It’s fair to say that the LGBTQ experience has sometimes been more difficult for Asian individuals compared to their counterparts in the USA and Europe. One reason for this is discrimination by conservative governments. In certain countries, such as Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, homosexual activity is outlawed, with the threat of severe punishments. But other nations, including Taiwan, fully protect LGBTQ rights. The good news for LGBTQ couples in Asia is that technology is coming to their aid!
Dating peculiarities in Asia
Unlike, say, the USA or the UK, where LGBTQ singles are used to hanging around in a variety of outlets when seeking prospective partners, Asians have traditionally learned to look over their shoulder. Certain cultures, particularly China, have a long history of arranging relationships. This led to non-cis individuals having to keep their true feelings under wraps, or leading ‘double-lives,’ where they were forced to accept their elders’ judgments but secretly craved clandestine meetings as they tried to follow their hearts.
Seeking online solutions
Again taking China as an example, while arranged marriages were once widespread, that situation is evolving all the time. Larger cities like Shanghai and Beijing have vibrant youth cultures, with people keen to embrace Western music and fashions. Instead of relying on family members or religious figures to vet their choice of partner, they’re gravitating to sites catering to Asian lesbians, gays, or gender-fluid individuals. People identifying as non-cis might once have struggled to find offline venues where they’d feel comfortable interacting with others. Now they can check out the increasing range of dating sites dedicated to the LGBTQ community. Tech has made the dating game so much more straightforward – elderly relatives are no longer the first choice for suggesting ideal candidates for romance. Algorithms can provide shortlists of single lesbians who appear to be compatible!
Reasons to be optimistic
Because the Internet relies on connectivity, and countries across the Pacific Rim rely on international commerce, insularity isn’t an option for even the more reactionary regimes. Take the example of China. They may be lagging behind the West in terms of Internet penetration, with statistics revealing only 58.4% of Chinese use websites, as opposed to Japan (94.5%) and South Korea (96.3%), but that still amounts to a population of over 700 million users. As with the global pattern, the LGBTQ community here is particularly enthusiastic about harnessing digital solutions.
Many Southeast Asian countries, but especially Japan, are a hotbed of what has been termed ‘otaku’ culture. This refers to anime, manga, computer games, and in Korea and Japan, respectively, K-Pop and J-Pop. This scene is strongly focused on inclusivity, with many anime titles dealing with LGBTQ themes and K-Pop stars coming out as gay. So if you’re an Asian lesbian, there are many outlets where you’ll be made to feel more than welcome. As well as tapping into social media, singles can go online to plan holidays in the Middle East or any of the many other exotic destinations Asia has to offer. The only cautionary note is to pay close attention to the rules affecting those identifying as LGBTQ in separate nations, as this does vary.
We’ve illustrated how technological innovations have provided hope for millions of LGBTQ individuals, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Despite many negative experiences over the years, social media and dating apps are providing Asian gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals with an invaluable outlet for socializing. This is a situation that is only set to keep improving as Asian countries continue soaking up Western influences.
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