Beijing LGBT Center closes down; reporting on LGBTIQ+ issues

Disheartening news this week on the eve of IDAHOBIT that Beijing LGBT Center has been forced to shut. Beitong, as it was known in the community, was the leading NGO for queer advocacy and research in China, as well as providing important welfare and peer support services. Our paths crossed frequently over the years that I was reporting on LGBTIQ+ issues in China, so this loss feels quite devastating both personally and politically – the China I knew and loved is being eroded piece by piece.

A bright pink sanlunche draped with Pride flags in a Beijing hutong, 2016.
Beijing’s NGO community made such a big impression on me but a lot of what I remember is already gone. Q-Space, where this was taken, closed their physical space in 2020.

Foreign Policy has a good analysis of Beitong’s closure in the context of a natalist push for gender normativity, heterosexual marriage, and more babymaking to rebalance the country’s demographic woes. I’m quoted there, as well as in articles by the AFP and Bloomberg wires that have been syndicated pretty widely. I also gave NBC an interview for their story that should be out soon – I’ll add it to my press page when it’s published.

A few articles misgendered me, which I managed to get corrected, but it’s been interesting to see: I was rendered male in French and female in English, while a queer Italian media outlet not only got it right but taught me something new: the gender-inclusive suffix ə, which linguists and writers in Italy have popularised against strident opposition from many, including the national language watchdog.

Anyway, it’s pretty cool to go on a late-night tweet spree and then see it translated into half a dozen different languages, but disappointing that so many media outlets remain inattentive to gendered language, even when reporting an LGBTIQ+ story. My pronouns have been in my Twitter bio since I started the account, and in my website bio and email signature (ey/eir/em, they/their/them, 伊 or TA).

It’s ironic too, because what I’m most proud of from my time in China journalism was building up LGBTIQ+ and gender reporting into beats that were taken seriously and resourced appropriately, and integrating that area expertise into editorial processes, ethics and house style. Using the correct pronouns for someone is just one very small part of that but often revealing of broader priorities. It’s something that Beitong and their peers like Tongyu and BGHEI invested in, too, with media guidelines, training, analysis and awards. So I hope media outlets take stock and use events like IDAHOBIT and Pride as an opportunity to consider how they could improve their LGBTIQ+ reporting.

Articles mentioned:

LGBTQ spaces are shrinking in China, James Palmer, Foreign Policy, 16 May 2023.

Chinese LGBTQ Center Closes Down Abruptly Amid Xi Clampdown, Bloomberg, 16 May 2023.

Leading Chinese advocacy group Beijing LGBT Center closes down, citing ‘unpreventable circumstances’, AFP (syndicated in Hong Kong Free Press), 16 May 2023.

* IDAHOBIT is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex discrimination and Transphobia.

Folding tofu skins while Shanghai stills | Going Down Swinging

‘When I do refer to recipes, I prefer to use the web, and my usual process is to skim half a dozen recipes from different websites so I can triangulate the common denominators, and then proceed with the laziest version possible.’

I’m not much of a cookbook user but I read, reviewed and cooked and ate my way through Fuchsia Dunlop’s celebrated Jiangnan cookbook, Land of Fish and Rice, for Going Down Swinging – which occupies a soft spot in my heart because it was the first lit journal I was ever published in.

You can also check out the social threads I did leading up to the review on Going Down Swinging’s Twitter account: 1, 2, 3, 4

ICYMI: China Tonight, S3

In case you missed it, here are my stories from Season 3 of ABC TV’s China Tonight.

This one on languages other than Mandarin was so much fun to write and shoot with the marvellous Annie Louey.

And this one on mental health and involuntary treatment, featuring Dr George Hu (SIMHA), Peng Yanzi (LGBT Rights Advocacy China) and Qin Xiaojie (CandleX).

Thanks so much to the team as always and especially all my sources. You can watch full episodes on ABC iview, or via YouTube.

Recent interviews

Since I started teaching, I’ve said yes to every student journalist who’s wanted to interview me in the hopes that it earns karma for my students.

Not sure if that’s an effective strategy, but here are a couple of the stories: I spoke to Swinburne’s The Wind Down podcast about the Chinese video games industry clamping down on queer narratives, and Robbie Mason from USyd’s Pulp mag about freelancing in this economy.

The Wind Down Ep 23 (Spotify/Apple Podcasts/other platforms)

Underpaid, exploited, revolutionary: how freelance writers in Australia battled the pandemic | 11 October 2021, Robbie Mason, Pulp

China Tonight Season 2 | ABC TV

We’re back!

Episode 1 aired last night with Annie Louey’s story on 躺平 and mine on queer activists, Angharad Yeo on gaming restrictions, and of course Stan Grant and Yvonne Yong with all the news. Catch up on iview and set your alarms for 9:30pm, Monday nights on ABC TV.

Image shows LGBTIQ activists on a boat waving rainbow flags and a cat lying down on the water.
Promo image for China Tonight S02E01.

Remembering Ahbu on IWWD

Me and Ahbu.

It’s International Working Women’s Day today, which means my grandmother would’ve turned 92 next week. She died in December. Her life (1929-2020) spanned nearly 100 years of immense upheaval in China and she survived it all with resilience, dignity and optimism. I wrote a thread remembering her – first on Twitter, and then republished in Chinarrative. Read below.

Continue reading “Remembering Ahbu on IWWD”

Not For Broadcast | The Saturday Paper

‘[Evading censorship] felt a lot like a game, actually – a futile yet addictive game that made your heart race as you tried to jump from story to story, ducking and weaving, squeezing as much as you could through an ever-shrinking space.’

For The Saturday Paper’s culture section, I wrote about reliving the anxiety and adrenaline of working as a journalist in China while playing the dystopian newsroom simulation game Not for Broadcast. Read it here.

Playlist: Music of the Sinosphere

My second playlist for Peril magazine’s You Don’t Sound Asian project explores music from around the Sinosphere: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and beyond.

‘Unlike the pandemic, the playlist doesn’t have a case definition or an epicentre. It’s just an endless filament of sound, the connections between the tracks both tenuous and elemental. It’s as open-ended as Chineseness could be.’

Have a listen – and check out my other playlist, Teacup in a Storm, as well.