Gendering the Nation and Nationalizing Gender/Sexuality in Contemporary China
2: Love Envy in a Chinese Trope of Homosexuality Tolerance
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Pennsylvania, United States
In early July 2021, the Chinese state’s blanket shutdown of university-affiliated LGBTQ-supporting Wechat groups brought unprecedented attention to LGBTQ content on Chinese social media – with LGBTQ communities and allies mourning and nationalists loudly supporting the shutdown. A dominant trope among the pro-shutdown netizens claims that Chinese society is already tolerant of its homosexual communities, quoting prevalent homosexual representations in the Chinese mass media. Those who voice this trope of tolerance further suspect that foreign forces (might) have colluded with these ‘unnecessary’ LGBTQ groups, and that LGBTQ folks should cooperate with national security defense. What can we learn if we treat this trope of homosexuality tolerance in China as a symptom of a surging Chinese nationalism that many of us want to understand in greater depth? How do we make sense of this ‘tolerance’ trope to LGBTQ in the Chinese context, while critics of Western liberalism cautioned us to see tolerance as a discourse of depoliticization and power (Brown 2006, Zizek 2008)? In this presentation, I suggest methodologically separating the references of homosexuals in this trope from actual queer subjects. Based on data gathered from Weibo, I will firstly analyze how this trope appropriates homosexuality. I will then analyze how this (mis)constructed image of homosexuality facilitates nationalists’ self-making projects – not only as mirrored others but also as self-acceptance. Borrowing Ghassan Hage’s (1998) concept of ‘mobility envy’, I argue that this trope of homosexuality tolerance betrays a love envy in a Chinese public of and beyond nationalist netizens.