During the pandemic I performed a silent transformation. While some people bettered themselves through learning a new skill, I did so by binge watching a multitude of ‘Boys Love’ shows. 

‘Boys Love’ is a term that refers to the spectrum of gay dramas from Asia. What I discovered under lockdown was a gateway to a magical world filled with queer, Asian romances.

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As an Australian-Chinese gay, I had been starved of both Asian and queer representation in western media. Finding out about ‘Boys Love’ was a subconscious revolution that celebrated what relationships between queer Asian men could feel like. 

Stereotyping Asian Men

ng Pirapat Watthanasetsiri and Sahaphap Wongratch star in ‘A Tale Of A Thousand Stars’

I’ve often felt traditionally that Western culture had emasculated Asian men, stereotyping us in ways that were never romantic or flattering. But being able to take off my western-coloured glasses and view Asian men without that lens was a light bulb moment for me. 

Embarrassingly, I used to fear that I would miss out on something if I dated another Asian guy instead of someone white. I now know that I was simply bombarded by one tone of love all my life.

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BL shows introduced me to new realities of relationships that were tangible with other Asian men. These examples reaffirmed for me the beauty of Asian men, and by extension also let me feel more comfortable within my own skin. They let me believe in a reality where someone who looked like me had a chance at love and happiness. 

BL Dramas Are Popular In Asia

Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun star in the Chinese BL drama ‘Word Of Honor’

BL dramas are most popular in Thailand, but have also seen growth across Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. The depictions of them have ranged from pure fantasy to more realistic depictions of queer narratives.

While queer western stories have been notoriously tragic, BL shows are a palette cleanser and can be refreshingly joyful. They usually depict a world where people rarely flinch at the character’s same-sex attraction and let the audience experience a beautiful world without homophobia. 

Unfortunately BL isn’t without fault.  When choosing a show to watch, I would recommend potential viewers to do their research to avoid shows with sexual assault or similar elements. 

As a Chinese person I have always had a hard time reconciling my queer identity with my heritage. LGBTQ+ rights have occurred faster within western countries, while Asian countries have lagged behind.

However as I watch the rise of BL, I feel a sense of pride that queer narratives are being produced at a rate that dwarfs the west. Through BL, I have finally found a place where my queer and Asian identities can thrive and co-exist.

 

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