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The Best of Hong Kong
Blued, one of the biggest gay dating apps in the world, has succeeded because it plays by the ever-shifting rules for L. China — bringing together a minority community without activism. Illustration by Timo Lenzen. By Yi-Ling Liu. L ike many gay Chinese growing up at the turn of the millennium, Duan Shuai began his long, deliberate process of coming out online.
After school, he would visit the newly opened internet cafe in his hometown, Xinzhou, a small city in Shanxi Province bounded by a veil of mountains. He would pick a desktop facing away from the wall so that nobody could look over his shoulder.
Offline, Duan had known for a long time that he was different — and he knew no one else like him. Even in grade school, while his male classmates talked about girls, he nursed a secret crush on a boy, a gregarious, basketball-playing class monitor. Online, he stumbled into a world where he finally felt he belonged, a place where gay people like himself sought kinship and connection.
Duan was moved by one scene in particular, in which the businessman brings his lover home for the Chinese New Year to share a customary hotpot meal with his family. He caught a glimpse into a future he never knew existed — a future that was perhaps within his reach too. As Duan came of age, so did the Chinese internet. Today that number has swelled to more than million, and a vast majority of them are using mobile devices.
Whereas Duan once sought out gay communities in small groups and quiet bars, today, as a year-old working in publishing in Beijing, he can join gay meet-ups on WeChat; follow blogs and coming-out stories on Weibo , a Twitter-like platform; and, perhaps most crucial, he can connect and find partners on Blued, a gay social networking app.
There are other options — Grindr operates in China — but Blued is the most popular by far. China is home to an L. But according to a United Nations estimate , less than 5 percent of gay Chinese choose to come out. It is easily among the most popular gay dating apps in the world. Like WeChat, Blued aspires to be a Swiss Army knife for its users, absorbing features from other apps, like newsfeeds and livestreaming functions — as well as real-world resources like H.
Blued is in a peculiar position: It might be the biggest app of its kind, yet it is also the most precarious. It is a tech company in a society that has been transformed by free-market reforms, but also a gay tech company operating under a one-party government with an ambiguous stance toward L.
On one hand, the rise of the Chinese internet, facilitated by the last three decades of market reforms, has allowed for unprecedented connection and visibility for gay communities in China. Popular Chinese shows with gay story lines were removed from screening sites. One gay-dating app, Zank, was shut down by the government, and a lesbian-dating app, Rela, disappeared shortly after.
By staying within the commercial and public-health sectors and framing the fight for gay recognition in terms of business, the company, under the leadership of its founder and chief executive, Geng Le, has cultivated a minority community free of political activism.
The company has cultivated strategic relationships within the government and raised L. Blued and its related services operate under the aegis of Blue City, which is also the name of its two-story headquarters in central Beijing. Employees have enjoyed classic start-up benefits like free lunch and company beach retreats, some with a queer twist, like a drag performance at the Lunar New Year; company swag has included plush toys of a unicorn with a rainbow horn.
Danlan was the bare-bones, browser-based website that Geng created nearly two decades ago. In his darker moments, he would sit by the beach and look out into the waves to calm himself down. He broke down in tears while reading it because he realized he was not alone.
Like the sea — faraway, yet full of possibility — Danlan would be a sanctuary for gay men to express their hopes and fears. Historically, Chinese society has neither recognized nor shunned its queer communities. Chinese religious traditions like Buddhism and Confucianism do not overtly condemn homosexuality, which means that cultural attitudes are more malleable there than in other Asian countries like Indonesia or the Philippines.
Nor was homosexuality considered by authorities to be a decadent Western import; on the contrary, it is widespread and recognized in Chinese history and culture. Still, homosexuality was formally considered a mental illness until But in recent years, the government has neither expressed explicit support for the L. But longstanding Confucian traditions and values — an emphasis on having a respectable marriage, giving birth to sons, saving face and filial piety — remain deeply embedded in the fabric of Chinese society.
This dynamic also means that family is the place where rejection and discrimination occur most frequently, particularly among the older generation. The internet has facilitated these arrangements, with websites like ChinaGayLes. By , the number of internet users in China had grown a hundredfold since Geng founded Danlan. To meet rapidly growing demand, he recruited five other team members, running the website out of a rented apartment and working through the night.
