Common Language, China
A group of young lesbians in Beijing founded Common Language in 2005 as the first group for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in China. Sex, women’s rights and gay rights are subjects rarely mentioned in Chinese society. Lesbians and bisexual women, who describe themselves with the slang name ‘lala’, face isolation and discrimination on a daily basis, both in private and in public.
The women of Common Language organise the weekly Beijing Lala Salon, where women can relax and talk with each other about their lives. Xian, one of the founders of the salon said in an interview in 2007: ‘Each time new faces show up. Teenagers who ran away from home, women whose girlfriends just left to marry a man, or women who have been married for over 20 years but have always felt different inside. It is very interesting to see how quickly they change. They feel much more relaxed and make friends in a few weeks.’
The women of Common Language also organise social events and a lesbian film festival, provide workshops and run a lesbian hotline where lesbians and bisexual women can find support and a sympathetic ear. They also publish LES+, a magazine for lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people with information and articles on the local lesbian scene.
Common Language organised the first national lesbian conference in China in 2005, with over 40 women from 20 cities attending. The conference inspired women from other cities to set up their own organisations in their towns.
Common Language received a grant from Mama Cash in 2006.