Given what a struggle it is to find an ‘out’ lesbian community in any part of the world, we really hit the jackpot in Shanghai when we met the ladies of Shanghai Nvai, Shanghai’s only lesbian group for local Chinese. Shanghai Nvai brings together sophisticated, engaging, and progressive women for salon discussions and social events.
The founder of Shanghai Nvai is Supergay Xiangqi (Shiang-chi), a soft-spoken woman with an unstoppable voice. Xiangqi wants her group to not only provide a community for lesbians, but to further share the lesbian culture with society at large. Xiangqi invited Lisa and I to come talk about our Out & Around journey at their meeting, and our discussion with this educated and inquisitive group was definitely one of the highlights of this year’s trip.
We also had a chance to sit down with Xiangqi for an interview at her new apartment, which she shares with her girlfriend and their dog. Due to Shanghai’s rapid growth, the city is demolishing old buildings to make room for new ones, and Shanghai Nvai’s orginal meeting space was one of the victims. With its large living area, Xiangqi plans to use their apartment as the group’s new space.
We talk to Xiangqi about her work with Shanghai Nvai and lesbian life in China….
Jenni: How did your group Shanghai Nvai come about?
Xiangqi: In 2001, I started a lesbian website. At the time in China, there were very few gay or lesbian websites. I ran this site for 6 years and met a lot of friends. Through the site, people were able to meet each other and talk about lesbian issues. The internet was such a critical platform for us during that time.
In 2005, I moved to Shanghai. That same year, a lesbian community group started up in Beijing. I felt Shanghai needed one as well, so I started Shanghai Nvai as a grassroots organization. In Shanghai, we are the only local lesbian community group, though there are quite a few community groups for gay men. Our ongoing activities include speakers and salon discussions with the public. And right now, we’re recording the oral history of lesbians in Shanghai. We record what their lives were like, what issues they faced, and how they overcame them.
What motivates you to do this work?
When I first started the website, I never thought that I would become a lesbian community organizer. I recall that some of my internet friends wanted to