Following the growing cultural visibility of sexual minorities, there has been a proliferation of research on LGBT lives, particularly those related to their identity, marriage, family and activism. However, limited research about their intimate/sexual lives beyond a public health perspective has been conducted. Based on the analysis of 127 life stories of LGBT people from elite, middle- and working-class backgrounds, this talk examines their expectations and practices of intimacy. By engaging in same sex relationships, sexual minorities could be considered as directly challenging a core pillar of heteronormativity – the assumption that heterosexuality is the only normal expression of sexuality. Yet gender expectations and practices in some LGBT intimate relationships may reproduce heteronormativity. At the same time, some intimate relationships have become a key site of reflexivity, providing spaces for decoupling the naturalized links between gender and sexuality. It is this internal diversity that calls upon an intersectional analysis that will help illustrate the factors and contexts that in some instances produce conformity while in others bring about changes in intimate lives in post-reform China.
Susanne Choi Yuk Ping is Professor at the Department of Sociology and the Co-Director of the Gender Research Centre at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.