CG: I'm very happy that you have translated and are producing my play, The Second Coming of Joan of Arc, in Beijing. I was just reading about your play The Rabbit Hole... a lesbian revisioning of Alice in Wonderland. Was that your first attempt to produce a lesbian play in Beijing? How was it received?
San: Yes, The Rabbit Hole was my debut as a playwright of drama. I wrote some fictions and fairy tales before, but I always want to write something about lesbians in China, their lives, their love, their living conditions and so on. In 2010, LES+ had publicly staged the first lesbian drama in China, which called The Tower of Joy and Sorrow. This play attracted many attentions of audiences and media in China, from then we found the stage performances is a really good way to show ourselves besides publishing magazine. So I wrote this play and took it onto stage in Beijing earlier this year. Different with our first try on stage, I put some magical realism elements in this play, many audiences said this play is more than lesbians life only. And this time, we attracted many male audiences to watch. I was really surprised about this at first, but afterwards I was really happy about this, because this is what we want, let more people to see us.
CG: How did you find my play and what made you want to produce it?
San: It was a really wonderful experience for me to find your play! As I just mentioned, to show lesbians’ life in the form of drama is started very late in China. We lack of experience, lack of funds, and lack of actors…So when I committed to devote into this, I constantly collect a variety of advanced foreign experiences and the classic lesbian scripts to learn more. Then, I found you! Thanks to the internet. You and your plays really inspired me, especially The Second Coming of Joan of Arc. The first time I saw this play, (I brought it form LuLu.com), and I told myself that you should introduce this play to China. Lucy for me, your generous authorization makes all this happened.
CG: There are many Western references in the play (for instance, to The Wizard of Oz). How did you handle those?
San: Actually, the story of Joan of Arc was good known in China. I think this is mainly because the spread of several classic movies of Joan of Arc. When I do the translation, I studied a lot of information, minimize the difficulties of understanding due to cultural differences. However, the core of this play is not about the differences from Eastern and Western cultures, it’s about the circumstances that we face together.
CG: I understand you have been editing LES+, a lesbian magazine in Mandarin, since 2008. Is this the only lesbian magazine? Do you have any problems with censorship?
San: LES+ is the only paper published lesbian magazine in Mainland China until now. There are few other electronic lesbian magazines, but they only transmitted through the internet. Paper publishing has brought us some financial pressure, but we insist on it, in order to retain this position. Due to the publication censorship in China, We have no publicly released qualifications so far, which means our magazine is underground publish. We sold our magazines in coffee shop, activity center, regional agency point and the online store. We still hold on, we believe that one day it will change.
C: What is the legal status of lesbians in China?
San: It’s really a complicated issue…Well, we still have no right to get married, and the law does not recognize same-sex relationship. This leads to many same-sex relationship problems, due to the lack of legal protection. In fact, there are also some problems within the LGBT community. When Chinese people mentioned homosexuality, they can only think of gay, but not the lesbian. This is mainly due to the lack of sound of lesbians. We are working hard to change this situation. And we can also see the situation is truly into a better direction.
San: Lesbians in China of my generation are very different from our previous generation. China is richer, more confident, and more open. So generally, we do not receive a violent discrimination, (except some outlying poor areas, where violence and discrimination are still serious), but discrimination we receive is more intimate, such as discrimination in employment, discrimination at work etc. I had experienced the discrimination in employment before myself. The employer eventually hired a sweet girl who is always wearing a skirt but not me, and the boss told me directly they need a real girl with nice dress to obtain customers favor. I think this itself is discrimination and oppression against women.
CG: And.... finally... anything else you want to share with a lesbian-feminist readership here in the US and Canada??
San: The voice of lesbians in China is still very weak. Many people turn a blind eye to us; ignore our needs and callings, even including our own parents. Now, more and more of us have recognized this, and we working hard to try to change all this. We are doing everything you have done, and we believe our future will be what you have now been or even better. And we will be so glad if you can pay attention to us, encourage us, and support us. Because as you may already know, we are a family.
San's Mandarin translation of The Second Coming of Joan of Arc, 贞德再临_中文 is available online as a PDF download, or paperback.