TMTpost Photo Gallery aims to record interesting individuals that are shining in their own respective fields: entrepreneurs that have just found their spot in the startup scene; star investors that walk through different conferences; programmers who spend hours of time writing codes in front of the computer screen; Internet operators who devoted much of their time to work; geeks who bury themselves in developing cutting-edgetechnologies and even delivery guys who go around the city under the glowing sun. All these people’ lives are deeply influenced by the Internet, and their fractured moments of life are worth capturing.
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Gay, homosexuals, or queers, the group that these words represent was once a controversial or even tabooed topic to bring up. People tended to hold back their opinions when talking about sexuality. Some are curious about gay people, some dislike them, while some just don’t really care. Depiste all that, society has grown more acceptance towards the LGBT community. So how will their story continue as they gradually become part of the “mainstream”?
In this no.41 issue of Photo Gallery, we are having a glimpse of the staff at Blued, the earliest social platform for gay people in China, to know about their stories.
Blued is the largest gay social platform in China. It started as Danlan, a web portal, and then grows into today’s giant platform that boasts 27 million users around the world. It took Blued 16 years to achieve today’s success. Many Blued’s users will actually come take a look of Blued’s headquarter, as the platform is quite a symbol for them.
On Blued’s office desk there are two types of stuff animals, monkeys and bears. Monkeys represent gay people who are skinny, in English world they are called twink. And bear, as the name suggests, refers to those that have quite a lot meat on them. As for those muscular men, they are called baboons(jocks). The category list can go on and on. Blued currently has a team of 209 professional talents, with three fourths of them are LGBT. Most of the team were born in the 90s.
Blued’s draft promotion line for the Double Eleven Shopping Festival reads “I want a boyfriend, and I want to marry him.” There are theories believing that due to the fact that gay marriage has a rather short history, therefore obstacles brought by the conflict of financial interest and the couple’s families will make it harder for the marriage to survive.
Blued’s HQ has all-gender toilets that are shared by all genders. They are accustomed to this kind of unisex bathrooms, believing that it’s a way to promote gender equality and a kind act for transgenders.
Flowers from the fans overruns Operation editor Xiao Wei’s desk. Xiao Wei has been a live show host on Blued’s app for one year, which makes him an Internet celebrity in the gay community. “We only hire gay people for content related positions, because only gay people know what gay users’ demand and mindset,” Blued’s HR said.
There are hundreds of unread messages from Xiao Wei’s fans on his Blued account. One message reads “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”. “I don’t dare to open these messages. If I opened them and didn’t reply, the fans would feel neglected, that I didn’t respect them.”
Xiao Rong is a Phd holder. In college, he tried to keep his sexuality in the closet and pretended to be interested in girls. Xiao Rong’s boyfriend in college eventually broke up with him, saying that he’s actually straight. “It took me four years to get over it. It kinda traumatized me,” Xiao Rong said. Before the breakup, they had been dating for four years.
Xiao Ning quitted her job at a state-run company and joined Blued in Beijing for her girlfriend. To not break her parents’ heart, she is planning to have a cover marriage with a gay friend next year. Blued’s corporate culture doesn’t really support cover marriage, but the company doesn’t get involved in the employee’s personal matter as it's a personal choice.
“I hope you all can find the right man out there,” Geng Le said, after singing the birthday song at the birthday party for the employees. Most employees of Blued haven’t come out publicly. Coming out of the closet will inevitably challenge the values of their parents’ generation, bringing damage to their family relationship.
At the HIV Testing and Consulting Room, jointly established by Blued and Beijing Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, Blued’s staff Yueyue is providing HIV testing service for a visitor. “If only one red line appears then it means HIV negative, that he’s not infected by HIV. HIV positives can still live a full life like other people do if they take their medicine regularly. But they need to go to a testing center and get treatment before the complication starts. We advice those who are in a relationship to do a testing once every three months,” Yueyue explained, saying that they have tested over 7000 people in this room. “It’s like a visible burden was lifted from the shoulders of those who got a negative result. But people who were tested positive, they had black clouds all over their face, especially those students that are just twenty something. Many HIV positives don’t really know how to deal with the situation. So we are here to provide support and we contact the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention for them to get further treatment.”
