Creative misreading of Japanese gay media: Chinese men’s aspirations for “Asian” gay identity

Special issue of Badi magazine focusing on Chinese gay culture

On the 25-26th June, I will be presenting at Pride of Place: Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras at the University of Sydney. A mixed activist and academic event, the conference primarily focuses on “themes of intergenerational lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer experience, and celebrate the evolving purpose, identity and influence of Mardi Gras within the LGBTIQ community.”

Forming part of a panel entitled “Activism and transnational intersections in Asian LGBTIQ+ cultures and communities,” I will be presenting a paper on “Creative misreading of Japanese gay media: Chinese men’s aspirations for ‘Asian’ gay identity.” I will be joined on the panel by Professor Emiritus Peter A. Jackson (ANU), Dr Shawna Tang (USyd), and Hendri Yulius (USyd).

Here is the abstract for my presentation, which will be held at 12pm on June 25th:

“This presentation investigates how Chinese gay men who regularly travel between Mainland China and Japan read Japanese gay media ‒ including “boys love” (BL) manga comics and Japanese-produced gay pornographic films ‒ in ways that challenge dominant or “canonical” readings within the Japanese cultural context. Through these practices of what I term “creative misreading,” my informants develop aspirational understandings of Japanese gay media which challenge heteronormative systems of knowledge that structure understandings of sexuality within Mainland China. Central to this process, I argue, are the symbolic construction of Japan as a “gay utopia” that provides support to my Chinese informants and the informants’ investment in the notion of Japanese gay media as representative of broader “Asian” gay identity categories. These aspirational reading practices represent, however, another form of misreading which elides both the fundamental heteronormativity of Japanese society and the xenophobic, anti-Chinese nature of much Japanese gay cultural production. In exploring how Chinese gay men creatively misread Japanese gay media, this presentation seeks to further explore the tensions between the notions of the discreet Chinese, Japanese, and “Asian” gay identity categories that have emerged throughout recent scholarship within the growing field of queer Asian studies.”

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