Gay China: Interview with local boy Cass

Stefan Arestis

Whilst travelling in Xi'An, we met local boy, Cass Chen:

Our friend Cass in Xi'An
Our friend Cass in Xi'An

Cass also taught us a great deal about gay China and growing up in a town like Xian in this Q&A:

Greetings Cass and welcome to our blog, introduce yourself:

Hello Nomadic Boys, my Chinese name is Chen Gui Peng, but my non-Chinese friends call me Cassanova, so my English name and nickname is “Cass”. 

I was born and raised in Xian, but now work and live in Lugu Lake, where I own and run a hostel called “A Little Star”.

Cass Chen posing in the mountains
Our friend Cass Chen trekking and posing in the mountains

Are you out / openly gay to your friends and family?

Yes to my friends but not yet to my family.

Can you describe generally what it's like being gay in China?

In my opinion, it's hard being gay in China because most people just cannot accept it.  For example, if your friends realise you're gay, most will say we can't be friends any more for this reason.

But I think this sort of thing is starting to change a little bit.

Really?  How so?

Well, being gay became legal in 1997 in China and the Ministry of Health officially removed it from the list of mental illnesses as recently as 2001.

For marriage or civil union laws, this is not (yet) legal in China.  But there have been several attempts to introduce them over the years by gay / gay friendly politicians.  For the time being though, the “Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China” explicitly defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

What was it like growing up in Xi'An?

I loved growing up in Xi'An.  It's a historical city and the people are so friendly and warm-hearted.

Also the food in Xi'An is amazing (the Nomadic Boys pause for thought and reminisce at their fond memories with street food in Xian).

Cass showing Nomadic Boys the Xian gay scene
A gay night out in Xi'An with our local friend, Cass

How did you meet other gays growing up?

In Xi'An there have been a few bars and clubs over the years and more recently saunas.  I personally don't like going to gay bars or saunas, so growing up, I mainly used internet chats.

Now, a gay boy growing up in China is fortunate as he can use apps like Grindr and Hornet, which did not exist when I was growing up.

Does it negatively harm your job prospects if you were ‘out' in China?

For me, no, because before I opened my hostel, I was working with for a US company.  But I am sure it is an issue for others.

If you had a serious relationship, do you ever see yourself “coming out” and telling your family?

Yeah, for sure, no doubt!

Cass trekking at the cliffside wooden plank path at Hua Shan
Cass trekking at the cliffside wooden plank path at Hua Shan

Are there any popular gay pride events in China and Xian?

In Shanghai there is an annual gay pride event.  This year's was it's 6th one.

The first Shanghai Pride in 2009 was really important for us because it was the first time a mass gay event has taken place in mainland China.

Logo for China's Shanghai annual Gay Pride event
Logo for China's only annual gay pride event in Shanghai

What advice do you have for LGBT travellers travelling to China?

China is very easy for the LGBT traveller – there is a small scene in most big cities, especially in Shanghai.  Eastern China is more open minded compared to West China.  But I think the nature in the West is more beautiful.

Tell us about Xian's gay scene?

The Xian gay scene is small. ย There is at the moment only 1 bar/club called, “In.D” and a few saunas. ย It is difficult in Xi'An to find a long term partner as the people and the scene there are mainly looking for fun.

Finally Cass, Sebastien thinks he has found an excellent outfit for our next night out in gay China (!) what do you think?

Sebastien, you will be sure to steal the show wherever you travel with your new outfit!  Beautiful!

Sebastien modelling his new outfit for our next gay night out in China
Sebastien showing off his new outfit for our next gay night on the town in China

For more, watch our China travel video as we ate our way from Beijing in the North all the way to the south via Pingyao, Xi'An, Shanghai, Yangshuo through to Shangri-La:


Happy travels are safe travels

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Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author of the gay travel blog As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

7 thoughts on “Gay China: Interview with local boy Cass”

  1. no wonder you asked me about that question the other day.
    but i could not say the same as Cass at some points, because we are raised up and live in different background.. and that’s my point, different guys from different place may think differently about LGBT issue. and luckily, although i was born in a traditional town but went to beijing few years ago, where i met some true friends(including you two!!). i can totally be who i am when i hang out with them, or hang over with them :p But i can’t tell my family or my hometown pals the story, which i tried to do and ended up not well.
    so in my case, being a gay in China is happy and unhappy at the same time, but not hard.


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