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Chinese Lesbian Dating App Disappears


Rela, a popular app for queer women, shut down amid political shifts in Asia.


A dating app for queer women in China has shut down.

Rela is no longer available to download on app stores, the BBC reports. The disappearance follows a week of suspended services, which Rela initially attributed to an "important adjustment in service."

"Rela has always been with you and please await its return!" Rela informed its users, which numbered around 5 million, on WeChat.

The move sparked a trending of the hashtags #rela and #relahasbeenblocked on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Founded in 2012, Rela was formerly called The L. In 2015, Tech in Asiadescribed the app as a "portal for movies, literature, and other resources, ranging from event information for lectures on LGBTQ topics to contact details for overseas marriage services."

Prior to the shutdown, Rela had helped organization a demonstration May 20, which sent parents of LGBT children to a "marriage market" in Shanghai -- a weekly event where parents try to find partners for unmarried children. They were met with resistance. Police asked the demonstrators, who were passing out educational pamphlets, to leave, claiming they failed to register an "advertising" event.

Rela's disappearance comes at a time of major change in LGBT rights for the region. Last week, Taiwan made history by becoming the first Asian country to recognize same-sex marriage. However, nine gay activists were recently detained in Xian, China, for attempting to organize a conference, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Though gay sex was decriminalized in 1997, LGBT people have no protections under the law in China. Same-sex marriage is not legal, and only 39 percent of the country's population believes it should be, according to a recent survey by WorkForLGBT. In 2016, China banned depictions of same-sex couples on television, which demonstrates how LGBT visibility is culturally frowned upon.

China's business world has been quicker to invest in the LGBT community. A Beijing company, Kunlun Tech, purchased the remaining shares of Grindr last week, after acquiring 62 percent of the gay hookup app last year.

Grindr's chief competitor in China is Blued, a smartphone program and company founded by Chinese CEO Gene Le. Blued alone has at least 27 million users, a testament to China's enormous population as well as a culture that makes cruising from a smartphone an appealing option.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.