LGBT in China: Yuze Ma’s daily tightrope walk

World mirror

Status: 11/28/2021 12:07 p.m.

Yuze Ma is a student and performs as a drag queen in Shanghai at night. Neither parents nor fellow students are allowed to know this – and LGBT groups in China are also left with less and less freedom on the Internet.

By Daniel Satra, ARD-Studio Beijing

The last time it happened at the beginning of November: “We deeply regret to have to inform everyone that Queer Advocacy Online will suspend all of its work for an indefinite period of time,” it said in a previous post. The Chinese social media presence of “LGBT Rights Advocacy China” has been offline since then. The members of the advocacy group for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Chinese did not want to comment on this, the AP news agency reported.

Daniel Satra
ARD-Studio Peking

It is another case of many that show how the pressure from the authorities is growing: Last year, “Shanghai Pride” ended an annual event with parties, exhibitions and sporting events after eleven years. Here too, without any official justification.

Sidelined: LGBT people in China under pressure

Daniel Satra, ARD Beijing, 26.11.2021 · 2:31 p.m.

Every difference in the sights of the authorities

This summer, WeChat – the Chinese counterpart to WhatsApp and Facebook – took several pages offline that were run by students or non-profit groups on LGBT topics. “This is part of the regular censorship, because the authorities in China rate LGBT as ‘harmful content’, much like porn sites that are also banned,” explains Li Maizi. She describes herself as a feminism and LGBT activist and is one of the few in China who is openly committed to the interests of sexual minorities.

“Also, our authorities fear all people who band together. So if LGBT student groups at universities gain influence, it will be seen as a potential threat,” says Li Maizi. Every deviation and every otherness is immediately targeted by the authorities.

Only 15 percent dare to come out

It wasn’t until 2001 that homosexuality was removed from an official list of mental disorders. However, the majority of people from the LGBT community keep their sexual orientation a secret. In a nationwide study by the United Nations together with Peking University in 2016 it says: “Only about 15 percent have the courage to come out in their families.” In school or at work it is only five percent. “More than half of people belonging to a sexual minority say they have been treated unfairly or discriminated against,” the study said.

Drag Queens bei “Voguing Shanghai”.

Build: Daniel Satra, ARD Peking

Yuze Ma experiences every day as a tightrope walk. The 21-year-old student has had a friend for two years who works as a teacher and keeps the school secret that he is gay for fear of losing his job. Yuze Ma himself shares a dorm room with five other students, so nothing can be kept secret. His fellow students know, treat him amicably and call him “Sister Ma”. But no one else should learn anything at the university.

The student says nothing to his father either, only his mother knows. But he can’t talk to her really openly either, he just keeps on hinting. In addition, Yuze Ma explains that his mother is constantly afraid for him: “Parents are worried that society will hurt you and not recognize you. My mother also knows how difficult it is for us to live in the midst of such a society.”

“If you love me, come here, everyone else: stay away!”

That Yuze Ma is aiming for a career as a drag queen is his secret. He always pays attention to what he posts on social media. Photos of a drag queen event in full disguise as a dazzling diva in underwear are out of the question. Even if he feels transformed during these performances: “As if I were one or two meters taller. I then feel strong and unstoppable, with an aura like a queen! Full of confidence. Whoever loves me, come here, everyone else: Stay away! “, Says Yuze Ma, as he is putting on make-up for the evening performance and gluing on artificial eyelashes.

In the evening the student is on the catwalk at “Voguing Shanghai”. A colorful competition where the LGBT scene meets every six months, has fun and celebrates. Posters, speeches or other statements that demand equality for LGBT people in China cannot be found at this event. That would be too sensitive, because any form of political expression would quickly call the authorities to the scene. Then this event would have no future either.

Yuze Ma wants to go his own way. Without offending, but also without denying his sexual orientation. A difficult balancing act in China – every day anew.

You can see these and other reports on November 28th, 2021 in “Weltspiegel”, from 7:20 pm on Das Erste.

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