On Sunday the Beijing LGBT Center (Beijing Tongzhi Zhongxin 北京同志中心) opened a Douyin account, the Chinese version of TikTok. Their goal? To spread honest queer narratives and dispel stereotypes.
Formed in 2008, the Center focuses on advancing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights in China. Right now the account is focusing on simple videos that tackle misconceptions: one video looks at the myth that all gay men are good looking, while another focuses on legitimizing bisexuality.
In an interview with the Global Times, Center director Xin Ying stated the hope that their Douyin will expand its content offerings as its grows. “We may also have more interesting content including mini-plays in the future, which will possibly attract more Douyin users,” she said.
The creation of the LGBT Center’s Douyin account hopefully marks a shifting attitude towards LGBTQ+ content in China — though observers shouldn’t feel overly optimistic just yet. Only two years ago, users were alleging that TikTok and Douyin were censoring pro-LGBTQ+ content on their servers. Microblogging platform Weibo was targeting and removing LGBTQ+ content as recently as 2018.
Such crackdowns have been circumnavigated to some extent by using overseas platforms (such as AO3 before it was blocked) and through suggestive rather than explicit references. One of the biggest shows of 2019, The Untamed was based on a hugely popular BL (“Boy’s Love”) web novel. During the Lunar New Year, Alibaba’s Tmall had an ad with a gay couple in it.
The rise in content is not blanket-positive however. As Xin Ying points out, the rise in BL content has lead to misconceptions about the LGBTQ+ community. In a post on their WeChat account, the Center points out the need to separate the fictional BL portrayal of gay relationships, made for primarily young female viewers with a focus on handsome main characters and specific relationship dynamics, from the actual gay community.
The Beijing LGBT Center’s Douyin is an attempt to counteract some of these stereotypes by reaching audiences on the wildly popular platform. The hope is that they will be able to portray real-life stories from China’s diverse LGBTQ+ community.
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