Our “Hong Kong Dating Stories” Pride Month special looks at the city’s LGBTQI+ dating scene.
In our third instalment, a Pride Month special, we’re talking to Hongkongers and Hong Kong-based people of any age and relationship length from the LGBTQI+ community (emphasising marginalised gender identities and sexualities) about the city’s “LGBTQI+ dating scene.”
In this dating stories series, we look at the city’s singles, couples and Hong Kong’s dating scene, what our personal and romantic relationships are like and how our upbringing here and abroad has made a difference in the way we view and build them. Here’s what they had to say.
Read More: Sassy Supports – Pink Alliance
What are your thoughts about Hong Kong’s LGBTQI+ dating scene?
Bry Bry, he/him, 27 — is gay and currently single:
It…. exists? In other words, it is quite common to hear of people dating, hooking up and in relationships — which I think is a win for the LGBTQI+ community! From my experience and other people’s stories, dates are arranged almost always through dating apps. Although I personally would like to embrace tradition and meet guys more often in person!
Benny, he/him, 30 — is also gay and has recently gotten out of a relationship. He met his ex online and they were together (officially) for a year and three months:
Hmm, honestly? Quite abysmal. Extremely shallow. For gay men at least. Substance comes second, or even third or fourth to what the person looks like. The LGBTQI+ dating scene favours those with abs or a hot body. Not to diss my own community but I think we can openly admit that it’s not the greatest. What doesn’t help too is that Hong Kong is quite small so it’s a niche community, and the LGBTQI+ community is even smaller.
Anon, she/her — is bisexual:
Very incestuous. LGBT people tend to group around similar interests.
Jibreel, he/him, 21 — is gay and has been seeing someone for one year:
It’s hyper-sexualized. Dating apps like Grindr emphasize more on sex rather than romance, which eventually becomes the sole purpose of finding other men: just to fulfil certain carnal needs without actually getting to know the person.
Even the way the community expresses itself is hyper-sexualised, with phallic references and symbols everywhere [in gay bars and at drag shows]. It becomes confusing. The whole point of community is to look out for one another, not trashing someone for “not being gay enough” (because they don’t watch Drag Race or drink alcohol and choose not to be promiscuous).
It’s also toxic, extremely selective, racially segregating and/or includes immense racial fetishization. Basically, the only way to be generally accepted in terms of dating someone from the community is to be conventionally hot (muscular, tall, masculine, straight-passing).
What have your experiences dating in Hong Kong been like?
Bry Bry: I have to admit, serious dating was never something I truly considered when I moved to Hong Kong. Historically, I’m more of a “fling type” of guy, which has worked out well! And as in any big city, [in Hong Kong] you can meet people from many parts of the globe, which can be quite spicy.
Benny: Get comfy. Dating in Hong Kong truly ranges from the most wholesome of dates to the “dirtiest” of nights, if you catch my drift. You meet truly every kind of character. You meet nice people and the rudest. Those who are humble, those who are arrogant. You’re constantly surprised and you’re also constantly disappointed.
When you do find the “gems”, it’s always a nice feeling to know that it isn’t all that bad and that there is someone for you. Like, not all guys are jerks. There’s… hope. There are many success stories, and there are a lot of unfortunate, not-so-happy endings. But I guess that’s just dating in general, am I right?
Anon: There is some conservative opposition. Once, when discussing problems I encountered in my own relationship, a friend (also in an LGBT relationship, and who found her partner through local LGBT dating sites!) told me that it’s actually common to hear of people exploring things with a queer partner for quite a few years but ultimately breaking things off for a heterosexual marriage, leaving the other party a little blindsided.
Jibreel: Terrible. Most of the experiences have been purely sexual where after the sex, there’s usually post-nut clarity and an indirect pressure to immediately leave the person’s home since there’s no use for me being there anymore. In terms of racial fetishisation, there was one man who really liked “the smell of South Asians” because apparently, “the pheromones smelled more like testosterone.” My whole interaction with him made me feel more like a meal rather than an actual human being. I’ve also seen several dating site bios that openly state they don’t want to receive messages from brown or black men.
Read More: 15 LGBTQIA+ Books To Read This Pride Month
It’s far more common for people in the LGBTQI+ community to turn to online platforms and apps to form connections — both platonic and romantic.
