What It's Like to Be a Lesbian in Shanghai

Lalas find increasing, but still limited, acceptance
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2010 11:39 AM CDT
A Chinese lesbian stands next to the banner with supporters' signatures for same sex-marriage from across China on display in Beijing Sunday, March 23, 2008.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(Newser) – When Meredith and Celine stroll through Shanghai hand-in-hand, most people can't tell they're lesbians—straight Chinese women also hold hands when they walk. The couple say members of Shanghai's burgeoning lesbian community can spot them as lesbians—lalas as they're locally known—but they're still a long way from being able to come out in their families or workplaces.

In Shanghai lala culture, most couples identify as a T (tomboy) and a P (wife), categories roughly equivalent to butch and femme, Many Ps don't define themselves as gay, and Ts tend to dote on and cater to Ps: Meredith (the T) always picks Celine up, though she lives far from downtown. While acceptance of homosexuality in China is rapidly advancing among the younger generation, few Ts or Ps feel they can come out to their parents. “I think my parents would eventually be happy for me, but I don’t want them to take pressure from the rest of society,” Celine tells CNNGo.

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