Foreigners in Guangzhou launch event to help lesbians meet

Posted: 05/15/2013 11:00 am

Where in Guangzhou can girls who like girls meet other girls?

Last month a lesbian couple made headlines for walking down a street in Guangzhou wearing wedding dresses. In January, Shenzhen hosted the first public wedding between two women in mainland China.

Despite some progress, for lesbians, the situation on the ground remains difficult. This was hinted at when a lesbian couple was turned away from a registry office in the city in February.

Some expats might have come up with a solution.

Last month, 32-year-old English teacher Lisa and her friend Jamie were struck by the lack of venues at which lesbians can hang out. This particular discussion led to the conception of an event for lesbians which will be held at the Kiwi Lounge this coming Saturday, May 18. It will provide an opportunity for women to meet other women in a safe and fun environment.

In Guangzhou, homosexual-friendly bars are mostly geared to men. 24 year-old Huizhou native Rachel thinks the misogyny of wider society has had a rippling effect on the LGBT community.

Rachel is a lesbian and has only come out to her closest friends and brother. Her parents are still unaware.

Rachel realized as early as elementary school that she liked girls. Being in a small town, no information about homosexuality was available to her. Rachel encountered a lot of name-calling and bullying while growing up. Even her own father made fun of her. But this didn’t stop her from having her first relationship with a girl in high school.

In China, some closeted gays and lesbians pursue heterosexual relationships, and even get married. Shenzhen Daily did a feature on the subject in 2011. Some of these married homosexuals have affairs with members of their own sex. Rachel thinks this is even worse.

Lisa is a proud lesbian. But living in China, “people aren’t as understanding about the queer lifestyle.”

Lisa grew up in Toronto, Canada, a city that is known for supporting its LGBT community. But even in Toronto, bars frequented by lesbians tend not to last because, according to Lisa, lesbians do not go out as much as gay men.

Rachel’s journey into accepting herself has been a long one. Her involvement with a lesbian group called “广州女友组” or “Girlfriends Group” has helped her gain the strength that she needs.  Rachel’s girlfriend is the President of the group and they’ve been living together for more than a year. She hopes that one day their mutual love will be recognized by society.

Rachel’s parents are kind, but remain conservative. Her parents believe that “a girl should marry a boy”; something they point out to Rachel whenever they have a chance. Their attitude has created tension in their family, and as a result, Rachel has yet to come out to her parents. For now, Rachel says she prefers to be scolded by her parents because she respects them.

The Kiwi Lounge event commences this Saturday (May 18) and the organizers hope to make it a monthly event. Entrance is free. Lisa says the event doesn’t need to be flashy. “We just need a venue to which people can go and mingle with kindred spirits,” she says.

A poster for the event


Canton Fair attracts new buyers from emerging markets

Posted: 04/27/2013 7:52 am

The international prestige of the Canton Fair has attracted new buyers from a number of countries around the world. For three exhibitors in the international pavilion, their presence has marked a new trend in product consumerism.

India’s presence among international exhibitors provides a glimpse of the Indian government’s reform, which was announced in late 2012 as part of its foreign participation in direct investment into the Indian economy.

According to a 2011 census, China remained India’s largest trade partner in various goods and service and, in 2012, India’s GDP purchasing power was ranked fourth in the world, immediately behind China.

According to Indian exporter, Sachin Gupta, “China is becoming expensive nowadays.” Gupta runs a trading house that exports primarily bicycle and gardening tools; but, because “there are some products that China doesn’t produce,” it now exports ceramic tiles. Approximately 30% of Gupta’s sales are made in China (a whopping 50% of its sales are from India, and the remaining 20% is from Africa).

Behind India, the buying power of Africa has increased such that it has become “the new China” for business opportunities. This sentiment was echoed by Shiva Vachhani, a manufacturer and exporter of stainless steel cutlery from Mumbai. Vachhani reported that the majority of its buyers are from the North, East, and West of Africa. At each Canton Fair, he strives to bring in enough new samples to meet African demand.

