Be welcome

Since the days of Marco Polo and the Silk Road, China has beckoned with its centuries of culture, exquisite artistic heritage, delicate cuisine, landscapes ranging from arid deserts to tropical islands and the Great Wall of China, so impressive that it can be seen from Outer Space.

Today the People's Republic of China, the most populous country on earth with possibly the world's largest LGTBQ population, is an economic powerhouse and market mover. It is #1 in the world for Internet users although the network is highly regulated and outside providers often barred. It is #1 in mall construction, getting more upscale all the time. The rubber-stamp Mao look, which inspired some of Warhol's greatest art, has been replaced by a unique Chinese chic as can be seen all over the world as the Chinese have overtaken the U.S. and Germany tourists in traveling abroad and given new meaning to the term "Overseas Chinese."

Overall, China is a sexually conservative society, but the LGBTQ community has made some strides since 1997 when homosexuality was decriminalized (and the more liberal Hong Kong and Macau were returned to China as special administrative regions with their own regulations). Pressures from parents to carry on the family name when the nation practiced the just-ended one-child policy forced many LGBTQ people to marry only to procreate. A practice called Xinghun, "fake" marriages contracted between lesbians and gays to satisfy family expectations has flourished. Chinese websites and apps have been created to help in the matchmaking with one, ChinaGayLes.com, having over 380,000 users.

Unlike in Hong Kong and Macau, the LGBTQ community is mostly underground on the mainland although you can find a few gay bars in every major city. The country's first gay sitcom, available only on the Internet, was launched in 2014 with more than 3 million viewers (LGBTQ and straight) in the first season. The gay market has yet to be tapped in China although estimates put the population somewhere between 17 million and 30 million.

For now, many mainlanders travel to Hong Kong where an annual Gay Pride and other organized activities take place and where they can be openly gay.