Benny: Absolutely. It’s much harder for people in the LGBTQI+ community to meet people organically as there’s this constant “worry” in our mind that the person we’re speaking to is homophobic (when meeting straight people) or whether they’re interested in us. I guess it’s that constant battle of “wanting to be accepted.”
I know that some people seek comfort online because they’re not ready yet to form connections yet in person; there could be many reasons for this. Perhaps they’re simply not ready, or they have not come to terms with who they are, or want to keep an extremely low profile, it could be anything. But yes, it’s definitely more common for people in the LGBTQI+ community to form connections online.
Jibreel: Yes, because it’s also a way for us to stay anonymous in case we are closeted and don’t want to reveal too much information about ourselves. It serves as a safety mechanism — to hide behind a computer screen but still have access to other people and form safer connections virtually, rather than face-to-face which could have worse risks.
How about you in particular — have you ever used a dating app?
Bry Bry: I’ve used Tinder and Grindr.
Benny: I’ve tried Grindr, Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Scruff and Jack’d. Definitely more on the gay apps.
Jibreel: Yes, Grindr. I hate it. At some point, it became an addiction for me for two years because that was how I gained external validation — through sex. The app is problematic because, unlike Tinder, anyone can message you from anywhere at any time. They can send unsolicited pictures and make remarks about your face and body, even though they themselves may not show their face on their bios.
Read More: Hong Kong Dating Stories – Online Dating
What are some of the memorable experiences you’ve had on or through a dating app?
Bry Bry: What I find most memorable would be the variety of races, cultures and personalities that I have met through dating apps.
Benny: It’s safe to say gay men have seen too many headless torsos and unsolicited dirty photos in one lifetime.
Jibreel: One of my most memorable experiences was hooking up with a very attractive man who claimed he was a complete ‘heterosexual’ but didn’t do very straight things with me. He was on drugs and he seemed to really enjoy the experience but I later found out he was married and that he was just exploring this side of him. It had “nothing to do with homosexuality,” which greatly confused me.
Do you think it’s easier to meet queer people online rather than offline in Hong Kong?
Bry Bry: Yes.
Benny: Definitely. Hong Kong still hasn’t caught up with some parts of the world in terms of how the LGBTQI+ community is viewed. To this day, I hear Hongkongers having issues with the LGBTQI+ community. So being out and loud can cause issues in Hong Kong — it’s best to do it online in an avenue where you can meet people that are like you.
Jibreel: For sure, as I said before, it serves as a safety mechanism for us to channel what we really want to say, but with a layer of protection since we don’t have to show our true selves as we can hide behind a computer screen. Plus, since we’re a sexual minority, it’s generally much harder to find people from the LGBT+ community, so when algorithms can narrow down that scope via dating apps, it makes it much easier to find our niche and connect with people through that.
What are some of the places and communities — online, offline or a mix of both — where you can find other queer people in Hong Kong?
Editor’s Note: Some of the examples we gave included Mum’s Not Home, Madame Quad, Queer Reads Library, T:me, Petticoat Lane, BING BING 兵兵, Eaton HK, The Pontiac and FLM!
Bry Bry: Please tell me! I’m keen to venture to these places and meet new people there!
Jibreel: I don’t go to any bars though I have heard of cruising spots around Hong Kong like Kowloon Park and the large forest park in Fwai Fong. I don’t engage with online communities either.
Read More: Your Guide To The Hong Kong Gay Games 2023
Do you see any representation around you?
Bry Bry: In terms of sexual preferences, yes, there is representation around me. Though I only ever meet a handful outside of dating apps, so a large majority of relationships I pursue would be through dating apps unless I stumble upon an event or party where LGBTQI+ members will be or are in attendance.
Benny: I do, but it’s never in Hong Kong. It’s usually online when someone gay overseas (usually something in the entertainment industry or on social media) “succeeds” or goes viral for a good reason. It doesn’t really impact how I approach both platonic or romantic relationships because to me, being gay is a part of who I am but it’s not who I am as a whole.