Securing a booth inside the International Pavilion is a golden ticket for the lucky few; other international exhibitors, like those from Russia and European countries, have booths on the bridge linking to Area C of the complex. In full formal attire, these representatives are forced to hold a fan to provide respite from the humidity.

Still, the booths inside the International Pavillion are small, says C.M. Son, a sales manager, “they should make them bigger. The limited space makes it difficult to show other merchandise to customers.” Son’s largest segment of buyers come from the Middle East.  When questioned about his best sellers, Son noted that dishwashers remain high in global demand.

A badge at the Canton Fair is a passport of sorts and, once inside the pavillion, an endless number of business opportunities are available. According to one Canton Fair representative, the badge can be used so long as the Fair continues to attract buyers and sellers.


Finding the ‘right’ words at the Canton Fair

Posted: 04/22/2013 9:30 am

Words related to gizmos and gadgets and everything in between – in multiple foreign languages, dialects and accents – are regularly heard at the annual Canton Fair. This year is no different, as China’s most successful foreign trade fair celebrates its 113th anniversary at the Pazhou International Convention Centre in Guangzhou.

No matter what you’re buying or selling, communication is key.

First time Chinese-English interpreter Lewis Lee attended the first phase of the fair that kicked off on April 15th and wrapped up on Friday. Two other phases are also scheduled.

Lee is an interpreter for a furniture company. “It’s a great opportunity to improve your English skills, negotiation skills and to see if you can sell your products well,” he says.

The hours are long since Lee starts his day at the Convention Centre at 8:30 for a 10-hour shift.  While he has already familiarized himself with his company’s products, there are challenges because of different accents. “Sometimes you need to concentrate and pay attention to their conversations.”

The Convention has an airport-feel where all the necessary amenities from banks, shipping companies and international restaurants are available. The place is overwhelming and can be daunting for any first-timers due to the enormity of the convention with two main buildings (Areas A & B) that serve as prime exhibitors, while the third one is accessible by crossing a bridge.

Everywhere you go, something catches your eye. Some people can be aggressive by making sure that buyers are aware of certain regions’ products. An advertisement on Hong Kong exhibitors is surely not to be missed since it’s placed on the side of an escalator. The ad mentions their hall number (Hall. 9.3) and booth numbers (H1-H12; H35-H41).

Regional products and international ones have made this fair a melting pot for business opportunities.

With the encouragement of her friend, interpreter Yolanda Yin also signed up to be part of the fair. An HR officer hired her solely for this event; she’ll attend the second part of the fair which starts tomorrow and runs until April 27.  Her job is to assist the sales associates with their products, such as fruit containers and drink flasks, to name just a few.

Yin says it’s a great way to earn experience as she gears up for another upcoming convention in Beijing next month. She says she’s not nervous since she has enough product knowledge. Still, she admits that product sizes and dimensions are areas where she needs to polish up.

Exiting from Area A, a group of middle-aged foreign men surrounded a young Chinese woman for instructions. With her clear English pronunciation, the men were quickly on their way to find what they were looking for.


“Marriage test” the first time many newlyweds deal with sex education in China

Posted: 04/17/2013 4:27 pm

Guangzhou resident Lora Deng, 24, recently passed her marriage test in order to receive her marriage certificate. It’s a policy designed to remind new married couples about the one-child policy in a country that already has a population of about 1.3 billion.

The online test requires soon-to-be wives to receive a score of 80 percent or higher, and includes a section on sex education. For some, this is the first time they’ve ever been taught about sex.

“In China, you need certificates for everything,” says Deng. “Even for deaths.”

Last month, Deng and her long-time boyfriend, Paul Yeung, tied the knot at the Guangzhou City Hall. The process took about three hours from the registration to the photo-op in light of several other couples getting married that day.

