Carman K.M. Fung
University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
In the late twentieth century, lesbianism has been broadly conceptualised in Hong Kong and Taiwan as a pairing between a masculine-presenting individual and her feminine-presenting partner. The former was called a tomboy while the latter was termed a TBG (tomboy’s girl) or a po (literally “wife”). This vernacular soon spread to China in the early 2000s. By early 2010s however, the three regions have seen an plethora of new lesbian sub-labels and discourses.
This paper argues that these emergent discourses are defined through their rejection of the preceding tomboy label, which is perceived to be too closely aligned with “Asian hegemonic masculinity”. Further, I argue that the idea of an “Asian hegemonic masculinity” actually draws from both local and trans-regional (including Japanese) popular culture. Drawing on interviews with 40 members of the lesbian communities conducted in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Southeast China (Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangdong) in 2018, this paper explores what hegemonic masculinity means to lesbians who reject the tomboy label. Specifically, I ask: what kind of masculine performance is imagined to be part of traditional culture? In what ways are new sexual identities positioned to be modern? And how may sexual modernity be projected onto geopolitical imaginations of statehood?
Carman K.M. Fung is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Her research deals with Asian sexualities, queer media and intra-regionality. Carman has received her MPhil in Gender Studies from the University of Cambridge and her BA in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong.