that pave the way towards larger demonstrations, protests, and movements which people oftentimes see as the only kind of activism out there.

– James (@semajaime)


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