Sex education is practically unheard of in China, unlike in North America where the subject is integrated into the school curriculum as early as grade 5. Deng says there are children’s books in which the word ‘hug’ is used when referring to how babies are made.

Still, traditional values are ingrained at the core of Chinese culture. This means passing on the bloodline remains paramount for many couples.

“If they can’t have children by themselves, they will try very hard to get a baby by all means,” says Tolly Tu, who works at a laboratory at a local Guangzhou hospital that helps couples have children through artificial insemination. “Even if they don’t have money, they will sell their houses. Some clients even come from the countryside,” he says.

Everyday, Tu prepares dishes where eggs are cultivated and then inseminated with sperm. This procedure is complete by noon. He says some women in their 40s are willing to undergo this procedure three or four times.

Having a child is important because of the pressure from their partner, their parents and their in-laws that could, if not resolved properly, lead to a divorce.

The choice of the child’s sex is possible with specific techniques, says Tu. But to the naked eye, it’s impossible. According to Tu, the Chinese law prohibits telling the soon-to-be mother of her child’s sex unless it’s medically related. While the younger generation is mostly indifferent towards the sex of their child, the older generation still prefers a boy. Learning that the child is a girl sometimes leads to an abortion.

Tu recalls his university days when he often heard clinics advertising painless abortions. Those who decide to have abortions face the possibility of dire consequences once they do decide to have a child in the future. “It’s not good for the uterus so it’s important to have safe sex to avoid complications,” says Tu.

Deng is off to Indonesia by the end of the month so she can spend quality time with her husband and to relax at the beach. Asked if she prefers a girl or a boy, she says that she is indifferent. But, like many Chinese going back generations, her husband says he prefers a boy.

Website: www.yuexiu.gov.cn


For the love of his gay son: A Chinese father’s coming out story

Posted: 04/12/2013 3:52 pm

A child’s coming out story is often hard. But behind the brave steps taken by a gay son or daughter, it’s often forgotten how difficult it is for his or her parents to come out about their child’s sexuality to their friends. In a sense, when one person comes out, the whole family comes out – something rarely discussed in Mainland China.

For Mr. Li, known as “RoseDad” on Sina Weibo, his son’s coming out was something he wanted to handle well. He said he saw his son no differently than he always had when he came out to him last October.

“Nothing has changed,” says Mr. Li. “We love him even more.”

Last month, Li flew to Guangzhou to share his son’s coming out story at PFLAG China – the headquarters for parents and friends who support their gay and lesbian children. The event drew about 100 people. Among them were 15 mothers, far more than the only two dads who attended in support of their sons’ sexuality.

Asked about saving face in the culture, Li says accepting ‘it’ is difficult. “Why did this happen to me?” he thought upon first hearing the news. He even contacted a psychologist-friend of his, thinking that his son’s sickness could be cured.

A Generational Divide

Men are still considered to be the dominant figure in most Chinese households.

The youngest of three siblings, Li grew up during a time when students were sent to the countryside to work as peasants. He did four years of farming in the countryside before attending university, graduating in 1983 and becoming an English teacher.

It was at the riverside in Fuzhou, Fujian where Leon, Li’s son, came out. At the time, Li admitted he thought his son had a mental disease. That night, Leon showed his dad a video presented by Li Yinhe, a sociologist, sexologist, and supporter of the LGBT community.

Li soon made an appointment with a PFLAG member to learn more about what being gay is all about. “I made a decision that I had to learn this new topic,” says Li. “I read articles and watched a video.”

Leon came to the realization that he was gay more than 20 years ago. Li realizes the pain that his son had to endure throughout his life, and especially during the coming out process. While working in Shenzhen, Leon popped across the border to Hong Kong and received an LGBT pamphlet.  Leon’s mother soon found the pamphlet, which lead to Leon deciding to come out about his sexuality.

“Why do I want to escape from my family?” Leon says. He is now living with his family in Fuzhou.

