Queer comrades: towards a postsocialist queer politics (Soundings 73, Winter 2019)
Author: Hongwei Bao
The radical potential of the term tongzhi comes from its condensation of past and contemporary egalitarian traditions
Perhaps one of the most fascinating changes in the modern Chinese language in the past century has been the use of the term tongzhi (??). In its early twentieth-century sense of ‘comrade’, tongzhi was widely used as an honorific in China’s revolutionary and socialist eras for people across the political left, although the term’s origin from and connection with international communist movements was also evident.1 In China’s post-revolutionary and postsocialist era, the term has been used by gender and sexual minorities including LGBTQ people for self-identification. Recently it has become a term synonymous with ‘queer’ in English. From ‘comrade’ to ‘queer’, and from a socialist politics blind to human sexuality to a hypersexualised postsocialist queer politics – what has happened and what can we learn from it?