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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. Bars have been raided for no good reason and the Gay Pride Festival in 2009 was shut down at the last moment. Like many things in China, it’s unclear what the authorities’ stance is on any given day; they probably don’t know themselves. It’s still extremely rare for a foreigner here to run into any serious trouble as a result of being gay.

That said, Shanghai is arguably the best city in China in which to be gay; after all, it has a Gay Pride Festival in the first place (and subsequent years have gone smoothly). 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 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shanghailgbt & http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lesinshanghai).

Calm and friendly Eddy’s in the French Concession is a fixture, and across the road the warren-like Shanghai Studio is more energetic. D2 in the Cool Docks hits the spot for clubbers and there’s the Rice Bar for ‘rice queens’ – Western men who prefer Asian partners. Popular hangouts such as the Fat Olive hold regular gay evenings. For the Shanghai lala (lesbian), there’s Focus, as well as a regular evening at the Anting Lu branch of Cotton’s.

D2

Cool Docks, 505 Zhongshan Nan Lu, by Fuxing Dong Lu
6152 6543

Eddy’s

1877 Huaihai Zhong Lu, by Tianping Lu
6282 0521

Focus

1/F, Harbour Ring Plaza, 730 Yan’an Xi Lu, by Xizang Zhong Lu
152 1685 7806

Shanghai Studio

No.4, Lane 1950 Huaihai Zhong Lu, by Xingguo Lu
6283 1043

The Rice Bar

532 Fahuazhen Lu, by Dingxi Lu
5230 8772

390 Bar

390 Panyu Lu,by Fahuazhen Lu
186 2124 9854

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