“One night stand doesn’t equal HIV”, “HIV only means you have a health problem”, “Face HIV with a positive mind, embrace life”, “I came out of the closet today, thank you dad and mom”, “get an HIV test as soon as possible, and get treatment”……these are the comments written on stickers by some of Blued’s users.
Xiaoji joined Blued in 2015, responsible for volunteer management, HIV testing, and providing support for HIV positive group etc. Xiaoji was a wild animal trainer before, and was tested positive in early 2013. “My mind just went blank. No one was there to tell me what’s next. The hospital said they didn’t have the condition for HIV disinfection and couldn’t give me treatment. They just asked me to check out of the hospital. I lost my job too. I was desperate at that time. I wanted to die,” he said.
Ma is a straight guy, one of the very few at Blued. “I didn’t want to join Blued at first because I learned it’s a gay company. But Geng Le moved me,” he said. In the beginning, Ma would ask his colleagues’ sexuality by asking “are you normal?”. But after a while he realized the connotation in it and changed it to “are you straight or gay?”.
Mrs. He has been a janitor at Blued for three years. “I knew little about Blued when I just started to work here. It’s actually my son who explained what the company was for to me. I am not a city folk, so i was new to these things. Some boys here told me they liked boys, I didn’t think it’s normal,” she said. “A long time ago when a guy asked me what I would do if I found out my son is gay, I just joked to him I would beat the hell out of him. I have been working at Blued for a long time. People here are very nice.”
“Every time we talk to the media it’s also a process of coming out,” Blued’s PR director, Dakui, said. “If we were to say gay people in China a decade ago were living in the dark, then now we need to learn how to live out and open in the broad daylight, which are two completely different situations.” As a matter of fact, China is a pretty different place for the gay community compared with the west. Many western countries were once harsh and extreme against the gay community, in the aspects of culture, law, and religion. But in China, the gay community had always been in the gray area. People just tried to ignore it. Today western countries are the progressive leader in this realm, while China needs to change the social mindset through cultural and moral development.
On the Pink Economy Startup Competition, hosted by Blued, an entrepreneur working on a startup for LGBT is doing a roadshow. According to statistics, there are 70 million LGBT people in China. And since LGBT people are free from the worries of buying a house and build a family etc., they in fact have higher consuming power. LGBT people are known for their high living standard. At present, the scale of the top three LGBT markets are Europe($870 billion), the U.S($750 billion), and China($300 billion).
Blued’s CEO Geng Le(left) is doing an interview at his office. In 2000, Geng Le founded the first website, Danlan, for gay people in his bedroom. He was still a policeman back then, who hid his sexuality from his families and colleagues. “I once thought I was the only gay guy in the world,” he recalled.
There are bottles filled with sea water and sands from Geng Le’s hometown Qinhuangdao sitting by the window of the office. Through out these years, Geng Le has been portrayed and labeled as “the person who drives social change”, “the entrepreneur who met with premier Li Keqiang”, “social contributor” etc. “Besides all those so called glamourous and heroic sides, we also have all those feelings that other people have. We have our emotional and material desire. We are different yet the same. And we also suffer in our entrepreneurial journey as other companies do. I want to just get rid of all the labels and break the chains on me, and just be me. I don’t want to give too much thought about all the comments out there anymore. We will take the good advice, and make improvements,” Geng said. “The social environment for gay people will definitely be a lot better in ten years, we believe that. What we are trying to do now is further change the public’s perception on the LGBT community. In ten years people will talk more about the definition of love, diversity, acceptance and equality. That will be the new society we should be up for.”
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Zhu Lingyu, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.