Browsing the internet as a young policeman in China, Ma Baoli recalls the sheer volume of web pages telling him he was a pervert, diseased and in need of treatment — simply because he was gay. “I felt extremely lonely after I became aware of my sexual orientation,” says Ma, at the time a newly minted officer in a small coastal city. Two decades later, the softly spoken 43-year-old now helms Blued, one of the world’s largest dating platforms for gay men. The app went public last July with an US$85 million (RM343 million)debut on Nasdaq, a remarkable tech success story from a country that classified homosexuality as a mental illness as recently as 2001. Parent company BlueCity’s sunlit Beijing campus teems with young and casually dressed programmers who hold meetings in rooms named after Oscar Wilde and other prominent LGBTQ figures from around the world.