Gay Beijing: A Journalistic Challenge

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A visit to Beijing’s biggest gay club last night as part of a story looking at the gay and lesbian community in Beijing and China. It’s on the same strip as a bunch of other huge clubs at the west gate of the Workers’ Stadium, but is smaller and more discrete than they are, no two story neon signs or barkers outside tempting punters in with free shots or whatever. But inside, the joint was jumping, Hundreds of men (and some women too: apparently there are always some straight women who visit the club to watch the gyrating and gym-toned physiques of the regulars), drinking, cruising and yes, dancing, jammed into a a small dance floor watched over by a series of flat screen TVs displaying images of Einem performing with, for some reason, a dwarf and a very obese woman. As I soon discovered, trying to interview anyone was very tricky as a) despite all the changes –and they have been huge–most people definitely wanted to remain anonymous; and b) presumably, some of them must have thought I was trying to use a rather lame pick up line (“Hello, I’m a reporter, can I talk to you about being gay in Beijing?”), or at least that’s what it appeared from their deer-in-the-headlights expressions. Maybe it was my Chinese.

In the end I got an introduction and actually had a great chat with a twenty-something architect who was bemused by my repeated questions about whether it was a problem being gay in Beijing, did he get hassled by the police etc. He really had no idea what I was talking about, which was nice to know on one hand but also a little scary as well, that he had no idea how tough things once were (and still can be in some parts of the country). History begins with me, as they say.