Aspirational Readings of BL amongst Chinese gay men

baozi n hana 7 days
Chinese gay cosplayers Baozi and Hana as the protagonists of the BL Manga “Seven Days” (by Tachibana Venio & Takarai Rihito)

Over the summer (or winter here in Australia!), I will be presenting a paper entitled Aspirational Readings of Boys Love: BL as a “resource of hope” for temporary Chinese gay migrants in Japan at both the Association for Asian Studies in Asia Annual Conference in Seoul , Korea and a conference entitled Queer Transfigurations: Boys Love Media in Asia in Kanagawa, Japan. Specific dates for both of these events can be found by following the above links.

Here is the abstract:

This presentation investigates how consuming Boys Love (BL) influences Chinese gay men’s decisions to travel to Japan in search of romance, becoming a “resource of hope” that allows them to cope with discrimination within both China and Japan. The Chinese gay men’s “aspirational reading” of Japanese BL texts is situated in opposition to their consumption of “Western” queer media, informing their understandings of themselves as explicitly “Asian” queer individuals. In particular, rather than discourses situated within “Western” LGBT identity politics, it is BL-specific understandings of same-sex desire that the informants deploy to make sense of their identities as gay men. Within the Chinese informants’ self-narratives, BL has thus come to represent an emancipatory trope which allows them to challenge the heteronormative understandings of sexuality which structure contemporary Chinese society. Important to this aspirational reading is the informants’ belief that Japan is more progressive towards homosexuality than China, with their reading of BL directly influencing their decisions to visit Japan in search of romance. However, upon visiting Japan and facing discrimination within queer spaces due to their Chinese nationality, the informants’ aspirational reading of BL takes on a new meaning, coming to represent a “resource of hope” which provides them with the tools to navigate their disillusionment with the Japanese gay male sub-culture. In discussing how BL is drawn upon as a “resource of hope” by Chinese gay men, I conclude by reflecting on how the transnational character of BL fandom represents an internationalization of one emancipatory Japanese discourse of queerness.

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