Exercising Our Democratic Rights


The protests by Chinese LGBT students against stigma fostered by erroneous educational materials are inspirational, and they hold an important message for those of us with democratic rights, says Rob Buchanan.


It was very encouraging to see Chinese LGBT activists protesting discrimination against gay students of universities last week. It was the culmination of a letter writing campaign targeting 112 universities across the country. The targets of the protest were literature and teaching materials that reinforce erroneous and discriminatory ideas about the nature of homosexuality. The protesters also demanded more action against bullying and greater inclusivity and sensitivity.

The official line on homosexuality in China is as complex and contradictory as everything else in that massive, bureaucratic communist state. Despite thousands of years of historic celebration of male same-sex relationships, homosexuality only became legal in modern China in 1997.

Chinese LGBT rights activist frequently cite the government’s official stance towards queers as the “three no’s”: No approval, no disapproval, no promotion. Despite the hegemony of most party teachings, the ambiguity about being LGBT means that up to 40% medical textbooks still classify being queer as a mental illness, even though homosexuality hasn’t been on the official listing since 2001.

Equally disturbing is the prevalence of official thought among medical experts in China that homosexuality can be cured or even that being gay is just an act. They base much of this quackery on the fact that majority of LGBT being presented for “treatment” are also mentally ill, depressed or suffering from addictions. It seems that in some areas of China there is no understanding of the chicken before the egg theory, that such issues may stem from the way the state pathologises perfectly healthy homosexual natures.

The courageous action being taken for gay equality should inspire pride and shame in equal measure. Pride in our Chinese LGBT brothers and sisters who are willing to call out and face down injustice, especially given historical atrocities against students such as the Tiananmen Square massacre. But their actions should also shame us for our complacency in Ireland, where despite every possible utility that democratic rights and open media provide, many of us are still willing to forego activism or even advocacy in favour of accepting scraps from the master’s table.

© 2014 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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