Source: SupChina (3/25/22)
Gender bending in China, in fiction and real life
We asked journalist and culture writer Jin Zhao all about Chinese queer radio plays and homoerotic fiction, genres that have a surprisingly large fan base in China.
By Jeremy Goldkorn
Illustration by Alex Santafé.
China is not a progressive country when it comes to LGBTQ rights and social acceptance. But it’s not all heteronormative: The country is, in some ways, surprisingly tolerant of non-binary ideas about gender, and one of the most vibrant and popular genres of Chinese fiction is danmei (耽美 dānměi), stories of gay male romances. To help us understand what is going on, I spoke to Jin Zhao. We talked last week by video chat. This is an abridged, edited transcript of our conversation.—Jeremy Goldkorn
You’ve recently written about danmei for SupChina. What is danmei? Who writes it and who reads it?
Danmei is a genre of fiction in China that features male protagonists, who over the course of the story will develop romantic or sexual relationships. It’s a kind of fiction that features a same-sex male romantic relationship. And…
But it’s not necessarily gay men who are the most avid consumers of it, right?
Not really. I mean, at least in China, they are most popular among women readers. Data from one of the most prominent websites that publishes danmei fiction, Jinjiang Literature City, indicates that 93% of their users are women. And they tend to be young women as well, because 84% of these readers are aged 18 to 35. So they are most likely young women in China who are reading these novels.
I think, from conversations that I had with these fans, these readers, most say that because they are unsatisfied with heterosexual romantic stories, romances, because the female characters are not portrayed as full human beings who go about doing things. Continue reading