Saturday, March 20, 2010

Homosexuality in China

Recent media highlights can hardly avoid the tantalizing spectacle that China has crafted of itself, with its tension-inducing practice of currency manipulation hailed by many as covert protectionism and its ongoing Google censorship fiasco. Yet provocations are not ceasing as the multifaceted nature of China's rapidly changing society poises it for an inexhaustive amount of demographic complexities that may or may not be accounted for due to a degree of resistance from the nation's traditional past. The Economist recently touched upon this impending issue through a brief expose on the hidden presence of homosexuality within the confines of China's semi-progressive borders. The article unveils, to uninformed readers, the Chinese slang term "tongqi" referring to the hordes of closeted Chinese gay men who choose not only to repress their same-sex desires to escape societal pressure, but are even more so driven by concretely molded familial expectations to enter into marriages with heterosexual women. Chinese filmmaker, Lou Ye, eloquently addresses this chronic phenomenon in his recent film, Spring Fever(The above still image is a screenshot from the film). The implications of such a societal trend are blantantly clear yet the solution remains vague and unattainable. Both parties are destined to suffer as the men doom themselves toward a lifestyle of perpetual self-denial where the core of their sexual identity remains unactualized to the public society and the hapless wives silently suffer in loveless marriages forever designated as chronically undesirable in the eyes of their sexually repressed spouses. Halfhearted remedies are pursued--the men opt for secret, same-sex love affairs instead of divorce--much to the detriment of the wife's self esteem. Such a practice sparks not much surprise and can be assessed through a weighing of a few competing social variables. A strict analysis of Chinese society with emphasis on its transitory state-- making its way from a family-centered society towards a capitalistic, profit driven world run by doctrines of rugged individualism--can lend some input on the progress of acceptance for homosexuals. Yet a more modern, westernized dominated society does not always signal relief for repressed sexual minorities as even in our own American borders active protest is necessary for tolerance and recognition. Additionally, to place the terms 'tradiitional' and 'modern' at the face of the problem would be a misnomer given the visibility of homosexuality dates back to ancient cultures. While partially neglecting the prevailing influence of Confucian tradition on Chinese society, one could argue that the religious underpinnings of the nation as a whole would generate greater room for acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. As the facts of history dictate, homosexuality has most predominantly and vehemently been condemned in countries where Judeo-Christian/Islamic doctrines govern over the spiritual lives of its inhabitants. With China's prevailing Buddhist population, a more lenient perspective of same-sex relations could be hoped for. Yet, the situation remains complex with an entanglement of social and cultural dynamics fueled by traditionalism and a lack of exposure to homosexuality in general. Arguably, progress lies in the hands of the gay Chinese citizens who consciously choose to mask their despised sexual identities due to a lack of self acceptance thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle where neither society nor homosexuals themselves can develop the means to confront and accept an alternative way of being. Current and future generations will see China emerge as an international superpower, the strengths of the country dispersing its prosperity for other competing economies to waver in awe, yet the idiosyncracies and complexities of this vast and ceaselessly expanding nation will momentarily deter its growth, and in accordance to this the continuous suppression of civil and social liberties will inevitably awaken the repressed spirits of millions of pissed off Chinese citizens who now have achieved economic freedom but yearn even more intensely for their chronically denied individual freedom. With this awakening hopefully, eventually...maybe progress will inch towards the recognition of China's existing, though hidden sexual minorities. But all in due time.

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