Li told his mother-in-law about Leon being gay. Leon’s grandmother, 90, doesn’t understand what being gay is all about. Still, “she didn’t hesitate to accept him. It’s a simple feeling,” said Li.

Li has already discussed relationships with Leon and has made an agreement with him: he will support his son with his boyfriend, but the relationship has to be a long-term and stable one. This is one of Li’s basic principles, and is not much different than parents would expect of a heterosexual couple, too. Parents want the best for their kids, no matter what.

“One should fight for his lifestyle; he shouldn’t care about what others think. Others should admire you, so you shouldn’t be afraid,” he said.


Guangzhou’s Underground Music: Bosi breaks barriers on hip hop scene

Posted: 03/21/2013 12:57 pm

When China opened its international markets in the early 1990s, new ideals flooded into the country, resulting in a new dawn where the lives of many youths have challenged the old mindsets and traditions of their culture.

One such person is ‘Bosi’, a local rapper.

In a land of Cantopop and drippy love ballads, Bosi is doing something different. “They look down upon rap or hip hop music because they don’t feel hip hop is a kind of music,” says Bosi, who refers to his parents’ opinion regarding his choice of music. “How come there is no melody? They don’t understand the culture and they don’t enjoy the music.”

Bosi is the product of the one-child policy where individuality is often overshadowed by a ‘parents know best’ mentality.

At 14, Bosi had his first taste of hip hop and rap. A friend had introduced him to the infamous Hong Kong band LMF (Lazy Mutha [email protected]#a). The band has been known for its vulgar, abrasive and no-holds-barred attitude regarding society’s injustices from poverty to government corruption.

LMF’s words resonated with the young Bosi.

Eight years later, he is at a place in his life where he must choose to continue honing his craft or abide by the demands of society. “Sometimes, once or twice, I want to give up. I can’t be famous. It’s useless. What do I get from it?”

Bosi’s world is filled with compromises from what he wears on the weekdays as he whiles away at an office to when he should produce his profanity-laced lyrics, knowing his parents’ ears are never far away.

Bosi’s parents prefer music that has rhythm, a beat and words that are easy to understand. His parents prefer Cantopop; it’s safe and marketable.

But Bosi prefers rap and hip hop which still remain underground in Guangzhou. His songs are hard, strong and filled with metaphors, aspirations and observations. In one of his recent songs, he paints a picture of a ship sailing: ‘Although far from the bay / We don’t need to be scared / After we cross the mist / We will see the light.’

At 25, Bosi knows too well that being a Chinese rapper is far different from being a Western one because it’s about having accomplished something. “Foreign rappers would say: I shoot you. Bang. Bang. Bang. Maybe he says that he’s a killer and then he becomes famous and gets rich. But in the Chinese culture, if you say that you’re strong and you say you will kill a person, the Chinese rappers will just say that you’re being fake and laugh at you.”

Bosi already considers himself a veteran in his genre. There are only a handful of good rappers in the city, yet there are lots of wannabe rappers. Many are teenagers who’ve been exposed to Bosi’s concerts. Yet when they’re challenged to pursue a certain lifestyle, many fade away. On the weekends, Bosi can be seen wearing his version of hip hop.

Still, Bosi strives to pierce through this underground world. For some, Bosi is building a platform for discussion. He recalls a time when his song resonated with one of his fans: “I played your song to a girl who later became my girlfriend. Sometimes, when we have arguments we play your songs. They keep us going. Without your songs, I don’t think we would have lasted.”

Such fans have indeed allowed Bosi to keep moving despite knowing that his family doesn’t enjoy his music and believes it’s useless and won’t earn him money. In a country where self-censorship and money are encouraged, giving up won’t make him happy.

“Writing a song is not difficult for me. The most difficult part is to write a song that will go straight to people’s hearts and to make them realize that what I’m saying is right,” he says.

You can listen to Bosi’s music on his Douban site: http://site.douban.com/bosi/