Destination is a Double-Edged Sword
by Samantha Deng
Building designed to escape rather than attract attention
Destination ("目的地") is the most well known gay bar and nightclub in Beijing. Located on
The majority of men at Destination are the Hip Youths type, look to be in their late teens or early twenties, and exude an air of familiarity, even ownership, in the club.One young man who typifies this came in a small group of about four. He wore a fitted white t-shirt with a colorful design in front and tight black jeans. Upon arriving in an upstairs room, he saw that a large vacant sofa, plopped himself down, and loudly beckoned his friends to join him. A moment later, he recognized another group of young men standing near the bar and rushed over, loudly exchanging greetings and hugs.
Another core type is the Older Men, though far fewer than the Hip Youths, they nevertheless occupy central positions within the club. In their early- to mid-thirties, the Older Men dress more conservatively than the Hip Youths in looser fitting clothes and are generally less active. They seem to frequent the bar and know other people there. One group that consisted of perhaps four foreigners and a slightly larger number of Chinese sat at a bar for a long time chatting animatedly with each other. More than once, one member would stop someone walking past that he recognized and the newcomer would stop to talk with the group. Both the behaviors of the Hip Youths and the Older Men described above suggest the existence of a “community” at Destination.
There are also Peripheral Observers and Outsiders. For example, during the course of the night I saw two old men who were at least sixty years old. They were in the club separately talking with a few young men, and neither stayed very long. The Outsiders, numbering very few, are people in the club who are not gay. One white heterosexual couple, for example, danced affectionately on the dance floor for about ten minutes before exiting. Another example was a twenty-year-old Korean man who did not realize that Destination is a gay club before entering. He expressed shock and slight disgust upon discovering the sexual orientation of the men around him.
We spoke with three men, who were of the Older Men type, for over an hour. They have been to Destination many times and befriended each other at the club. They did not know that we were at the club for an observation study, and they may have assumed that we were homosexuals as well.
Walter is a 30-year-old pop-music composer originally from
From the very beginning, Walter emphasized how lonely it feels to be a homosexual in China, repeating the phrase “孤独” two separate times. Consequently, he loves going to gay-concentrated places like Destination and saunas around
Charles is a man from
Victor is a golf club executive from
A Double-Edged Sword
This visit to Destination offered a peek into the homosexual community in
The names of these three men are altered to conceal their identity.