In this interview, Hongwei Bao from Queer Lens interviews Pei from Queer Squad, a Frankfurt-based feminist and queer group.
Pei (she/they/ta) is currently working on a Master thesis on queer independent cinema in mainland China at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She has been engaging in feminism and queer activism and has actively participated in related discussions, panel talks and meetings since 2019.
Queer Squad is a Chinese-speaking queer community based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It focuses on topics such as gender/sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ+ and anti-racism with interdisciplinary aspects such as film, art and (sub)culture. The aim is to create a safe public space for LGBTQ+ Chinese diasporas to discuss issues of gender/sexuality, trans-cultural identities and anti-racism.
Figure 1. ‘Activism Outside China’ panel discussion, 30 July 2020, Hamburg (credit: Su Yao/Kuyi)
Could you tell us how Queer Squad started?
Almost at the end of 2020, when people had to stay at home during the lockdown in many European cities, some friends and I decided to create a WeChat public account. Initially, we just wanted to post something that was related to gender/sexuality with an interdisciplinary aspect such as game, film and literature (these are basically our hobbies). At the beginning, we started a group discussion with our friends to talk about some of the phenomena of sexism, misogynist, gender stereotypes in simplified Chinese cyber space, and then later we decided to publish the transcript of what we have talked online. Meanwhile, I often participated in online discussions with UK-based Chinese-speaking feminist group “VaChina” and made many new friends there. This experience offered me more insight and experience on “organizing” an (online) community. Later, we held several online events via Zoom such as anti-racism workshops, queer-friendly independent games, discussions on danmei (耽美), online screening of queer films (documentary) and so on, which gathered more and more people, so we created a WeChat group as a safe space (we have detailed community rules) for people to talk about anything that is related to feminism, LGBTQIA+ and race.
Why is the online space of Queer Squad important?
Queer Squad provides an important online public space for LGBTQ+ activism. It disseminates different opinions on LGBTQIA+ and feminism, particularly people’s own narrative/experience and understanding on these topics rather than ONLY publish translations of famous queer theory and feminism texts in WeChat public accounts. Translating indeed matters (we also did before) and it helps acquire more skills. However, we would like to spread ideas in our own “language” and feelings.
Such an online space is important because of the terrible socio-political environment in mainland China, it is very hard for people who physically live in China to do activism and fasheng (发声). But it doesn’t mean that living overseas could do anything freely, since our voice is still censored in the simplified Chinese cyber space. Online space can counter the physical restriction and reach Chinese queers through media platforms. Besides, overseas activists and organizations could collaborate with those in China, for instance, sometimes our post could be shared by other WeChat public accounts, which serves as a network of LGBTQ+ activism.
What role do you see Queer Squad play in German society?
Queer Squad gathers Chinese diasporas who care about these topics in Germany, to do activism outside China, to find each other, and to build a community for Chinese queers who cannot “fit in” the White-dominated queer groups, to make representation of queer diaspora, to craft dialogue with German mainstream society, to explore our own identities, “in-betweenness”, unsureness and even identity crisis in relation to culture, race and gender. (We started a panel talk about “identity” on 15 July, which will be continued to make more discussions on “crisis” and “conflicts” of identities, e.g., “queer x Chinese”, “Chinese German x Chinese”)
Figure 2. Poster for the ‘Identity’ roundtable discussion (credit: Bella Li Wagner)
To explore who we are is not easy, particularly in times like this. For Chinese-speaking LGBTQ+ living overseas, the pressure comes from gender, race and culture. For some people, it’s hard to feel “fit in” in German queer groups probably because of language barrier or cultural differences, so it’s crucial to offer a space for them to get to know themselves in a language they are familiar with.
What issues does Queer Squad hope to address? In what approach(es)?
We would like to make people reflect on gender/sexuality and have a critical thinking mindset, to let people know that their life could be variant, and that they have different possibilities. We also hope to destabilize mainstream discourse about non-normative gender/sexuality, re-make Chinese queer representation in Germany, and raise the visibility of this community.
