Published: Feb. 1, 2009 By

[1] Although no critic has noted this, it still appears trite and painfully embarrassing to proclaim: “There are no lesbians in Chinese societies.” After all, it is almost a cliché to argue that sexuality is a construct. Thirty years ago, Michel Foucault in The History of Sexuality examined how power structures in the nineteenth-century had defined homosexuals as a “species,” repressing and at the same time, defining them, giving a voice to the love that dares not speak its name. Following Foucault, historian Jonathan Ned Katz traces the etymology of the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” only to uncover that their definitions change over the century. He concludes: “Radical social constructionists… posit the historical relativity of sexual behaviors, as well as of identities, meanings, categories, groups, and institutions. Such relativity theory… remains subversive… for it challenges our stubborn, ingrained idea of an essential eternal heterosexuality and homosexuality” (179). It is hardly a great leap to apply the relativity theory to the word “lesbian.” Indeed, Judith Halberstam argues that “lesbian” is a term produced by the politicized powers “of the rise of feminism and the development of what Foucault calls a homosexual ‘reverse discourse'” in the mid to late twentieth-century and since the term is situated in a specific time, it “cannot be the transhistorical label for all same-sex activity between women” (51). By extension, neither can the term “lesbian” be transnational if it means differently to women in different cultures. Hence, discourses on sexuality ought to be culturally and historically specific.

[2] However, given the hegemonic academic hold of Western discourses and the lack of lexicon regarding sexuality in the Chinese language, it is impossible that terms are not translated. “Queer” is translated into “ku’er” and “homosexuality” into “tongxing ai” or “tongxing lian” (which literally means same-sex love). Even though “tongxing lian”is translated from the West, in its mistranslation, something is transmogrified, lost, and reconfigured for “tongxing lian” or same-sex love, an emotion, is not the same as the clinical species of homosexuality. Furthermore, in translating Chinese back to English, there is a double crossing, a doubly “lost-in-translation”-ness. In the Chinese lexicon, “lesbian” is a translated word from the West. If thoughts are defined by words, then in the Chinese imagination, there are no “lesbians.” In this article, I will examine the consequences of the nondescript “lesbian” in Chinese societies through Blue Gate Crossing (2002), a contemporary coming-of-age Taiwanese film about a teenage “lesbian” and the film’s engagement with Western discourses. While I appreciate that China and Taiwan (and other countries with large Chinese populations) are affected by globalization in different ways, I have conflated the countries as “Chinese societies” since my analysis focuses on how the Chinese language acts as a reverse discourse to Western theories.

Burdensome Names

[3] While Katz and Halberstam argue from a social constructionist’s point of view, the more basic fact that there is no neologism for the term “lesbian” in Chinese lexicon points out that there are truly no “lesbians” in Chinese societies. Tze-lan Sang uncovers the genealogy of the word “tongxing lian” in her book, The Emerging Lesbian,although she overlooks the term she is more interested in – “lesbian.” When one mentions “tongxing lian,” one usually refers to the male homosexual. A “lesbian” is a “nü tongxing lian” (a female homosexual), a mere addition of the word “female” as a prefix to “homosexual”: it is hardly a translated word. Furthermore, as Wah-shan Chou evinces in his book, Tongzhi, not many in Chinese societies identify with the terminology of “tongxing lian.” Judith Butler in “‘Dangerous Crossing'” remarks, “At issue is how to read the name as a site of identification, a site where the dynamic of identification is at play” (Bodies 143). If this is so, then the lack of the category, “lesbian,” disallows the Chinese “lesbian” to be inscribed on. The “lesbian” is, thus, elusive and fluid and always in a state of formation of its identity. The Chinese “lesbian” is a reification of the Western concept of queer which is defined by “its definitional indeterminacy, its elasticity” (Jagose 1). Nonetheless, precisely for the lack of its definition, whereas queer has a name, “queer,” the “lesbian” is unwritten and in a constant state of being written and re-written. In other words, “lesbian” in Chinese societies may be a name queerer than queer.

