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A Queer Icon and the Power and the Eloquence of Effeminacy


Jin Yong’s wuxia novel The Smiling and Proud Wanderer antagonist was given the name, Dongfang Bubai, meaning Invincible East, Asia the East, or Asia the Invincible. In the novel and film, Bubai heads the “Sun-Moon Holy Sect” (Rì Yuè Shén Jiào), an unorthodox martial arts sect. Bubai wanted to learn a secret martial arts, and discovered the secret Sunflower Manual (葵花寶典), or the Kuíhuā Bǎodiǎn. Written by a eunuch, to learn its secrets, it required that he castrate himself. Gradually with study, Bubai became more and more physically androgynous and womanly. In the film, a sense of loneliness in the world haunts Bubai, whose ruthless ambition is to become the highest in the hierarchy of the martial arts world.

In this novel, effeminacy, transitioning and androgyny is the path to achieving supreme prowess. In the sequel to the first film (1992), legendary actress Brigitte Lin portrays Dongfang Bubai as a trans woman.

Dongfang Bubai’s character became a legendary Queer Icon in Post-Mao China as detailed in the book, Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Brigitte Lin played numerous androgynous characters in her career in film. Thinking philosophically on it, my developing idea of what is a man showed me endless possibility, and space for learning and maturation. Self-discovery is indeed powerful, and so it helps stepping out of the seams of very constricted notions of what is considered to be force and power.

There are Westerners, that depict modern Asian men, particularly Korean and Japanese as weak, or “effeminate.” There are American men vexed about the popularity and looks of Asian Pop male stars. Many Western men often have very exaggerated, limited notions and measures of masculinity about Asian men in general; and specifically of Central European, Russian, and Central Asian men. The ideal of “the American” was actually a balance of masculine and feminine notions and virtues.

Much of the fiction that created these Queer icons throughout Asian literature are depicted as effeminate, or femina (woman). Although, it is not associated negatively as in European and American culture with weakness, but with power. There is a delicateness, eloquence, and balance, which is intimately tied to fundamental concepts in East Asian philosophy. These things have left indelible reflections on my mind, and you will have to think on these things when coming across studies in mythology about the complex nature of many deities.

There is always more room for growth within us. Those like us embrace all the queer, even quirky aspects of our being. Embrace these in yourselves. Feel strong and full of a will of fire, just as you are, by embracing all of you.

Part Time, Only You Can See Me (Touch Me)

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