Mainland China’s queer culture has seen interesting developments since the early 2000s. Between 2000 and 2010, a group of Chinese pop-stars embodying ‘T’ – an abbreviation and collective metaphor for ‘tomboy’ that generally refers to female masculinity and potential lesbianism in Chinese queer culture – emerged in Chinese pop culture. This introduced a new kind of queer sensibility composed of androgynous aesthetics and ambiguous desire to the Chinese national imagination. However, the queer masculinity that T expressed has been problematized. T was either pathologically trivialised as ‘gender inverted’by pathological discourse in academia or criticized as a sloppy imitation of heteronormative masculinity by the appropriation of parts of western discursive queer knowledge and feminist theories seen in the Chinese lesbian community.
These conflicts reminded a necessity to scrutinize the ambivalent interplay between unconventional gender expressions and homosexuality that have not yet been evaluated by previous queer studies in China. This paper aims to critically examine the existing scholarship of lesbian studies in China and propose an alternative theoretical lens to theorise and contextualise the experience and embodiment of T. In contrary to the studies that characterise T as merely a label for gendered personalities, which assumes a stale lesbian/female identity, the main argumentation of this paper is T should be considered as a cultural resistance to challenge the institutionalised gender and sexuality paradigm and to undermine compulsory heterosexuality.
Xiaoqi Sun, Lancaster University, United Kingdom
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