[4] In Butler’s reading of Jacques Lacan, she comments that the social function of naming “is always to some extent an effort to stabilize a set of multiple and transient imaginary identifications” (Bodies 152). She further explores Lacan and Slavoj Žižek’s reading of Saul Kripke and concludes that both Lacan and Kripke agree that “the name, as part of a social pact and, indeed, a social system of signs, overrides the tenuousness of imaginary identification and confers on it a social durability and legitimacy. The instability of the ego is thus subsumed or stabilized by a symbolic function, designated through the name” (152-3). Since the social pact and system of signs are dictated by the Law of the Father, and that “lesbian” is not a sign in the Chinese imagination, female same-sex desire not only escapes the jurisdiction of the Law but is always indefinable. Instead of occupying the space of visual order of the Imaginary which is stabilized through the symbolic function, “lesbianism” becomes the Real, the impenetrable and willful world that defies and at the same time, eclipses interpretation. The Real, as the Other, producible in everyday life through gaps, slips, speechlessness and the sense of the uncanny, exposes the sexist reliance on the (male) phallus as a referent in a world where meanings are found in gaps. The Real is terrifying because it is unknowable and cannot be tamed by the Law of the Father. If this is so, the embodiment of “lesbian” in male dominated Chinese societies should be tabooed and well-documented for its deviance.

[5] But it is not. Critics such as Vivien Ng, Bret Hinsch, Fu-Ruan Fang and Vern Bullough have tried to seek “lesbians” who are – to borrow a term from Martin Duberman – hidden from history in vain. It is not because female same-sex activities were suppressed but that they were fully integrated into the lifestyles of ancient Chinese societies. In one of the first book-length history of homosexuality in China, Xiaomingxiong’s extensive research reveals that female same-sex activities were even more widespread than male homosexuality and its sanction was not as dependent on the times, laws and dynasties. However, while female same-sex activities were not suppressed, they were approved only under the policing eyes of a patriarchal society. For example, concubines in a confined household were encouraged to have same-sex activities for fear they might cuckold their husband. Or as Laura Wu argues, after examining 12 Ming-Qing texts, female same-sex activities in the literature of that period are often “heterosexualized,” resulting in a (heterosexual) marriage to prove that a union in which a man rules is superior to a female same-sex egalitarian union although the research is by no means extensive or conclusive. Translating the ancient Chinese societies to psychoanalytic discourse which claims that one tries to tame the ineffable Real through the symbolic function of language and societal mores, one sees how the Lacanian theory is in tension with ancient Chinese societies. Although there is a lack of terminology for female same-sex relations, the men in the societies were comfortable living in close proximity with the Real, “lesbians,” without a need to define the sex acts. Yet, at the same time, because the Real exposes the gaps in the linguistic world ruled by the Law, the (phallic) men controlled the women through their patriarchal dominance. In other words, there was only a difference of sex but not sexuality in ancient Chinese societies.

[6] Chou agrees that in Chinese societies, there is no concept of sexuality, no divide between homo- and heterosexuality (13). Thus, he espouses the term “tongzhi” (comrade) and rejects “tongxing lian” for its sexual connotations. “The primary concern of modern parents,” he argues, “is not so much the child’s intimate relationship with people of the same sex, but that she or he becomes… a sexed category that privileges sexuality at the expense of his or her position in the family-kinship system, thus making the child a nonbeing in Chinese culture” (96). On the other hand, “tongzhi” was a term used during the Chinese nationalist movement and is appropriated by the homosexuals. To Chou, “There can be no final definition of ‘tongzhi,’ as its meaning and content depend on and require everyday practices of all self-identified ‘tongzhi’ to actualize, define and redefine” (4). However, Chou’s differentiation of “tongxing lian” and “tongzhi” appears merely to be tautological, a play on semiotics: is not a “tongzhi” defined by “everyday [sexual] practices”? (Like the term “tongxing lian,” “tongzhi” is assumed to be a man unless prefixed by “nü.”) If Chou’s account of the genealogy of the word, “tongzhi,” demonstrates that it is burdened with political and cultural baggage, how can it perpetually be in the process of defining itself? Furthermore, he treats individuality as incompatible with familial ties; this is not necessarily so. Although it is generally true (and generalizations are tricky as everyone knows) that Chinese societies place kinship in high regard, it does not mean that one must sacrifice everything—his personality, her career, his sexual practices, or her maiden name—to family obligations.

