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Growing Up of an Untypical Female Leader

On the 9.6 million square kilometers of land in China, there are hundreds of grassroot organizations providing service to Gay people. The organization I work with, which focus on ‘Sex education and Service’ to Gay communities, is one of the organizations with the most extensive coverage, the largest service scale, the strongest appeal and with the best reputation.
Among hundreds of persons in charge of these different organizations, I am female, the one and only.

This may be the first time for my counterparts in China to realize that: not only men can fully understand and solve men’s problem, as a young woman, I can also play a key role to have a profound impact in this traditionally-led-by-men area.

And all of this begins on Internet.

Without Internet, there will be no mature LGBT communities in China.

Internet has changed the life paths of generation to generation of LGBT in China. Comparing with Western, Chinese LGBT communities are late in development by almost 40 years. In many countries, LGBT communities’ entities were formed before Internet invented, but in China, after year 1998 Internet became available, LGBT communities had, to some extent, begun to form. Till present, for most of LGBT in China, Internet is the only channel they can go to figure out ‘what homosexual is all about’, ‘how to get to know people same as I am’, ‘what community rules to follow’, ‘what should I do when this happens’. Therefore, Chinese LGBT deeply relies on Internet, it is not only a tool or a platform, and it is more like their school, friends circle and spiritual home.

Thus, we have developed several software and games for sex education and launched online to reach Gay communities, in order to provide health prevention and HIV test mobilization. Our goal is to use online health intervention strategy rather than huge-crowd strategy. That’s how we can provides sex education to tens of thousands person-time and HIV test mobilization to almost eight thousands person-time to our target. With only 5 staff and average less than 20% of working time (mainly responsible for the pre-planning, software development, content design and post-maintain), we attracted lots of attentions from domestic and foreign peer, and we was later written into CASE STUDY by the World Health Organization.

Without Internet, I may never be a leader of a community.

Back in 1999 when I was 15, my family bought the first computer of our own. I was filled with joy over difficult to learn to access to the Internet. Back then, it is charging internet fee by second, downloading 2 MP3 songs can cost one hour, and being online for one hour costs one meal for my family.

Same as most of the teenagers in China, I learnt almost all of my early sex education through Internet. And thanks to Internet, not only it gives me enough knowledge of sex, also plants a seed deeply in my mind for many basic concepts such as human rights, diversity, and respect.

Also, via Internet, I got to learn about LGBT communities. At that time as an ordinary 16 years old girl, my life was completely insulated with LGBT issues, no LGBT would come out and tell the world that they are gay, no one would talk about LGBT in their daily conversation, and no TV or paper news would report anything about LGBT. Via internet, I had got to know for the first time that there is such a big community of LGBT exists, and it had really subverted my awareness of the world - that there was such a big group being forced to invisibility in society, to go underground quietly, completely un-seen, unacknowledged, unaccepted, and unable to speak out their words. This was entirely contrary to the ideas and common senses Internet had filled me with.

My intuition told me that, it is not right, not fair to treat LGBT group like this. Therefore I decided to learn more. I began to surf through several main LGBT Internet communities, read lots of materials and articles and posts, and get to know a lot of LGBT friends, until my intuition becomes a simple thought. 2002, I was 18; I decided to do something for this group.

Frankly speaking, back then I had no ideas what I could achieve. At the end, I make this simple thought into my 12 years career; I become the leader of the best organization providing health service to Gay in China. I become the one and only female leader in this area.
Internet, eventually changes my life path.

When I was 18 in 2002, the earliest website for LGBT ‘GZTZ.ORG’ had been running for 4 years. And I became one of the volunteers, participated in the building of the community. In 2004, I became the one and only female and straight member in the core management team of GZTZ.ORG. Till now, GZTZ.ORG has developed into one of the biggest Chinese LGBT communities, with almost 3,000,000 individual visitors and over 27,274,478 page views per year; it has extremely high population and reputation among communities in Southern China.

In 2007, once again, as the one and only female straight member, two partners and I founded Lingnan Partner Community Support Center, and began to focus on providing sex education and health service to groups affected by HIV (Gay, students, people lives with HIV and their partners), I became the chief person in charge in 2010. Till now, Lingnan Partner Community Support Center is the biggest sex and health education service institution in Southern China, running a service center about 260 sq meters with near 10 Cooperation clinics. Every year, we will provide sex education to tens of thousands of Gay by our self-developed software and game through internet, also provide HIV voluntary counseling and testing service to nearly 8,000 gay, as well as CD4 testing, crisis intervention and therapeutic support to nearly 1,000 people live with HIV.

2013, our organization is elected as one of the Most Advance Group on National AIDS Prevention Work; it is the highest award in the field of AIDS prevention work in China, and we are the only one grassroot organization among 156 awarded units, the one and only LGBT organization ever wins this award. At the same year, we have got specially reported by and Magazine.

Now, as an untypical female leader, I am proud.

I, by my 12 years hard working, have proved that an ordinary woman as I am can fully grow up to a community leader and transform the world, in an area traditionally led by men.

And all of these can never happen without internet.

Internet makes me a better person, a better community leader.
I deeply appreciate it.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

Bienvenu à WOLRD PULSE j'espère que vous apprécierer faire partie de cette communauté des femmes de beaucoup de pays à travers le monde. Nous pouvons trouver des solutions pour mettre fin à la violence faite aux femmes et à faire un monde de paix et sécurité pour nos familles de notre génération présente mais aussi et surtout celle futur. Nous entendons votre voix sur les histoier de votre vie.
A bientôt

arianemoza

SanPatagonia's picture

An inspiring journey!

Dear Xiaomi, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful picture of your journey of a young girl becoming a strong woman leader. I've really enjoyed it and deeply appreciated the topic you've brought to the WWW Campaign - the impact of the Internet in LGBT communities fights for equality and their empowerment as rightful subjects of public policies.
I'm very impressed by the amount and quality of work you're taking care of as an NGO and I hope to read much more on your experiences very soon.
You make us proud!

@SanPatagonia
Be a voice, tell a story, start the fire. | Sé una voz, cuenta una historia, enciende el fuego.

Kit's picture

Thank you for this

Thank you for this beautifully written piece about the power of the internet. You have included several memorable phrases such as,
“This may be the first time for my counterparts in China to realize that: not only men can fully understand and solve men’s problem, as a young woman, I can also play a key role to have a profound impact in this traditionally-led-by-men area."
"Without Internet, I may never be a leader of a community."

"Internet makes me a better person, a better community leader. 
I deeply appreciate it.”

The internet helped you become aware of “hidden” communities, (LGBT), and also helped shape your values (human rights, diversity, respect), and your career. Your story illuminates how powerful and profoundly positive internet access can be. Your story also reveals how much strength and courage you had to become the leader of a group of marginalized people. This is a very impressive journal entry; you are an impressive human being. Thank you, so very much, for sharing.

~Kit

Vision40's picture

Thank you

Good morning
I sit this morning before I go to work reading your article. It is so refreshing to read what you have achieved and how you have been so focused on this goal. You certainly have the vision and have made so much difference to the lives of uncountable LGBT communities. I am certain that you could assist many other countries and organisations to establish what you have achieved. Fascinating.

First you need to believe you can
Take care
Nicola

SMJaney-

You have provided such a fresh view here in your article, exhibiting strong initiative, perseverance, and vision. Rather than being afraid of something less familiar, you embraced it to educate yourself and in the end be of help to so many.

A poignant piece of how using technologies can serve to increase our connection, knowledge, and connection with others. Thank you for your story.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

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