China Diary

Day 177: Queer As Folk


Sundays in Beijing are the only days I have off, and since last night I had gone to bed early enough, I was feeling terribly energetic as I woke up. For a while I read and answered emails, but then I felt the need to fill my soul getting a hold of me, so I jumped into my Timberlands (I know I’ve used this before, but I like the image) and headed outside.

First stop was a museum. I haven’t seen that much of cultural heritage here in China, save the mandatory Wall and Forbidden City, so I chose – because of the International Women’s Day, which was just few days ago – to go check out an exhibition featuring women painters in China.

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“And now all the vultures are coming down from the tree
So he’s going to be in the gallery”, Dire Straits sings.

Truly a spectacular exhibition! Some of the most terrific paintings I’ve seen in ages, although I had no way of deducting who was the painter, nor the painting name, but one that really struck me was a huge set of paintings about a stretching man. Every muscle and wrinkle described in detail, it felt like watching one of those Michaelangelo’s studies.

I was being lucky with the taxis, so next stop was a nice little coffee house called Bookworm, which is also a bookstore and some kind of a library. There, they had an LGBT discussion I bought a ticket to; I’ve been interested in sexuality-related discourse ever since reading Cacilda Jetha’s and Christopher Ryan’s “Sex At Dawn” some years back (probably, uhh, like ten years ago) so I was hoping to get an insight on how lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals are having it over here in China.

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Unfortunately, as it is in so many cases like this, the discussion is way too advanced for me to really follow; I’m not familiar with the organisations behind the LGBT movement, the disputes they’re having between each others, nor am I in full understanding of all the niches they speak – there’s pansexuality, non-binary this, asexual that… I realized I was out of my league there, but did gather something important: While China has changed rapidly in the last decade, so has the acceptance and understanding of sexuality, too. One of the speakers told a story where ten years ago, she went back to her home village, her mother asked if she was doing lesbian porn in Beijing, when she told she had participated in LGBT things. Now, a decade later, her mother was criticising her relationship with another woman not because she was a woman, but because she was afraid the age gap would lead to her young girlfriend dumping her for someone younger and leaving her lonely for the rest of her life. Yes, Asian parents are famous for criticising their children’s life choices, but at least now the focus was in actual things, not some misconception on what being “lesbian” means.

Bookworm, being located in the Sanlitun area, is full of foreigners, so it was nice to see few other faces than the Chinese ones, and hear other languages, discussions you could follow (eavesdrop, that is) while reading a book. I sipped a glass of wine there, enjoying the atmosphere, and then decided to go sample the famed Georgian restaurant relatively close by.

Located in yet another embassy area, the place is Georgian to the bone: wooden structures outside and a statue of a Georgian guy with moustache (possibly some famed Georgian, wouldn’t know) welcomed me inside. The service was typical Georgian: no smiles (goes well with Beijing service culture) or unnecessary politeness, just terrific rustic food: a beef stew, khinkali-dumplings and Georgian khachapuri-bread, and a glass of terrific Georgian Saperavi-wine.

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Georgia On My Mind…

When it comes to wine, truly every other country can just step aside, since Georgians, they wipe the floor with everyone else’s tasteless liquids. Their eight thousand years of winemaking history make them the best wine country in the world.

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Smile you fool.

Yes, but. That was that. My day off. Some culture, some politics and some food. Yet, never did I feel as lonely as on that day, walking alone through the galleries and streets watching people having fun together. I’m not much of a socialite myself, and although I do enjoy company, I’m not amazing in crashing into an outside company. I’ll rather sit back and read my book and observe than push myself on others, but that does leave me feeling quite outsider.

Ah, well. Hotel room was inviting and I enjoyed a good rest after the day.

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I leave you with a picture of this beautiful cheese-and-egg bread called “khachapuri”, which is amazing. Also, consists of negative calories – more you eat, the more you lose weight! True fact!

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