[7] The problem with Chou’s reading of homosexuality in Chinese societies is that it is ahistorical. He imagines that Chinese societies are preserved in a time capsule, untouched by globalization. His comradeship, his “tongzhi”-ism, exists only in Chinese societies isolated from the world. On the contrary, Western discourses on sexuality, through translations, had infiltrated the Chinese societies when there was an incipient consciousness on sexuality in the early twentieth century (Sang 102-6). Since then, the legacy of Victorian prudish ethics has instilled in Chinese societies a shame for the love that dares not speak its name.

Bodies under the Ban of Suspension

[8] While the West saw the gay liberation movement in the sixties, it is not till the late eighties has there been a burgeoning of “lesbian” literature which strives for sexual equality in Chinese societies and at the same time, interacting and counteracting with the Western discourses (Sang 7). Blue Gate Crossing is such a text. For a first-time director, Chih-yen Yee, it is courageous to begin the movie with a black blank screen. “I cannot see. I really cannot see,” says a female voice-over. What Yee does is to prevent what Laura Mulvey calls scopophilia and self-identification between the viewer and the film. The blank screen is a refusal to feed the voyeuristic tendencies of the “male gaze.” Right from the start, Yee announces her intention for this film to be a discourse with Western theories. The blank screen cuts suddenly to a medium shot of a teenage girl with short boyish hair and plain features, her eyes closed. Although the blank screen may encourage an identification with the girl, that the viewer is looking through her closed eyes, this identification vanishes the moment the viewer sees her: she is plain; she is neither the curvy bombshell nor the willowy Cinderella waiting to be rescued one is accustomed to identify with in Hollywood movies. Furthermore, if eyes are the windows of the soul, and actors depend on their eyes to convey their emotions, the first image of a girl with closed eyes disrupts the conveyance of her emotions to the audience, which in turn, prevents the audience from identifying with her. She, Ke-rou Meng, slowly opens her eyes, looks to her left lovingly, repeats the refrain “I can’t see” playfully and nudges someone sitting beside her. “I can see now,” says another female voice as the camera slowly zooms out to include the new speaker in the frame. The new speaker, Yue-zhen Lin, then describes what she sees in her future: she will be having high tea with rich ladies and her beautiful child while her husband glides into the restaurant. There is “already a question of crossing” from a present to a fantasized future which does not include the plain girl (Bodies 145). The “husband,” the audience finds out later, is manifested in the form of an infatuation for a boy, Shi-hao Zhang, in the same school. Lin manages to persuade Meng to get to know Zhang who, in turn, falls for Meng. How are we to read the—to borrow Eve Sedgwick’s terms—triangular crossing of desires (Meng’s budding acknowledgement of same-sex love for Lin; Lin’s infatuation with Zhang; and Zhang’s attachment to Meng)?

