Never before have we seen as much LGBT art and activism coming out of repressive Asian countries like China, Singapore, and Taiwan. Transgress Press recently published Lei Ming’s Life Beyond My Body, the first book written by a transgender man in China. After a neglected childhood in a rural Chinese village, Ming left home at 16 to find answers to who he is in a culture that still doesn’t speak of men like him. Ming, who is in the U.S. for a spring book tour of the West Coast, tells of using black market testosterone and being jailed over his identity — but most of all, of finding his place in the world.
Meanwhile, in May, New York Review Book Classics releases Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile, with a new English translation by Bonnie Huie. Hugely popular among college-educated lesbian and bisexual women in Taiwan and mainland China (though she was never published there), 26-year-old Miaojin stabbed herself in the heart with an ice pick (or knife) in 1995. Her pre-suicide depression never tampered her brilliance, though, and just after her death she was given one of Taiwan’s most prestigious literary prizes for the book. Interest in Miaojin, who is credited with birthing the LGBT movement in Taiwan, crosses national boundaries. A Hong Kong filmmaker recently released a Chinese-language documentary on Miaojin as well.
In Singapore, a group that promotes HIV education, Action for AIDS, developed the country’s first web series about gay and bi men, People Like Us, which director Leon Cheo filmed in real gay clubs, bars, and bathhouses. “Sex between men in Singapore is still illegal and kept in the books to appease conservatives,” says Cheo, “but not actively enforced.” The series is now available on demand in the U.S. on Here TV network (parent company of The Advocate) and Here TV premium channels on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and more. Seek McCartney, China’s first commercial gay movie, was approved by the country’s movie regulators and will appear in theaters in late 2017. Director Wang Chao’s film follows the relationship between two gay men — one Chinese and one French — traveling through Tibet.