By Zhou Jie, translation by Mario Colella
NANJING, China — On Oct. 24, Chris Tan, a Nanjing University professor of humanities, came to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) to present students with a novel lecture titled “Gaymi” on the flourishing friendships between straight women and gay men in the city of Jinan, in China’s Shandong province. After earning a master’s degree from Yale University in 2002, Professor Tan received his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois-Champaign in 2011. Among his research interests are gender roles, sex and collective identity within homosexual communities in Singapore, mainland China and Taiwan.
The word “Gaymi,” referring to homosexual men who form close friendships with straight women, is a portmanteau of “gay” and the Chinese word guimi or “(female) best friend.” Employing the concept of “emergent masculinity” as his theoretical foundation, Tan carried out extensive research in Jinan on the country’s Gaymi culture. Tan’s research focused on women involved in these friendships rather than the Gaymis themselves. The true question of his research was this: Why is there a group identity among Chinese women that desire to be close friends with gay males?
邓教授认为，女性更愿意与其男同性恋朋友们讨论与时尚、爱情、性等话题，一方面是因为她们获益于独身子女政策而变得更加自信，另一方面是因为日本的BL (Boy’s Love)文化及韩国的花美男 (KKonminam)文化在中国日益盛行。最后，邓教授指出，目前来看，“Gay蜜”的出现源于中国都市女性的需求，而非男同性恋们的自我认同，这也并不代表男同性恋者不再属于社会边缘群体。
In Tan’s opinion, the women of the one-child policy generation have greater self-confidence than earlier generations of Chinese women and thus prefer to discuss fashion, love and sex with gay men. In addition to this generational difference, these women are partially influenced by the growing popularity of Japanese BL (Boy’s Love) cultural products, as well as Korean KKonminam cultural products, both of which are increasingly found in China. Moreover, as Professor Tan points out, the concept of Gaymi as it exists today is something that finds its origins in the desires of urban Chinese women; it is not a concept with which gay men tend to identify, nor is it representative of gay men in China, who are still among society’s most marginalized groups.
After the lecture, HNC students and faculty asked whether or not the concept of Gaymis will raise public awareness and acceptance of LGBT identities. Furthermore, a professor asked whether or not straight women and the “revolutionary women” of Chinese history will be considered in a similar light. One classmate stated that the existence of sexual minorities in China cannot be overlooked and that this unique lecture immediately deepened her understanding of sexual identity in China.
Zhou Jie is an HNC M.A. ’20 student concentrating in Energy, Resources, and Environment (ERE).
Mario Colella is an HNC Certificate ’19/SAIS M.A. ’20 student concentrating in Chinese Studies.