[9] We might read the crossing of desires as a site of contested gender and sexual meanings. Naming, as we have seen previously, is such a site. According to Butler, naming is “a patrilineal organization that implies that it is patronymic names that endure over, as nominal zones of phallic control” (Bodies 153). She adds that the expropriation of feminine names gives the illusion of permanence to patrilineality. Hence, in Butler’s reading of Willa Cather’s fiction, one might expose this illusion through “appropriation and displacement of the patronym” (154). In addition to appropriation and displacement of the patronym,Blue Gate Crossing also adds a new dimension to subvert the patronym, repetition of phrases. Lin brings Meng to a swimming pool where Zhang practices nightly and persuades her to get to know him on Lin’s behalf. Meng approaches Zhang and asks him, “I have a friend who wants to know you. Are you interested?” He inquires for the identity of that person repeatedly but she refuses to answer him directly. Ignoring Zhang, she calls for Lin whom she thinks is still lurking around the pool. When it is apparent that Lin has left, Zhang says, “Actually, there is no such person as Lin Yue-zhen is there? You just want to know me right?” This is not the only time Zhang, a custodian of the patronym by the virtue of his sex, tries to efface the existence of Lin. He repeats this sentence several times throughout the movie. However, the more he repeats it, the more ridiculous and empty it is, as if his words have lost their meaning, because we, as audience, know that there is such a character and because it exhibits his childish mentality. In repeated attempts to obliterate her existence, he only reveals his insecurity as part of the order of the Father over the control of patronymic names.

[10] When Meng continues to ignore him and leaves the pool, Zhang calls after her, “I’m Zhang Shi-hao. Scorpio. O+ blood. Swim team. Guitar club.” As a self-introduction, he repeats the exact sentence at least thrice in the movie. With each repetition, the hollower it sounds. It appears he is defined by superficial frivolities, his horoscope, blood group, and his hobbies. It follows then that his name is one of his frivolities; it is of little significance to him. By extension, the senseless repetition of his name reveals that the patrilineal system, which one thinks of as important, is inconstant and unstable. Furthermore, in a scene where Lin writes Zhang’s name repeatedly, believing that he will fall in love with her if the ink in the pen runs dry, she suddenly switches from writing his name to that of Takuya Kimura, a (male) Japanese pop idol. While the scene is to show that Lin is merely having an infatuation, that she is flighty and superficial, it can also symbolically represent how the repetition of a patronym (Zhang’s name) can lead one into an illusion that patrilineality is permanent. However, since a patronym is merely referential but not descriptive, and that one name is as good as another and as easily replaced, it suggests that patrilineality is by no means permanent but a construct by the Law of the Father to maintain a hegemonic hold over the women, or women like Lin whose sole desire is to marry and adopt her husband’s surname.

[11] Unlike Zhang, Meng never introduces herself by her name. It is most unusual that even though she is the protagonist, the viewer knows Lin’s and Zhang’s names even before hers. Or that the viewer knows her name only after about twenty minutes into the movie. Even then, she is not the one who announces her name. The camera shows Lin forging a love letter in Meng’s name to Zhang. Even when Meng’s mother calls her by her name, she does not respond. The letter, naturally, gets Zhang and Meng into trouble with the school authorities. Mien, Zhang’s friend, playfully (or spitefully) glues the letter on the floor, outside the principal’s office. The offense, though not serious enough to merit a suspension, is sternly reprimanded. They are to remove the letter from the ground. At first, they use a metal ruler to scrape it. Zhang says to her, “Sorry. I didn’t do this. Mien did it.” To which, she replies, “I didn’t write the letter. Lin Yue-zhen did.” He repeats his two favorite refrains: “There is no Lin Yue-zhen is there?” and “I am Zhang Shi-hao…” Exasperated, she stands up and erases the letter (and her name) with her rubber soles. Rather than seeing the incident as Meng’s refusal to acknowledge her patrilineal name, one could utilize what Butler calls appropriation and displacement in the name. Her name, Ke-rou, has a masculine ring and literally means to curb gentleness/softness. A girl is supposed to have a feminine name so that she could grow into the feminine gendered role. The conflict between Meng’s masculine name and her feminine gender then demonstrates how names given by the Father are used to naturalize genders.

