Bathed in a pink spotlight, the cabaret singer at Phuket’s ZAG bar lip-syncs the top notes of a popular Mandarin love song, delighting the crowd of gay Chinese tourists who have escaped judgment at home for sexual freedom in Thailand.
Yet in China being openly gay is still fraught with difficulties.Dressing a certain way or public displays of affection can draw stares and lead to family turmoil. Some Chinese parents have even brought gay children to “conversion” clinics for treatment.
Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in China until 2001 and a crime until 1997, and authorities have arrested gay rights activists.That makes Thailand, renowned for its more permissive attitude towards sexuality, an alluring holiday option for gay Chinese looking to cut loose away from family pressures and censorious eyes.
“Chinese tourists are great customers. They’re polite and curious about Thailand,” said a waiter at the nearby MO2 club. Chinese travel companies are also crowding in to tap the market. Nearly a dozen agents offer trips to Thailand for gay tourists, with ads showing travelers partying on yachts decorated with rainbow streamers and balloons. The relaxed atmosphere offers a rush of liberation for those who make the trip.” I have a lot of friends who don’t feel safe in China and feel they need to hide.
In Thailand they don’t have to worry,” said Ji Chengfeng, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Beijing, who was visiting Phuket on one of his frequent holidays in the kingdom. Pink tourist dollars. China sends more tourists to Thailand than any other country, with cheap air links and no visa requirements funneling visitors to the kingdom.
Many are not parents and therefore have a greater disposable income, plus are better able to travel outside peak holiday periods.In recent years, on the heels of gay marriage court rulings, tourist boards in the more permissive corners of the world are promoting their countries as same-sex wedding and honeymoon destinations.
While same-sex marriage is not officially recognized under Thai law, it is a widely accepted practice and Buddhist monks often preside over such ceremonies. But it remains strictly illegal in China, where a court last year ruled against two men seeking to marry. Several Thai entertainers, tour guides and service staff, told AFP they were studying Mandarin to improve communication with Chinese visitors. Source: Nation