+ Closed (past) Spaces
Gone, closed, bankrupt, kaput, shut down… but remembered, some of the major gay venues in Shanghai in my time, in no particular order… Lollipop, Icon195, Lucca, Club Deep, M Cafe, Hunter Bar, Eddys, Shanghai Studio, No. 7 Coffee & Juice Bar, Home Bar, G KTV, Transit Lounge (now Lollipop), D2, Box Bar, Therapy Lounge, Angel, Footloose, Blendi Coffee & Boys Cafe, Icon, Home Bar, SAO+HAUS, BoBo’s, Frangipani Bar & Restaurant, Candor, G8, Trio (moved in June to new location), ICON (Shanghai Stadium), Trend Cafe, Il Vino, Eddy’s (Jing’an), Vogue at Kevins, D9, Rainbow Cafe, Focus Club. Nine Elements, L’Alcove Restaurant, Therapy Club, Panda Club, Studio 2006, Telephone 6, Club Obama, Club BoBo, Transit Bar (Xingguo Mansion), LG, Datong Mills Lounge, Kevins Thai Restaurant, Happiness 42 (now HUNT), Repaly (we think they meant Replay), 390 (the original), COMO, BELLO, Riink (version 1), Pink Home and my personal all time favorite Space Bar.
+ Gay China Notes
A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF CHINESE SUPPORT LEGALISATION OF GAY MARRIAGE THAN AMERICANS
Being gay was decriminalized in 1997, and removed from the Chinese Society of Psychiatry’s list of mental illnesses in 2001. In December 2019, when Central Government was soliciting national opinions on a future draft of the civil code on marriage and family, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress survey of 9.9 million Chinese respondents via the Phoenix Network found 67.34% (6.67 million people) support same-sex marriage (compared to 61% of Americans in a Pew Research poll) with a further 2.19% (218k people) not caring, but some gay Chinese THINK they face what they believe to be a social stigma, particularly with their parents who are expecting family heirs.
Forget the ever growing long string of letters “LGBTTQQIAAP+” etc… — nearly all Chinese simply, politely, use the word “gay” for anyone non-hetero, which is an upgrade from the proliferation of confusing hidden colloquial terms such as “passion of Longyang” (lóngyángpǐ 龙阳癖), “the passion of the cut sleeve” (duànxiù zhī pǐ 断袖之癖), or “the divided peach” (fēntáo 分桃). Other terms have included “male trend” (nánfēng 男風), “allied brothers” (xiānghuǒ xiōngdì 香火兄弟). The formal modern word for “homosexuality” is tongxinglian (同性戀); ‘same-sex relations/love‘) or abbreviated to “tongzhi” (同志) which means “comrade“. Another slang term is “datong” (大同) meaning great togetherness or utopia. Lesbians usually call themselves “lala” (拉拉).
Brothers, Sisters, Uncles, Aunts, Mums & Dads
Prepare to be confused by a somewhat endearing trend in gay social circles of cross-referring to friends as brothers, sisters, uncles, mums and dads etc… As gay friends meet, they often create their new social family circle of adopting these words to refer to one another, and typically, in opposite gender roles. For example, an older gay man be referred to as the ‘mummy‘ to a ‘sister‘ which is actually a slightly younger gay man, who have a younger friend they regularly go out drinking with that they call their ‘daughter‘. Their lesbian friend may be their ‘brother‘. You get the idea. Makes for some confusing, yet fun friendships as you build out your family or be incorporated into other ‘family’ groups.
For example within my Chinese social circle, I am daddy to some, sister to many, uncle to most, and daughter to one friend. Yet within my own foreigner social circle, I am brother to many, and daddy to one. To confuse matters, I also have a Chinese friend that within the bar scene, he prefers to be called an androgynous ‘Ninja’ since he considers himself invisible at times, and at other times, insists I call him ‘Ironman’ when he feels overly confident and fearless (typically when he is drunk). At all times he calls me ‘Uncle Bro‘.
Some Common Gay Expressions
- Chitudoude (吃土豆的)
Literally meaning ‘eats potatoes,’ this refers to a gay Chinese person who has a case of white boy/girl fever, and thus tends to only date Caucasians. There are also ‘rice eaters,’ ‘sushi eaters’ and more, depending on your cuisine of choice.
