By Michael Williams
Around this time last year, Xiao Dai, 26, who runs an AIDS prevention organisation in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang region was en route for Norway to compete for China in the Mr. Gay World contest. He returned to China on 11.02.2010 having come fourth out of the 24 finalists.The saga that preceded this had marked a turning point for the gay community in China.
The community there is young. Most are in their 20s and 30s, are educated, working professionals with experience abroad who are now highly active and public organizers, authors, editors, designers, film directors, curators, activists and artists.
An earlier catalyst was the Olympic Games in 2008, a landmark event that many in the LGBT community interpreted as a "coming out" event. LGBT websites allowed for communities to build, to advertise events, and to allow contact and information to be exchanged between LGBT members from big cities and small towns in China with those from around the world.
The announcement of the Mr Gay China event in Beijing in January 2010 received global news coverage. Some of the participants even apppeared in a video talking about the pageant, courtesy of the Guardian.co.uk.
At the time Mr Gay World 2010 director Tore Aasheim said: "Chinese authorities did not want a Chinese contestant to come to Norway to take part in our pageant but thanks to the Norwegian embassy, which rushed his visa delivery, the participant arrived happily in Oslo. It was very courageous on his part to have taken the risk to leave his country to take part in an event to which Chinese authorities are hostile. In Beijing, all the contestants were gathered in one room and police clearly indicated that they did not want Chinese participation in the pageant."
Since then, and the safe return of Xiao Dai, there is a slowly growing confidence amongst the gay community. It’s particularly apparent in the urban centres, none more so than Shanghai where clubs like Club ZG, OZNZ, Rice, Eddy’s Bar, and uber-stylish Shanghai studio fill to bursting every weekend.
Not to forget the Box!
Capture the flavour by checking out the Box website at: http://www.shthebox.com
Maybe we’ll meet there one fine day.
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