The trouble with tongzhi : The politics of labeling among gay and lesbian Hongkongers

Andrew D. Wong

Abstract

A general address term in Communist China, tongzhi ‘comrade’ was appropriated by gay rights activists in Hong Kong to refer to members of sexual minorities. Examining its level of acceptance among non-activist gay and lesbian Hongkongers, this article argues that non-activists’ ideology about sexuality accounts for their rejection of tongzhi and their preference for strategies that leave same-sex desire unspecified. This study demonstrates how the discursive history of a label can both enable and impede its political efficacy. It also sheds light on the internal resistance that representatives of minority groups encounter when introducing new labels for those they supposedly speak for.

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