I never got involved in the LGBT centre back home. For a long time I was working weeknights, which was when they generally had meetings. And if I’m honest I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d be immersed in such an environment. Even now I’m not 100% comfortable with my orientation, but I’m more comfortable than uncomfortable at least.
Anyway, in Beijing I have been attending a few events that are sponsored or organised by the LGBT centre here. First was a comic book event that showcased the works of two very unique artists who showed heavy sexualised and gender focussed narratives. Unfortunately I went to this event with a girl who wasn’t exactly open to the nature of the event. We haven’t spoken since. Next I went to a literary festival event where Benjamin Law spoke about his newest book, Gaysia.
I’m still yet to set foot inside the centre though. Partially because I don’t know where it is, or their opening times, and partially because I still feel hesitant in crossing that boundary as it’s something I didn’t do at home.
The weekend just passed contained the most recent event I have attended in support of the Beijing LGBT centre. I happened to learn about it from speaking with the centre manager, James, at the literary Gaysia talk. I asked for my email to be added to the centre’s list, and he said it was good timing of me to ask as their next event was going to be a bar crawl around the centre of Beijing. The date coincided with my birthday, and with Lisa’s farewell from China, so the timing of the event could not have been more perfect.
The following week I received an email with ‘3rd Annual Gaymayzing Poker Race’ in the headlines. It detailed below the nature of the event, a race between six bars in three hours, all on foot, with teams answering gay inspired trivia or completing dares for tokens to enter into the final poker game at the finish line while drinking a beer provided by Great Leap Brewery.
I rallied up the troops (sent a message out to some friends I thought would be interested). A resounding YES echoed back from Kristy, Lisa, Helen, and Sarah (we bent the rules slightly and had a team of five, but James was completely fine with this). We entered our team name as ‘Gay, Woah!’ a linguistic play on the Chinese words gei wo (it means ‘give me’). At 2pm the race commenced, our plan was to run to the furthest bar and make our way back. We legitimately ran most of the way there (causing a lot of mayhem between the severely congested main hutong street) and made it to Mas bar in about 18 minutes, surprising the two volunteers there who were busy making a Skype call on their supposed free time. We egged on the other teams coming up behind us, and in doing so made really good fren-emies with a gay couple (one is a Jack Jones store designer, the other designs women’s shoes for H&M). Over the day our main race was against this team, who proved to be gold value for laughs and conversations.
Poor Helen had to knock back a bottle of Yanjing beer (river water in both flavour and percentage) for us to receive our first token, already a fine start for us, before we made quick pace to the next bar. This is where my memory is a bit fuzzy. I remember we correctly answered three trivia questions, and performed one more dare (ice down our pants, refreshingly weird feeling indeed), before high-tailing it back to the original location. We came back in the top ten, and just under five minutes from the first team back, not a bad effort for five foreign girls who ended up a wee bit more inebriated than they imagined.
We all concurred it was the best afternoon we’d ever had in China. We got to explore the older part of Beijing, and discover new hot-spot bars we can go back to. We also made a bunch of new friends, some I hope to see at an upcoming block party (which I hope to write about as I’ve never been to one before). It’s a weekend like this that reminds me what I enjoy about Beijing, and why I want to stay here a lot longer.