While the authorities might be tightening up regulations restricting the public visibility
of China’s increasingly vocal queer community, such efforts haven’t deterred businesses from courting gay consumers. Recent surveys by WorkForLGBT, the Beijing LGBT Center and UNDP have all identified LGBT individuals as generally having more disposable income and being more inclined to splurge than their straight counterparts.
Small wonder, then, that the health and wellness market is also shifting attention to this small but big-spending community. The profusion of gay dating, package holidays and pay-per-view TV apps, online stores specialising in shoes and wigs for drag queens
, and even upstart, totally illegal WeChat marketplaces for home-grown adult movies, are all evidence of the growing spending power of China’s LGBT population. Brick-and-mortar businesses that openly advertise their LGBT-friendliness are, however, far less common than those found in the relative anonymity of cyberspace.
Male spas, such as An Spa
and Spa de Feng
, are by no means rare in the capital, but Cross Fusion
stands above its competitors by not only being gay-friendly, but openly courting an exclusively gay male clientele.
Manager Ivan, a soft-spoken and deeply polite gent who personally greets new customers on arrival at Cross Fusion’s flagship location in Sanlitun Soho (a new location in Joy City is about to open), explained on our visit that his spa’s décor, masseurs and selection of treatments are finely tuned to appeal to a discerning gay male clientele.
Chinese-style tuina massage – which provides a sensation similar to being kneaded like a ball of bread dough – is available on request (alongside other treatments), but, as Ivan acknowledges, his clients overwhelmingly prefer Thai-style massage (398RMB for 90 minutes). Unsurprising, given the country’s unflagging popularity as the holiday destination of choice for China’s LGBT jet-setters (Songkran is rapidly turning into a proxy Mardi Gras for China). What’s more, while spas offering 'Thai massage' are more common than malatang stalls these days, few have therapists genuinely trained in Thailand, and when our designated masseur clambers atop us to stretch our calves to beyond a sensible extent, we finally twig why Cross Fusion is so popular.
An androgynous, willowy and silken-voiced young man greets us at reception, presenting a cool glass of tea and a picture menu of broad-chested, chiselled therapists encompassing a spread of aesthetic archetypes – from buff to scruff.
The bouquets of rainbow flags on the reception desk also send a loud and clear message that this is a safe space. Discretion is essential to running a successful LGBT business, and the privacy of customers is paramount – hence the relative lack of communal spaces, and the moody lighting, redolent of a tropical veranda after dark. Our masseur, a cheeky, garrulous chap from Nanjing, was happy to put us at ease (though non-Chinese speakers might find conversation limited). Be open about what your needs are – Cross Fusion’s therapists are experienced, professional and not prudish in the slightest. When you’ve showered off and dried yourself, if you want the pampering to continue, ask about the mixed hair and nail salon they operate nearby.
In a city where many businesses remain coy about flaunting their queer credentials, Cross Fusion dares to be out and proud. Attentive service, soothing surroundings and a commitment to the clientele secure its status as a force to be reckoned with.