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China leads the way.|
Based in Beijing, Blued is the most popular gay dating app in the world,
The big, open workspace near Beijing's business district has that startup feel: High ceilings, treadmills and snack stations, as well as hundreds of 20-somethings sitting in front of glowing screens.
And lots of rainbow flags and pins. Indeed, the staff here shows far more gay pride than most Chinese dare.
That's because they work for Blued, a gay dating app that's quickly become the most popular in the world. It boasts 40 million registered users while based in a country where most LGBT men and women still feel locked in the closet — where homosexuality, while no longer illegal, is still officially labelled "abnormal."
It helps that the CEO of Blued has become something of an icon in the nascent Chinese gay movement, fighting his way from a youth spent desperately looking for love online in small-town internet cafés.
"Back in my time, we felt depressed, isolated and lonely. I felt so tiny," said Ma Baoli, thinking back 20 years. "I wanted to find a lover, but it was so hard."
His corner office at Blued is decorated with pictures of near-naked men wrapped in rainbow banners, alongside official portraits of him shaking hands with top business and government officials.