William Page, in his comment on "Happy New Year Rabbit You," correctly informs us that it is au courant to refer to gay men as "rabbits" (tùzǐ 兔子). As for why gay men are referred to as "rabbits," this custom is said to have its basis in "Tale of the Rabbit God," about a deity who protected homosexuals, from Zǐbùyǔ 子不語 (What the Master [i.e., Confucius] Did Not Talk About), an old collection of strange stories by the famous Qing Dynasty author, Yuan Mei (1716-1797). There are other speculations about the origins of using tùzǐ 兔子 ("rabbit") to refer to male homosexuals, but none of them seems as convincing to me as the one I have just offered.
There are many related terms, such as tùerye 兔兒爺 ("wabbit dad"), which refers to a gay. And tù bǎobǎo 兔寶寶 ("bunny darling / precious") refers to someone who is the girl boy in a gay relationship.
If you look around on the Web for tùzǐ 兔子 ("rabbit") in the context of homosexuality, you will find that it often occurs in the company of bōlí 玻璃 ("glass"), which is another way to refer to male homosexuals in Chinese-speaking societies today. Why bōlí 玻璃 ("glass") signifies male homosexuality is initially even more difficult to figure out than why tùzǐ 兔子 ("rabbit") does, but once the answer is discovered, it is definitive. Namely, bōlí 玻璃 ("glass") as a substitute for "male homosexuality" is derived from the expression, "boy love," which is common in Chinese LGBT circles. Thus "boy love" –> BL –> bōlí 玻璃 ("glass"), a usage that has been around since at least the mid-90s. In other words, "boy love" was shortened to BL, which — rather than being read as "bee" [bi:] "el" [ɛl] or "bê" [pɛ] "êl" [ɛl] (a la Hanyu Pinyin), was pronounced as bōlí.
I have entitled this post "Glass Rabbit," but that's simply because of the concatenation of bōlí 玻璃 ("glass") and tùzǐ 兔子 ("rabbit") as indicators of male homosexuality that I've noticed on the Web. So far as I am aware, it has nothing to do "Garasu no Usagi / Glass no Usagi / Glass Rabbit " (Japanese: ガラスのうさぎ), an animated film based on the non-fiction bestselling autobiography The Glass Rabbit (Toshiko Takagi) that was released on December 18, 2007. Here's a synopsis of the film:
The period of late World War II, Toshiko was living in downtown Tokyo with her family. Japan was more towards losing the War at the time and people were suffering with lack of materials. On March 10th 1945, she lost her mother and two younger sisters by the bombing in Tokyo. She picked up "Glass Rabbit", which shape was changed by the fire, out of the wreck one day and she experienced the terror of the War. Moreover when she had to evacuate to the suburbs, her father was killed by US army on the way at the station. Now that she became all alone, she felt so lonely and despaired that she almost found no meaning to be alive. But despite of her loneliness and sorrow, she aroused herself, thinking about all her family who were gone. "I must survive for my family…. Otherwise, who will be visiting their grave." This is the story of one girl, which should not be forgotten.
For the philologists and genuine etymologists among us, it may be interesting to note that the Mandarin word bōlí 玻璃 ("glass") comes from Sanskrit. There are actually two words in Mandarin that are used for "glass," liúlí 琉璃 and bōlí 玻璃 (though bōlí 玻璃 is much more common than liúlí 琉璃 in Modern Standard Mandarin [MSM]), and both of them are derived from Sanskrit (perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they are derived from a Prakrit). Liúlí and bōlí are two of the seven "Precious Treasures / Jewels / Gems" (Skt. sapta ratna) of Buddhism.
Liúlí is derived from Skt. vaidurya (dot under "d" and long "u"). There are approximately a dozen different transcriptions of this word in Chinese characters, some with three or four syllables that account for the beginning and ending sounds of the Sanskrit word, but most transcriptions are reduced to two syllables to account only for the core sounds (-dury– [dot under the "d"]). Vaidurya is cognate with "beryl" < Latin beryllus < Greek beryllos < Prakrit veruliya, apparently of Dravidian origin, perhaps from the city of Velur (modern Belur) in southern India.
A few days ago, I wrote about an old commercial street in Beijing that I had trouble finding because I didn't pronounce the name the way the locals do. There is another famous, old-fashioned shopping street in Beijing that I never have trouble finding and that gets its name from liúlí 琉璃, namely Liúlí chǎng 琉璃廠 ("Glaze Factory"). This is a good place to buy books, "antiquities," art works, and so forth.
The word bōlí 玻璃’ underwent the same kind of transition as liúlí 琉璃. The Sanskrit word sphatika (dot under the "t"), phalika in Pali, meaning "crystal" or "quartz," similarly has about a dozen transcriptional forms in Chinese, the most common of the truncated ones being bōlí 玻璃. In early Chinese Buddhist contexts, bōlí 玻璃 and shuǐjīng 水晶 ("crystal") were synonyms. With the importation and spread of glass, bōlí 玻璃 came to be applied to that material as well.
This is not the place to delve into such a huge subject, but elaborate glass beads and faience were already being brought to East Asia from the Mediterranean region starting from at least the 8th century BC and are found at many sites throughout China, though they undoubtedly would not have been called by the Sanskritic terms liúlí 琉璃 and bōlí 玻璃 at that time.
All of this is to show how deep and complex the history of one of the designations for male homosexuality is in China.
Finally, another very popular term used by homosexuals in China, Taiwan, and elsewhere in the Sinophone world is tóngzhì 同志 ("comrade"). The Wikipedia article on "comrade" covers equivalents in many other languages, see especially the sections on Russian and Chinese usage. In Chinese tóngzhì 同志 was already in use by Sun Yat-sen as early as 1894 to refer to his associates who had a "common aspiration" to overthrow the Manchus. In other words, it was pre-Communist.
The Japanese word for "comrade" is dōshi 同志. I'm not sure if it is used to refer to homosexuals.
In any event, in non-Communist circles in China, tóngzhì 同志 ("comrade") has been almost entirely co-opted by the gay community, much as the word "gay" in English currently and "queer" forty and more years ago. The communists, however, still use it with utter seriousness to designate like-minded individuals, i.e., "comrades." For example, the most famous Communist comrade of all in China today is President Hú Jǐntāo (Hu Jintao tóngzhì 胡錦濤同志), i.e., Comrade Hu Jintao. But I don't think that anyone would dare to call President Hu a tùzǐ 兔子.
[With thanks to Gianni Wan, Rebecca Fu, Mark Swofford, and Sijie Ren.]