Anon: I find “media representation” a problematic Western liberal concept, and deliberately try not to let it impact my approach to relationships. Representation in the form of actual people (like friends I know, whose struggles I have witnessed) impacts me much more — they give me a different perspective on the nuances of being LGBT and Asian, which ultimately helps me figure out my own stance on certain things in my own relationships.
Jibreel: No intersectional representation. Most Hong Kong queers are either expats so they’re mostly Caucasian or ethnically Chinese. This impacts my queer experiences because there’s a lack of representation of my race, and certain people don’t feel comfortable being sexually or romantically open with me.
How about at home?
Bry Bry: My family lives outside Hong Kong, and I am the only member of my family (including extended family) living in Hong Kong, which does allow me to freely explore these kinds of relationships. I consider myself very close to my family, and am fortunate that they are accepting of my identity and who I choose for a partner.
Benny: My parents don’t know about me being gay and I act completely different in front of them. I know how they perceive and feel about the gay community and it would cause unnecessary stress, drama and friction if I told them about me being gay. I actually decided at a very young age that I would keep them separated from anything that has to do with being gay because it’s just better that way; no one gets hurt. I kept my relationships away from my parents. Besides, my relationships are or were for me and my partner. I honestly didn’t feel or see the need to include my parents in it.
Jibreel: My family doesn’t know about it. Culture ties in with religion and my religion condemns it so it’s considered to be completely forbidden.
And your friends?
Bry Bry: My friends are my friends for many reasons, and I am forever grateful that all my friends, most of whom fall outside the community, are accepting of my identity. Coming out to friends was exactly how I imagined it, and the result was exactly what I wanted. I am usually a source for new dating stories which seem to entertain my friends.
Benny: I choose my friends carefully. So most of them know from the get-go and are extremely fine with it because I’m not necessarily hiding anything and I know that the people I interact with would be okay with it. The second I know that someone is being judgmental or is uncomfortable with the fact that I’m gay, I simply don’t interact with them. Shout out to my lovely and amazing friends!
Anon: I once told a friend I was dating my same-sex partner and she laughed very uncomfortably, asked whether that meant romantically interested in her [my friend] too and tried to sit further away. I said, “you wish.”
To be honest, I think as long as you have the courage of your own convictions, Hong Kong is a great place to do whatever you want. Even though that was a slightly infuriating episode for me, I respect my friends’ cultural upbringing that made her see things this way, and I still have enough power as an LGBT person [here] to do whatever I want despite the societal disapproval she represents. If the balance of power changed (for example if LGBT rights were eroded past a certain point in Hong Kong), I’m sure I would feel very differently.
Jibreel: Certain friends know about it and they’re super supportive and accepting. Dating hasn’t affected any of my friendships as I’ve learnt to balance them both in my own way. A memorable coming-out experience was probably the first person I came out to who was my best friend at the time. I couldn’t say it out loud so I wrote it out on a piece of paper and filmed her reaction which turned out to be super funny, since she was really shocked (we had known each other for 15 years!).
And finally, do you have anything else you’d like to share about dating as a member of the LGBTQI+ community in Hong Kong?
Jibreel: It’s definitely a lot more strict than for straight people as everything has labels. Whether you’re a top or bottom, a twink or a hunk, these labellings divide people more than they unite which becomes very problematic. It’s also sad that the entire community [tends to be] grouped as one, as a trans person’s experience in life could be completely different from that of a gay person.
Bry Bry: You may not always get what you want, but that can be said for anyone! If there is something I would like to evolve, it’s how members of the LGBTQI+ community meet and socialise. While apps are easy and accessible, we should aim for having a plethora of other mediums to meet people (and keep away from our phones!). Finding the right person is tricky, so try your best to enjoy the journey!
Benny: I think I’ve shared a gist of what it’s like to date as a member of the LGBTQI+ community. My views are simply my own and don’t necessarily resonate with or represent the whole community. It really is different for everyone and I think whether you’re in the LGBTQI+ community or not, just have fun! Dating doesn’t have to be so serious. Just don’t hurt yourself or anyone else (aka, don’t be a jerk) and you’re good to go!
Editor’s Note: Like what you read? We’re always looking for more people to share their thoughts and stories (whether you’re in a relationship or not!). Reach out to us at email@example.com
All images courtesy of Joy Lee for Sassy Media Group.