These were some of the works we did:
– We wrote articles and posted in WeChat public account, and shared stories of LGBTQ+ people.
– We called for Chinese-speaking queers (or allies) to be in a group in Frankfurt’s CSD (Christopher Street Day) Pride demonstration on 16 July 2022, because it is barely to see any Asians in such events in the past years.
– We organised cultural events such as film screenings, reading groups and panel talks.
– We asked professors and lecturers to add more Asian perspectives in the syllabus
– We collaborated with local LGBTQ+ organizations which helped us with promotion of our events in their social media platforms and event venues.
Figure 3. DIY pride march banners, Frankfurt am Main, 2022 (credit: Queer Squad)
Could you briefly tell us about some events you have organised so far?
Before 2022, our works were primarily conducted online. They included:
- Anti-racism workshop
- Online talks: Why we need queer friendly games? / Let’s talk about danmei
- Online film screening events: Why we need transgender day of Remembrance? / “We are Here” screening + Q&A with Shi Tou
- Online zine-making workshop: DIY your own feminism/queer-themed zines!
Figure 4. We Are Here event poster (credit: Queer Squad)
Figure 5. Making Zine Together event poster (credit: Queer Squad)
In 2022, we organised offline events, which include:
- Discussion: What is gender/sexuality in general? 性别是条毛毛虫 (collaborate with Berlin 706)
- Discussion: What is gender stereotype? 什么是性别刻板印象？(collaborate with friends in Hamburg)
- Panel talk: Identity | Have you ever shocked by cultural differences?
- Frankfurt CSD Pride demonstration: Chinese-speaking queers, speak up! /After dinner/chat together
- Pride Month film screening (collaborate with Hamburg Riparian Showcase): Transgender Film Screening《跨性一天》+ Panel talk “Medical Regulations of Transgender in mainland China”;
Documentary of Beijing Queer Film Festival 《我们的故事——北京酷儿影展十年游击战》 + Panel talk “How do we practice queer/feminist activism outside China?”;
Documentary screening “Madame” 《姑奶奶》
- Film Screening 《我们在这里》in Frankfurt + Panel talk with queer/feminist activist 典典
- Collaborative-curatorship with Hamburg International Queer Film Festival (work-in-progress)
Figure 6. Screening of A Day of Trans, Hamburg, July 2022 (credit: Su Yao/Kuyi)
Figure 7. Our Story post-screening Q&A, Hamburg, July 2022 (credit: Su Yao/Kuyi)
Figure 8. Madame post-screening Q&A, Hamburg, July 2022 (credit: Su Yao/Kuyi)
Why are these activities important?
his is the first time that we as a community group have spoken to the mainstream German society, to speak out who we are, what we really want; the first time that we could meet each other in person. It is a good chance to build a community that functions as a connecting point of Chinese-speaking people, who pay attention about topics on gender/sexuality, and a network of social activists, scholars, artists etc. that makes the social “movement” ongoing. Besides, film screening and other activities in cultural forms are an interesting way to attract the audience and help them reflect on related topics.
The film screening event in Frankfurt also plays an essential role: many people tell me that it is hard to find such “cultural” events or some “conversations with temperature” (有温度的谈话) in Germany except in Berlin (because Berlin is considered very different from other German cities such as Frankfurt, Hamburg or Cologne). It is my purpose to break this “centralized” position of Berlin. Frankfurt is in the middle of Germany, and thus it could also connect people who live in the south and the west.
Finally, what is your advice for Queer Lens readers?
Don’t be afraid of being “different”; many people still fight for the rights to be different.
Be critical, provocative, angry and embrace queerness!
How can interested readers follow, participate in or volunteer for future Queer Squad events?
All events and articles will be published in social media platforms such as WeChat public account (Queer Squad 酷儿小分队) and Instagram (queersquad_de). Contact us via E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DM in Instagram.