Negotiating homosexual identities: The experiences of men who have sex with men in Guangzhou

Haochu (Howard) Li, Eleanor Holroyd, Joseph T.F. Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports on an ethnographic study of male homosexuality in contemporary Chinese society. The study focused on how men negotiated with the mainstream Chinese heterosexual society and in so doing constructed their sexual identities. The factors found to inform sexual identity were: the cultural imperative of heterosexual marriage, normative family obligations, desired gender roles, emotional experiences and a need for social belonging. The four types of sexual identities constructed included: establishing a deliberate non-homosexual identity, accumulating an individual homosexual identity, forming a collective homosexual identity and adopting a flexible sexual identity. For the men interviewed, sexual identity was both fluid and fragmented, derived from highly personalised negotiations between individualised needs and social and cultural constructs. The analysis is set against the background of China's rapid and recent economic development, shifting national and international social environments and improved access to the Internet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-414
Number of pages14
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Gay men
  • Homosexuality
  • Sexual identity


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