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Home  /  Inside China  /  Lala Land – Challenges of lesbianism in China
Lala Land – Challenges of lesbianism in China print version
While social changes are in their favor, some 21st century conditions actually add pressure on gay-female Chinese who wish to get out of the closet and burn it down
In recent weeks, public debates regarding homosexuals' rights and gay ethics have risen into new peaks all over China. Actress Lu Liping's (吕丽萍) 'Christian' remarks over 'gay sins' and the bold response by CCTV host Qiu Qiming (邱启明) and other public figures have led to an eruption of posts all over the Chinese media. While releasing hate demons and prejudice, such incidents are probably the best thing in terms of social change and increased toleration towards gays in China.

Lesbians, lala 拉拉 in slang, just like male homosexuals, cannot marry in China, though the main obstacles usually come from the family direction. Big cities provide more opportunities than before to break loose and supply gay bars, clubs, magazines and a developing gay scene. Most mental clinics and psychology counseling services officially recognize homosexual tendencies as normal, and provide a helpful platform for coming out (however, I have also encountered a town school counselor who referred to homosexuality as a disorder which she can 'efficiently help students overcome').

Society is changing in a direction that without doubt makes gay life, male or female, easier. Many Chinese believe that lesbians have it easier than gay male, as lesbian relationship is seen as more spiritual and less sexual (some technical issues make this view widespread in many cultures worldwide...). The patriarchal nature of the Chinese society also focus on male as the gender which is continuing the family line and female can enjoy less judgment and expectations. Still, this is true only to some extent, and ironically, in China, social development that make male gay life easier sometimes put more pressure on lesbians.

The Mao regime by no means promoted lesbianism, but by denying the traditional 'girlish' female attributes and encouraged women to cut their hair short, wear wide clothes and work, it at least allowed some potential lesbians to refrain from wearing a 'lady' mask. The one child policy and social changes improved women status in urban domains. This meant more independence, more freedom of choice and also more places to go gay-underground.

But as a single child, a daughter couldn't rely on a brother to continue the family line and leave her in the shadow. Single child females face pressure from parents to marry and have children, even if they live in the hippest Chinese cities. While staying in the shadow of men in the past (in villages this is the case until present days), didn't allow them to break out of the closet (not to make the family lose face) but enables some latent lesbian activities, today lesbianism is more socially acceptable. But ethic or not, parents want some satisfaction and need to see their only child walking down the Chinese aisle.

In the demographic level, the high number of men in society is also a factor that doesn't play in lesbians favor. No campaign promoting male homosexuality, in order to deal with the large number of guys who won't find a wife, is expected to take place anytime soon, but on the other hand it is clear that lesbianism only make this demographic problem worse.

Westernization, city activities and growing tolerance all make a lesbian life in modern Chinese cities more tempting and liberating. Still, such opportunities often only postpone the day in which a gay woman shall decide whether she chooses to re-adjust, make parents happy and find a husband (even if her gay tendencies are known she will be forgiven), or to really commit to a life without closets.

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