Monday, April 30, 2012

queering beijing

When I was preparing to come to China, at training (provided by the Australian government) it was made clear that coming out as queer in China was probably not a thing that I should do.

At work I say 'my partner' and the singular 'they' in English; in Mandarin 她 (she) is pronounced the same as 他 (he), so I just don't correct people. Someone (a native English speaker) heard my slip up one time in English, saying 'she'; they took me aside later, and told me not to come out at work, because 'they' (my Chinese colleagues) just wouldn't understand, and maybe I should consider actively using 'he' in English. I feel crappy enough as it is hiding my queerness for the first time in a long time, there's no way I'm using the pronoun he to refer to my wonderful beautiful girlfriend.

Incidentally, the verb for coming out is the same: 出柜, or 'to go out of the closet'.

Despite these warnings I've received from Westerners living or who have lived in China, however, what I see doesn't necessarily match up with what I've been told. There's a local lesbian centre (the only reason I haven't visited it is because it's a bit of a distance from where I live), and a number of queer bars, and regular events with queer authors and movie makers, and I know these links are to expat sites but it's not only expats who are involved in these things. And then last week Anthony Wong came out, and it was all good!

I came out to my Chinese tutor (she's about the same age as me), and she didn't seem to care.

My warnings came from older expats, being given directly to me, a young decadent Westerner working a cushy office job in an international organisation, and I wonder if there's a reason for that. I recognise things would be different if I worked in a different kind of situation, or if I wasn't from Australia, and didn't have this assumed right to privacy (or not privacy), as I see it, that we have in Australia (another post for another time, the difference between privacy in China and privacy in Australia).

I haven't quite been brave enough to come out at work yet, and I mean, I'm not going to take out an announcement or anything but last week a colleague asked me if I had a boyfriend back home and I said no, which is technically true, and left it at that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

queer australian teevee

I’m not watching much Australian television at the moment, because I’m in China and sadly ABC iview isn’t available outside of Australia, but I have been making an effort to watch two shows: Outland and The Newtown Girls. Coincidentally, these are both humourous shows about Australian Queers.

Outland is a six-part series that just finished on ABC1. It's a comedy about a gay science fiction club in Melbourne. I’ve been watching it via iTunes (AUD2.99 an episode; AUD16 for the lot).

The Newtown Girls is a ten-part webseries, a dramedy about the dating lols that accompany "returning to the scene." I didn't realise dressing up as Xena counted as a part of returning to the scene but it's all good. I’ve been watching it on the website (no cost).

Both of these shows are not only Australian and set in queer communities, but my favourite characters on both are queer ladies of colour. This makes me so happy.

Rae is an Indigenous sci-fi fan in a wheel chair. She wears awesome clothes and is a little insecure about her body but she’s not afraid of calling bullshit when it hits her. She’s played by Christine Anu, who is a super awesome TSI with a twitter.

Alex is a young Asian woman living it up in Newtown. She’s addicted to coffee (looks like an espresso) and she’s cheerful and forthright and she wears awesome clothes. She’s played by Renee Lim, who is an Asian actress from Perth who is a doctor in her spare time.

How could I not love them? I love them.

It took me a long time to become comfortable with being a queer Australian woman of an Asian background, and sometimes it’s still something I have to fight with other people about (more on that later), but it is my identity and I love it. And I’m so happy that there are two queer Australian women of a not-white ethnicity on my television (well, on my laptop), who speak like me and are portrayed by actresses I already liked and also one of whom is a science fiction fan like meeeee.