China's burgeoning LGBT-rights movement has been given a boost thanks to a proliferation of social networking apps targeting homosexuals backed by big tech...
The big, open workspace near Beijing's business district has that startup feel: High ceilings, treadmills and snack stations, as well as hundreds of somethings sitting in front of glowing screens. And lots of rainbow flags and pins. Indeed, the staff here shows far more gay pride than most Chinese dare.
That's because they work for Blued, a gay dating app that's quickly become the most popular in the world. It boasts 40 million registered users while based in a country where most LGBT men and women still feel locked in the closet — where homosexuality, while no longer illegal, is still officially labelled "abnormal. I felt so tiny," said Ma Baoli, thinking back 20 years. His corner office at Blued is decorated with pictures of near-naked men wrapped in rainbow banners, alongside official portraits of him shaking hands with top business and government officials.
Back then, he needed to hide. He said he first fell in love with a man while at the police academy in the s. For years, he led a double life.
Publicly, he wore a cop's uniform and enforced laws that included a ban on homosexuality which was outlawed in China until , and was married to a woman. Privately, Ma ran a website popular with China's stigmatized gay community, estimated to be 70 million people.
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In the gay community, expats in many cases run into culture shock when dating Chinese guys. When Beat a hasty retreat, a year-old chef in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, first moved from his native Russia to China seven years ago, he was seeking out more than career opportunities and an overseas punt - he was looking during a chance to be himself. By contrast, Shanghai, where he lived for his first occasional years in China, is domestic to a vibrant gay spot, with a number of lively gay bars and LGBT lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community groups.
Although the community is smaller in Shenzhen, Nick in addition has a number of backers with whom he feels reasonable sharing his sexual orientation. But it isn't just the community that keeps him here; Show a clean pair of heels admits that he has a certain predilection for Chinese guys, which has served as another motivation to stay.
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