The capital city of China is rich in culture and history, from the breathtaking temples and palaces of the Ming dynasty to the stark reminders of the country’s troubled past in places like Tiananmen Square. Amongst these historical sights, there is the unmistakable evidence of China’s breakneck development and prosperity, with shiny malls and skyscrapers signaling the country’s status as a new world superpower.
Despite these signs of rapid progress, gay Beijing does lag behind other Asian cities. Beijing may be the capital, but the country’s biggest gay hub remains Shanghai, and the gay scene is still very much emerging. While this means that you may not have as much choice as in cities like Bangkok and Tokyo, it does mean that the scene is young, fresh, and exciting.
Aside from a slowly-growing collection of gay bars and clubs, gay Beijing is also particularly arty. The city hosts an International Queer Film Festival, while exhibitions, galleries, and film screenings pop up regularly throughout the year.
Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in China in 1997, and homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in 2001. Same-sex marriage remains illegal, and a large number of Chinese gay men remain closeted due to societal and family pressures. Homosexuality is tolerated in China in the sense that most Chinese consider sexuality to be a deeply private thing.
The authorities in Beijing are not particularly gay-friendly, but they will most likely not give you a hard time. The locals do not tend to be homophobic, particularly the young, trendy crowd you are likely to see in bars and clubs. It is relatively normal for heterosexual men to hold hands, so a certain level of PDA will go by unnoticed. Overall, you are not likely to be hassled, but be discreet unless you are in a gay space.
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