Hybridization and the emergence of "gay" identities in Hong Kong and in China


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This article examines and compares the emergence of "gay" identities in Hong Kong and in China, with special attention to the linguistic appropriation and creation of identity labels that have incited new modes of sexual subjectivity and politics. It argues that while global queering has been taking place, what "gay" means in New York may not be the same as what it means in Hong Kong or China. More attention should be given to the twists and turns of transnational cultural flows that result in different forms of hybridized identity. In Hong Kong, a pejorative use of "gay" became prevalent when it was transliterated with the same pronunciation as gei. By contrast, in China during the era of opening up a localized hybrid brand of gayspeak which appropriates the English lexical item "gay" enables one to engage in a stylish and modernized presentation of self. To counter the derogatory meanings of gay/gei, Hong Kong people create the label tongzhi ("comrade"), which signifies cultural specificity and serves to provide a positive sense of sexual identity. Yet, whether gay or tongzhi, sexual minorities in Hong Kong and China continue to open up the identity category for debate. The proliferation of identity labels foregrounds the contested nature of identity and the diverse ways of imagining sameness and difference with the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-170
Number of pages19
JournalVisual Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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