Eventually, he expanded to Beijing, keeping up this double life — shuttling between roles as straight Qinhuangdao cop, happily married and respected by his colleagues, and gay Beijing entrepreneur — until Geng agreed, assuming the video would have a relatively small audience. Shortly after its release, Geng received a call from his police bureau, demanding he return to his post.
His bosses gave him an ultimatum: Shut down the website or quit his job and leave. He handed in his resignation that day, along with the uniform that he had worn since he was He was disgraced — spurned by his colleagues, disapproved of by his parents — and his marriage dissolved. But he had finally come out. Private enterprises in China must navigate government officialdom without being directly confrontational, operating by a set of rules that are as opaque as they are capriciously applied.
An estimated , Chinese would contract H. Today Blued runs H. This alliance with the government gave the company legitimacy in the eyes of the public and prospective investors. In November , the C. Danlan introduced the Blued app in , a few years before the government introduced a nationwide policy to boost its tech economy.
But according to Wang Shuaishuai, a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam researching digital gay-dating communities in China, this strategy might prove limited. Although social networking apps like Blued have allowed communities to form, they are closed, not public forums where Chinese people can build movements for their political rights.
Blued has a content-moderation team that works around the clock, making sure all content is by the book. Duan Shuai came out to his parents two years ago, at It was Chinese New Year, and his mother was asking, once again, when he would bring a wife home. When he told her the truth, she cried, asking him to leave and never come back. He felt both sad and free — devastated to have disappointed his family but relieved to have finally spoken the words.
Center and the local craft-beer brewery Great Leap Brewing. New laws governing NGOs have limited the ability for L.
In , Duan, who volunteers for the organization, erred on the side of caution, keeping the event size small and promoting it only through word of mouth. In contrast to other minority groups, the L. While same-sex marriage in China remains a distant reality, this was a clear indication that the government was acknowledging the status of an increasingly visible community.
But, he added, to push for greater change, they need a critical mass of Chinese to come to their side. Like hundreds of thousands of young Chinese who traveled back for the holidays, he has been cooped up at home since, waiting out the coronavirus. Duan has been able to spend more time with his family. A lot has changed since he came out to his mother two years ago. Center and even his new boyfriend. Duan told me that young people ask him, in his work at the center, whether they should come out.
Published March 5, Updated March 12, Home Page World U.
Hong Kong Gay Cruising Areas
This is a brief guide written for gay, lesbian, transgender, queer travellers and locals living in Hong Kong. I moved to Hong Kong in the Fall of Back then, Hong Kong was about to host its second Pride Parade.
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Gay Guide China - Hong Kong
Lots of business guys have fun in this washroom after office hours. Mixed of Westerners and locals. It is very private and exclusive to gay, hence it is a great cruising spot. Crowd: Local and tourist. Like most of beaches in HK, Cheung Sha is clean and served with white sand. During the week, it can be quiet but also popular with visitors. Hence the opportunities are there. OR you can enjoy a good Great place for swimming, sunbathing and hook up with cool guys. Crowd: Gay, bi, local and tourists.
LGBTQ groups in Hong Kong
Blued, one of the biggest gay dating apps in the world, has succeeded because it plays by the ever-shifting rules for L. China — bringing together a minority community without activism. Illustration by Timo Lenzen. By Yi-Ling Liu.
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Meet gays in Hong-kong
This app from France is supposed to make it easier for you to strike up conversations dating people who cross your path. The downside:. The app works very much like Tinder, with a couple of exceptions.
Please help us keep these listings current and correct. Advisory: In , Hong Kong decriminalized homosexual activity between men over the age of 21, in private. While homosexuality was decriminalized in the last century, and the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival is the oldest such event in Asia, gay life remains largely hidden because Hong Kong still manages to remain a "small town" where privacy is a luxury. Your laptop and smart devices will be buzzing with potential new friends eager to meet you. The scene is active with upscale venues, longrunning local gay zines, and creative special events like Pink Dot a local incarnation of Singapore's LGBT visibility project.
How a Dating App Helped a Generation of Chinese Come Out of the Closet
This app from France is supposed to make it easier for you to strike up conversations with people who cross your path. This app works very much like Tinder, with a couple of exceptions. Guys can try to extend the day-long window with an extra 24 hours, but you can only do that with one girl a day. Also, being the one to start up conversation can be nerve-wracking. Swiping through a sea of potential partners can be tedious. Enter Hinge , which looks to hook you up with friends of friends on Facebook. When you sign up to Hinge, you fill in a pretty specific list of info about yourself.
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