Notes From My Time Surveying China’s Gay Community in 1993

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12/26/2018

In 1993, I was appointed by China’s Ministry of Health to carry out a multi-city survey on the country’s population of men who have sex with men, usually abbreviated MSM. Although I had been researching gender studies and sexuality for eight years by that point, I remember worrying about my fitness for the job. The survey was part of China’s then-nascent HIV/AIDS prevention work. In those days, China not only had no LGBT organizations or openly queer celebrities to speak of, but the vast majority of Chinese, whether gay or straight, had never even heard of the word “homosexual,” which was generally in use only among psychologists. Awareness of homosexuality was so low that people could stumble right into Beijing’s busiest cruising spots and never even notice.

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