TIBET: The Undercover Life of a Proud Gay Man in Tibet

Posted on: May 8th, 2013 by admin No Comments

Below is an excerpt from our report on Tibet, published in Gay Star News March 31,2013.  Click here to see the full article.

“Finding gay Tibetans turned out to be as we expected – quite difficult.

We are on our international quest to find LGBT communities around the world, and we realized the Tibet Autonomous Region would be an especially challenging – and therefore intriguing – destination. It was a place we knew so little about and whose LGBT voice seemed so markedly absent from the world discourse.

We had read about the first public gay wedding this past October in China’s Fujian province, and we had heard that Shanghai even boasts a relatively vibrant gay scene. But what about Tibet?

Having some sense of the situation there, but admittedly naive about it all, my partner and I set off on our own adventure over newly-paved roads, past prayer flags and monasteries, to the enchanting and controversial city of Lhasa.

Before arriving we had read about a couple of different gay bars there called Blue Sky and Jane’s Cafe, so we were sad to learn they’d closed in recent years. One of the better (and I thought more fun) ideas to try and find LGBT Tibetans, was to sign up for a Grindr account. We included our goofy self-portrait among the catalogue of chiseled chests, saying, ‘Lesbian travelers looking for friends’. After seeing that the nearest person on Grindr was over 700 miles away, we began to fear defeat.

With a final effort we realized that all was not lost. We found a website serving the LGBT community in Asia and checked out its ‘Travelers Board’. Of the two – dated – messages, one was a short sentence which read something about ‘looking for friends’, and it had an email address. Assuming this was intended for hookups, but feeling desperate, we decided to write this mysterious individual anyway and see if he was open to meeting.

Twelve hours later there was a response – he was up for it. After so many failed attempts and dead ends, here was Jetsan*, nonchalantly on the other end saying, ‘Sure’. It seemed too good to be true.

That’s when the worry seeped in – oh my god, who is this guy? Is he a Chinese spy? A serial killer? Why was he being so trusting to people he doesn’t even know? Especially in a place like Tibet, where justified paranoia seems to be a way of life. Choosing to meet in a public space and without giving away too many details about ourselves, we made plans to meet up with Jetsan the next day in a cafe on the outskirts of Lhasa.

Shy, friendly, smart, Jetsan was not a spy or a serial killer. We soon learned he was a sweet and trusting guy whose heart and curiosity about the world was bigger than the hard times the Tibetans are facing.  Over the course of the next hour shared laughter took turns with sad pauses as Jetsan shared with us his story…”

(Read the full article published in Gay Star News by clicking here.)

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