[12] Nevertheless, her name is not merely a form of resistance to patrilineality; if it were, the movie would fall back into the male/female and heterosexual/ homosexual binaries. Although contemporary Chinese societies have acquired a knowledge of sexual shame from the West, Yee, the director, chooses to revert to the philosophy of ancient Chinese society, depicting a modern Chinese society that exists comfortably in contradictions. The depiction does not diminish the realism of the film since the term “lesbian” has been missing in the Chinese imagination. As a result of the lack of nomenclature, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact “crime” of sexual shame. Throughout the movie, Yee incorporates elements of ancient and contemporary Chinese societies. For instance, knowing that Meng’s father has left her mother and her, one would presume that it is her mother who gave her such a masculine name to imply strength. It is curiously her grandfather, the guardian of her patronym. Her uncommon patronym reminds one of a Chinese philosopher with the same last name, Meng-zi (Mencius) who is arguably the most famous after Confucius. In his canonical work, Mencius discusses “xing” (sex), as in “tongxing lian.” “Prior to the twentieth century, the character ‘xing’ had not meant ‘sex’, but had been limited to denoting ‘nature’ – the original state, truth, quality, or disposition of something. In Confucianism, ‘xing’ is a specialized philosophical term, meaning ‘human nature'” (Sang 103). To Mencius, human nature (“xing”) is capable of moral facilities that go beyond libidinous needs. The last name of Yee’s protagonist therefore recalls to the Chinese consciousness that the movie isn’t merely about sexuality but also morality and humanity.

[13] Furthermore, the modern meaning of “xing” does not merely denote sex/sexuality but also gender (“xing bie”). In an attempt to translate Western gender and sexual discourse in the early twentieth-century, the lack of vocabulary in the Chinese nomenclature to handle such issues had induced the scholars to coin the words, “xing bie” and “xing” as gender and sex/sexuality respectively. While Butler may argue that the tenuous relationship between the original and the evolved meanings of “xing” may demonstrate a gap in the patrilineal system, there is another way of reading. Since it is her grandfather who gave Meng her first and last name – in other words, it is he, a male, who points out the gaps in the patrilineal system – it follows that Chinese societies today inherit the negative capability of ancient ones discussed earlier.

[14] In fact, this willingness to live side-by-side contradictions is so prevalent, pervasive and integrated that one is never sure whether one is homosexual or heterosexual. For example, Meng and Lin’s relationship mirrors that of Zhang and his good buddy, Mien. For an audience without an inkling of the plot of the movie, the beginning can be quite disorientating: one does not know if one is watching a male or female homosexual story. The audience is unsure of the intention of Mien pasting the love letter on the floor outside the principal’s office. Is it done out of mischief or jealousy? Nor is this not the only incident which leads one to suspect Mien and Zhang’s relationship. After we finally catch a glimpse of Zhang, one of the first scenes of the movie shows Zhang and Mien resting on a basketball court with their shirts unbuttoned. Out of ennui, Zhang makes a bet with Mien that he dares not to masturbate in the soccer field. They walk out to the middle of the field, with Zhang following close behind. They stop. Mien turns around and looks coyly at Zhang. Zhang smiles and turns around like a blushing bridegroom. They now stand back to back. A cheeky grin on Zhang’s face. Mien unzips his pants and lets them fall to his ankles. The homoerotic moment threatens to burst into a homosexual one – but it does not. Yee, the director, uses comic relief to ease the tension. Zhang looks at the bottomless Mien and shouts, “Quick! Come and see! A virile hunk jerking off!” The Freudian slip of “virile hunk” indicates the possibility of desire for each other – even if it is said playfully – as one would normally not think of one’s good friend in sexual terms. At the moment Mien bends over, one is never sure if he is pulling up his pants or offering his ass to Zhang to be sodomized. Nor is Mien the only one showing off his bottom. Zhang offers his ass to the audience constantly. In the pivotal scene where Zhang’s visage is first revealed, we see his back view as he is cycling with his ass off the saddle, suspended high in the air. And in a scene where Meng looks for him in the swimming pool, he stands in the middle of the pool, stares at her and dives with his black Speedos-clad ass breaking the surface, like a dolphin. Given Zhang’s relationship with Mien, the sexualized portrayal of his body, and his pretty—instead of handsome—looks, one can never be sure if he is heterosexual. It is true that he has feelings for Meng but her appearance and character are androgynous. If he can desire a boyish girl, surely he could desire a girlish boy. Furthermore, Zhang is represented as naïve, conventional and unthinking, hence, it may just be a “heterosexual” phase he is going through.