- Chugui (出柜)
To come out of the closet. ‘Gui’ literally means ‘cupboard,’ but we’ll refrain from making food puns, for example, “Did you hear? That fine piece of potato is finally out of the cupboard.”
- Kong (控)
Kong means fetish in Chinese gay subculture. It can be combined with almost anything. Call someone “Dashu [uncle] Kong,” and it means someone who’s into older men; “Xiong [bear] Kong” means someone who’s into chubby and hairy “bears.”
- Lala (拉拉)
Lesbian. A phonetic adaptation of the English term.
- Niang (娘)
Sissy or effeminate. e.g., “He’s cute, but he’s gone a bit heavy on the eyeliner. A bit ‘niang’ for my taste.”
- Tongzhi (同志)
Homosexual. Literally meaning ‘comrade,’ tongzhi was a term bandied about heavily during the Cultural Revolution. It had been appropriated by the gay community to refer to same-sex comrades in the bedroom.
- Xiao Gong (小攻)
Xiao Gong refers to the person who “gives” in gay sex (commonly described around the world as a “1″ or “top”). The term Xiao Gong originated from Chinese gay romance novels and Japanese gay animations.
- Xiao Shou (小受)
The opposite of Xiao Gong, Xiao Shou is the one who “takes” in gay sex (also known as a “0” or the “bottom”). However, this term can also be used to refers to the guy who is in a more feminine role and needs to be taken care of in a relationship.
+ Gay Shanghai Notes
There are also numerous gay dance halls meetings, KTV’s, sauna, gyms and other similar meeting places, but since the vast majority of these are frequented by 99% Chinese only, or just covers for sexual hookups, so I won’t go into detail.
Generally, the Shanghai bar scene is very old-school, about a decade behind major international cities, and split between dance clubs with live DJ’s interrupted with really bad ‘drag’ shows. Personally, I found that the smaller the bar, the higher quality fun can be had.
Weirdly, in Shanghai, they consider drag to make oneself look more like a women (aka cross-dressing transvestite look), sadly popularized by the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race which vies for straight audience Neilson ratings by having 80% of their cast / characters perpetuating this form, rather than for the more traditional fun of the comedy send-up, popularized by Hasty Pudding over 100 years ago, and evolved to hilarious effect globally since as sassy, brassy and sometimes classy.
Surprisingly (and joyfully), you CAN find good drag performers and shows in some smaller cities such as Nanning and Chengdu – in both of these cities, I’ve also witnessed real singers (not lip-syncing) dressed in hilarious drag, providing great fun for their gay bar audiences. (think deep voices, hairy armpits, lipstick smears, 1 boob dangling out, 1 eyelash upside down, and a sassy comedic personality as they sit on the bar wearing a massively oversized hat with a miniature of their city on it, and call out fun gay vulgarities (in a mix of Chinese, Thai, Japanese and English) throughout the night.
Further, cocktail bars generally serve a mix of fake/real booze (fake booze is not typically the fault of the bar owners, more a problem with unscrupulous distributors) — general rule of thumb, drink bottled drinks or top shelf liquor and avoid mixed drinks from the bar well.
Also, in smaller more local bars, expect ‘talking boys‘ who expect you to pay for their services with drinks and tips. You will quickly learn about how to identify and deal with them.
Most of the bars have at least one staff member that can speak some level of English, but be prepared in the smaller bars to have patience and use WeChat translation, while keeping your requests simple.
Method of payment is typically by scanning QR code for WeChat or Alipay.
Additionally, for privacy concerns, there is a growing trend in most international quality bars to not allow selfies or video photography (a good thing), for fear of people posting these on Weibo, WeChat Moments, TikTok or other places without all identifiable individuals in the photos/video prior consent. Use common sense, support the bar rules, remember you are a guest, and use caution with regards to other peoples privacy.
Lastly, I do not support the “Shanghai LGBT” organization that postures itself as if representing and serving the community. It is largely run by foreigners, is overly focussed on the bar scene, and provides no transparency for fundraising dollars received. When, and if, a proper organization is established by local Chinese, that maintains open accountability and supports government advocacy / lobbying work with proper non-bar only orientated efforts, I will support.