In China, homosexuality was considered a subset of "hooliganism" and the law against it was struck from the criminal code fourteen years ago. Since then, queer visibility and a complicated, silent acceptance have crept forward in major cities, probably more so for lesbians -- or, "lalas" -- than for gay men. Didi Kirsten Tatlow reports in the International Herald Tribune:
"Lesbians in China today are remarkably free, the result of profound social changes over three decades of fast economic growth, and of being female in a society that values men far above women. Invisibility provides lesbians with room to live and love amid the anonymity of China’s millions-strong megacities.
“I think people are more tolerant of female gays than male gays,” said Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “China is a very patriarchal society, so people feel if a man is gay that’s really shameful.”
“Traditional society basically overlooks women in some ways, and there is a certain freedom in that,” she said. “But that free space isn’t necessarily power.”
Enjoy the full slideshow of eight photos by Gilles Sabrie here.
For an indelible portrait of contemporary China, including two stories about lesbians, read Yiyun Li's amazing Gold Boy, Emerald Girl [[Kindle]]. Or try Ha Jin's collection The Bridegroom [[Kindle]], whose title story is about a gay man.