[15] Neither is gender represented as fixed. Lin makes a mask out of a blurred photograph of Zhang and forces Meng to wear it. At one point, Meng asks to leave but Lin does not allow her to. Instead, with Meng still wearing the mask, they dance slowly in a tight embrace. One suspects that this scene is Yee’s cultural joke. In Taiwan, the “tongzhi” party, similar to gay pride parade, is organized with participants masquerading in masks, to which activist Hsien-hsiu Lin has urged the revelers to “remove your masks and dance together with us” (qtd in Martin, 63). In Fran Martin’s article where he compares the political metaphor of masks in parades to the coming out of the closet, he argues that “Understood as a false face, the mask begins to problematize not only the idea of identity but also that of the integrated social subject as symbolized by the integrity of the facial surface… Since the mask plays on the counterfeitability of the authentic face, it logically implies the possibility of an endless series of masks, where each one removed is replaced by another that is equally suspect” (72). Although Martin hardly mentions Butler and Joan Riviere, his ideas are closely associated with theirs. Published in 1929, Riviere, in one of the earliest feminist writings, “Womanliness as a Masquerade,” claims that “Womanliness… could be assumed and worn as a mask, both to hide the possession of masculinity and to avert the reprisals expected if she was found to possess it” although she does not explicitly explain what lies beneath the mask (38). In Gender Trouble, Butler asserts: “Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts without a highly right regulatory framework that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being” (33). All three critics’ theses are similar and could be applied to the particular scene of Meng wearing a mask: they point out the instable construction of gender. Gender does not pre-exist the performances. Rather, specific performances bring gender into being. Because gender is always a repetitive act, a performance, a masquerade, a wearing of layers of masks, slippages may occur in the production of gender into being. Hence, gender is always unstable. To apply the performativity theory to the situation, one can never tell if Lin is vividly imagining that the person she is dancing with is a boy, or that she knows it is a girl pretending to be a boy or even a girl, who is in love with her, pretending to be a boy.

[16] Ultimately, Blue Gate Crossing is a story of a girl who comes to terms with her sexuality through a love for a cruel girl and with the help of a boy. The lack of the word for “lesbian” in Chinese societies defies yet defines her selfhood. In a confession to Zhang over their “break-up,” she says, “I really like Lin. I like her a lot. I’m willing to do anything for her.” It is Zhang who insists on calling her a “tongxing lian” but she rejects the term; she never allows herself to be defined. One night, Meng creeps onto her mother’s bed and asks, “How did you survive the heartache when dad left you?” Her mother answers with another question, “Why? What’s wrong? Is it that boy [Zhang]?” In a Western coming-out movie, the audience would have anticipated Meng to blurt out her sexuality to her mother, which has always been a definitive moment for one’s identity. Instead, Meng urges her mother to tell her a direct answer. Her mother brushes her off: “I just did.” Her mother, lying with her back to Meng, opens her eyes and looks melancholic. The melancholy is ambiguous. It could mean that she has not gotten over the trauma of her divorce but if it were the case, then this subplot has not been developed fully. The father is never mentioned until this point of time nor is he brought up again. On the other hand, a subtler reading would signify that Meng, by not answering if she has “broken up” with Zhang, is implying her sexuality to her mother. After all, mothers know best. Meng’s silence on her relationship is, of course, predicated on the love that dares not speak its name and the lack of lexicon. Her oblique coming-out is both a coming-out and not a coming-out, avoiding the familial histrionics.

