Police shut down what would have been China’s first gay pageant on Friday an hour before it was set to begin, highlighting the enduring sensitivity surrounding homosexuality and the struggle by gays to find mainstream acceptance.
Organizers said they were not surprised when eight police officers turned up at the upscale club in central Beijing where the pageant, featuring a fashion show and a host in drag, was set to take place.
”They said the content, meaning homosexuality, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you did not do things according to procedures,” Ben Zhang said. Police told him he needed official approval for events that included performances, in this case a stage show.
”I kind of saw that coming,” Zhang said.
Chinese police frequently cite procedural reasons for closing down gatherings that are deemed to be politically sensitive. Though the pageant did not have any overt political agenda, similar events in the past — such as a parade during the Shanghai Pride Festival last year — have been blocked by authorities.
”It totally has to do with moral standards and culture,” said contestant Emilio Liu, 26. ”If most people can’t accept it, then the government won’t let it happen.”
This is really too bad. China has made incredible strides in becoming more tolerant, and most Westerners would be shocked to learn just how open-minded many Chinese people in the big cities can be about this issue – as long as it’s not their son or daughter. The gay weddings a year ago in Tananmen Square were allowed to take place and China Daily did a wonderful job covering them (I wrote about it briefly here). So this is certainly a disappointment. Looking at the video I referenced, I can guess that it crossed a perceived moral line (maybe too much skin?). A shame.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.