Homosexuality was only removed from the Chinese Ministry of Health’s list of mental illnesses in 2001, and it’s still far from being socially acceptable in the mainstream. While there’s little persecution (disbelief and incredulity are more likely to be encountered), a huge proportion of gay men and women are closeted and many marry in order to conform to family expectations. Like many things in China, it’s unclear what the authorities’ stance is on any given day, but the reality is that it’s still extremely rare for a foreigner here to run into any serious trouble as a result of being gay.
Beijing is a pretty good city to be gay in, with a thriving, though intimate scene. There’s been an annual Pride celebration since 2010, though it will be a long time before the city sees a public parade. There’s a lively and welcoming social scene and a couple of bars have become institutions. Magazines like City Weekend and Time Out have LGBT sections and there are online mailing groups and Yahoo groups.
The often heaving club Destination is the first place most people think of when asked to name a gay bar in Beijing, but most gay bars are quieter and you don’t have to be a party machine to enjoy hanging out with the LGBT community here. Big clubs are all gay-friendly in any case, and to return the favor predominantly gay bars and clubs are open to all. Websites such as Utopia Asia and Yahoo groups like proMen and BGLAD help newbies find out what’s going on and meet new people on first arrival. A little Beijing slang: ‘lala’ means lesbian, ‘Peking duck’ means rent boy and ‘rice queen’ is a non-Asian interested in Asians.
Jushi Dasha, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang
7 Gongti Xi Lu, Chaoyang
Jujiao Yanyi Bar
B/1, The Golden Sun Hotel, 85 Xibianmennei Dajie, Xicheng
Lala Salon Activity Centre
2808, Phase 3, 3 Dongheng Shidai, Chaoyang
B112, West Tower, Shangdu SOHO, 8 Dongdaqiao Lu, Chaoyang
159 1050 8964
206 Gulou Dong Dajie, Dongcheng