"I wanna take you to a gay bar"

Well, it's April 12th and after the freezing Arctic forces began to wane this week, spring has officially arrived. It came, it saw, it spontaneously combusted... because today it is snowing again. Hard.

Oh well, it didn't impede my plans of loafing around the apartment all day, recovering from a night out drinking. It was my friend's last hurrah before leaving to start a new life in a new city. Naturally, she wanted to celebrate by going to the always-interesting gay bar another teacher and I stumbled upon a little while back. How, you ask? By hailing a cab and asking to be taken to one. Cab drivers are the closest to omniscience among the people here, for better or worse.

It would be our third time visiting what I'd call a hole-in-the-wall if it weren't for the fact that most restaurants and bars in Harbin would match the description."Gay bar" isn't even the term I'd use, but the Chinese aren't going to be empathetic to any other words relating to the subtleties of the spectrum, nor would I be able to communicate them in any capacity in Chinese. Come to think of it, my English probably isn't adequate, either. That Wikipedia page reads like the kind of acronym soup you'd see on a programmer's CV, and unfortunately I doubt it will make any more casual readers (read: "vanilla") sympathetic to the groups adopting the nomenclature, especially since it confusingly mixes both sexual preference and gender identity together.

Away from the abstract and back to the physical nature of this bar, then: it might not be a gay bar because nobody is advertising their sexual preferences. The first time, there was a big group of drunken men sitting close with arms on one another and close whispers, but hey, the place is loud and that's how most men are here. Men will walk around outside holding hands or leaning on one another like girls would. And why not? Why shouldn't we unashamedly express our closeness to the people we care for? Why must Americans (for example) instead pretend that touch is naughty? We all need it. As humans, it's hard-wired into our bodies.

I think it's a Puritan spectre that continues to haunt us, mainly because our society keeps deliberately telling us ghost stories that our hyperactive imagination takes too far. We tell children not to even talk to people they don't know - stranger danger! Well, I don't know about your kids, but I'm a third of the way through my life and I still don't know most of those other folks out there. That puts them in a shitty position to get help when needed if they're not allowed to ask the people right in front of them! Oh, but they're probably child rapists and murderers, I forgot. Ones that spend all day cruising the mall, ogling kids, just waiting for them to get lost, hoping they come over to ask for help, all so they can nefariously guide them... straight into the rapemobile. What a silly worry. Yet, we still drill into children: "Don't talk to strangers!" No wonder there's social anxiety on such a grand scale these days.

These statistics should dispell the stranger myth:
"Most children are abused by someone they know and trust, although boys are more likely than girls to be abused outside of the family.2,5 A study in three states found 96 percent of reported rape survivors under age 12 knew the attacker. Four percent of the offenders were strangers, 20 percent were fathers 16 percent were relatives and 50 percent were acquaintances or friends.24"

Thus, revising "Don't talk to strangers!" to "Don't talk to Dad!" would be five times as effective in preventing child molestation. By the way, the majority of unapologetic child rapists I know of work in churches yet are ironcially the ones pushing the Puritanical bullshit that is suffocating our society's ability to healthily express affection.

It's this Puritan-warped worldview that interprets two female friends walking down the street holding hands to be a lascivious lesbian sin-fest. God forbid those deviants be allowed near a school to fag up our kids! It's therefore a breath of fresh air over here to see men, women, and children of all ages hugging, hanging off one another, and holding arms and hands without fear of derision.

So I can't tell you if the patrons of this "gay bar" were actually gay. Here's what I do know: there was a stage, and  performers dressed in exotic fashions would step up and sing a few numbers each. All of them dressed in what one would consider female clothing, and all had uniquely feminine features such as breasts. Some, however, had the amazing ability to sing both parts of a duet: the woman's and the man's. And the presenter himself made comment that many of those onstage had undergone surgery - illustrated with a chopping motion across his pelvis. So now you have all of the information that we did. Regardless of which sex they preferred to be identified as, which parts they were (currently) equipped with, and who they preferred to love, they all shared one inspiring trait: they were amazing singers and dancers, unafraid of breaking out of the mold they were born into, especially in a society that largely wouldn't understand their explanation if they offered one.

Good for them!


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