Comrades, Almost a Love Story: The economics of finding a queer space for tongzhi.
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Our research question was how do men who have sex with men (MSM) in mainland China create identity and culture? The assumption of our proposal was that the development of queer spaces would lead to an improvement in the lives of Chinese MSM, and eventually to changing societal attitudes. "Queer space" can be defined as an aspect of a culture in which a subgroup of people who are marginalized for expressing non-normative gender or sexuality can participate in the creation of an identity and culture which are different from the mainstream. These are not merely physical spaces, but can include cultural artifacts such as websites, publications, films, social networks, et cetera. After the research period, our conclusion was that the degree to which Chinese MSM can participate in "queer spaces" is often dependent upon economic factors. Though the experience of same-sex attraction, or any other experience which counters mainstream gender norms, is not limited by class, many of the ways in which Chinese MSM can connect in a safe and positive way?for love, or for a sense belonging?most certainly are. This imbalance is exacerbated by the tight grip which the state maintains on political expression. My IR background gave me an economic perspective, and my interest in gender and sexuality studies gave me my Queer Theory perspective. Both of these perspectives deal with the question of Western influence.