[17] This does not mean that coming out is easy nor is it surreptitious and shameful. Most of the classroom lessons depicted in the movie are English lessons. Meng memorizes passages in English by heart and shows an aptitude for the language. It is during an English lesson when Meng discovers that Lin has written the letter using her name and confronts her. The almost-melodramatic scene is ironically undercut by the English lesson. They are taught the words, “knives,” “housewives” and “ambitions.” One can easily form a sentence to fit the circumstances: “In order to fulfill her ambition as a housewife, Lin backstabs her best friend.” Dark humor aside, the main purpose of Meng’s assiduous attempt to learn a new language is an attempt to define herself. She constantly marks the wall in her school gymnasium and once she writes on the sand: “I’m a girl. I must like boys.” Yet, eventually, she rejects defining herself according to any language belonging to the phallus and to compulsory heteronormativity. The graffiti on the wall have become a passing memory; the words on the sands, washed by the waves. In the end, urged by Zhang, Meng confesses her love for Lin non-verbally: she kisses her in the school field. It is hardly surprising that Lin walks away and ignores Meng. What can one say to a confession made outside of language? The end of a friendship, however, is the start of another. In the film’s denouement, Zhang is seen cycling with Meng. In a voice-over, Meng says, “When I close my eyes, I still cannot see my future. But I can imagine yours [Zhang’s].” Because of the lack of nomenclature for female same-sex desire, and because, as Ludwig Wittgenstein has famously claimed, “the limit of one’s language is the limit of one’s world,” Meng, as a “lesbian,” has not merely eluded the limited world controlled by the Law of the Father, but confirmed the expansiveness and boundlessness of a “lesbian” identity.

[18] Hence, contrariwise to the idea that the lack of a lexicon for female same-sex desire is detrimental to one’s identity formation, the lack frees one from the limits of language; one finds an expression outside of language. Moreover, the lack of the term “lesbian” destabilizes the notions of gender and sexuality. In a way, the reverse discourse of modern Chinese societies, exemplified through Blue Gate Crossing, is a dialogue with its patriarchal history of the treatment of women and a translation, a mistranslation and a non-translation of Western queer theory. Modern Chinese societies are similar to ancient ones in their abilities to tolerate, if not accept, differences within them. Blue Gate Crossing is one of the growing bodies of texts which challenge the seemingly permanent status of patriarchy. While in the past, men policed “lesbians,” it is no longer possible to do so in the widening circle of modernization and globalization and with the rise of feminism. Patriarchy, in the strictest sense of the word, in Chinese societies is eroding.

[19] Even in the film, men are portrayed as effete, which could be seen as an effect of modernization, globalization and feminism. Rather than considering effete men as Orientalist stereotypes, Yee encourages us to read her film as a critique of Chinese men’s Darwinian inability to adapt to modern life. Meng’s family can be rid of the policing male only because divorce is gradually accepted in Chinese societies and her mother can move outside the private sphere of domesticity and earn a living as a roadside food seller. The only adult male, a physical education teacher, believes wrongly that Meng has a crush on him because he misreads the cultural signs. Unable to view Meng as a lesbian due to the missing nomenclature, the teacher is doomed to be mocked and made redundant in the modern society. His marginal role in the movie mirrors his sinecure as his job is only to bark orders for students to run around the track, unlike Meng’s English (female) teacher who imparts knowledge for survival in society. As for Zhang, although he forces Meng into a confession of her sexuality (which implies that he is the policing male), there is nothing more he can do to her except in the realm of language. He cannot, say, blackmail her into marrying him. In this case, he is more of a confidant than a police. While the film is set in Taiwan, it interacts on an international level with references to sexuality. The lack of a name for “lesbian” in Chinese societies and a willingness to co-exist without the desire to provide a name for “lesbianism” create a tension in the Lacanian discourse that states naming as an act of taming the Imaginary through symbolic function and that the Law of the Father subjugates and suppresses the gaps in the Real to a great extent.

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