LGBTQ ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer/Questioning)
In China, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (sometimes referred to as tongzhi, meaning “same purpose or will”) and transgender (bianxingzhe, meaning “person who changes forms”) people remain largely invisible. China, one of the most populous countries in the world, has an estimated 1,400,000,000 people and thus is home to many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Xinhua news, the official state-run press in mainland China, estimated that the population of LGBT people in China was approximately 30,000,000. Internal Chinese government documents and academic studies stated that there were about 15,000,000 homosexuals within China's population of 1,200,000,000 as of the year 2000.
Homosexuality has not been considered a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association for over 4 decades. In the United States, about 4 to 5% of the population identify themselves as exclusively homosexual for their entire lives; an additional 2 to 5% identify themselves as bisexual. These estimates imply an LGBTQ population in China in the range of 75,000,000 to 100,000,000.
In December 2000, a senior Chinese government official announced that "it is not the right time to introduce a law banning discrimination against homosexuals [in areas such as employment or housing], due to a lack of majority support" and that though the public had become more open to homosexuality, "it takes time" and "the Government cannot impose any social values on the public" (South China Morning Post 13 Dec. 2000). Public opinion regarding non-traditional sexual orientation and gender identity remains predominantly negative today. A 2012 opinion poll of 1502 residents in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou showed that only 31 percent of participants accept gays and lesbians, and only 27 percent of survey participants indicated that there should be legal protections for sexual minorities.
Large cities and regional urban hubs show the greatest development of LGBT communities and organizations, as well as more tolerant social environments. This acceptance diminishes with the size of the city, leading to higher degrees of isolation of LGBT individuals in more remote rural areas.
Over 70% of gay men in China report having married women (known in Chinese as Tong Qi, “wife of a gay man”). Many of these marriages were created through the practice of “cooperation marriages” (known as Xing Shi Hun Yin in Chinese, or “marriage under cover”), with lesbians in some cases satisfying familial obligations and filial duties of childbearing with gay men. A survey of 2161 LGB Chinese people conducted in 2013 showed that 48 percent chose to remain completely secretive about their sexual orientation in the workplace.
In 2001, the Chinese Society of Psychiatry commissioned a working group to study the psychology of gays and lesbians, and research findings ultimately led to the removal of homosexuality and bisexuality from the official list of mental disorders in the Chinese Classification of Medical Disorders 3rd Edition (CCMD-3). But even after homosexuality was taken off the list of mental diseases in the 3rd Edition of the CCMD, many mental health workers, policy makers and educators are still unaware or unwilling to comply with this decision.
Although stigma continues to support the inequalities that Chinese LGBT people experience, it is rarely overtly described in research. Within a Chinese context, stigma as a threat to identity posits that people assess their positionality through collective representations of cultural stereotypes for cues of devaluation. The importance of “face” is reflected in two common Mandarin phrases for stigma: wuming, “dirtied name,” and bingchigan, the perception and feelings of shame.
Historically, there was a tradition of acceptance of homosexuality in China. Buddhism and Daoism, the two most influential religions in Chinese history do not explicitly condemn homosexuality but generally do not encourage desire in any form. Historically, Chinese society and culture did not show strong objections against homosexuality. Chinese written history contains evidence of male same-sex desire and relationships dating back to as early as 650 BC. While there are few records of women’s same-sex desire, historian Ying Shao recorded relationships between women that resembled husband and wife in the 2nd century AD.
It wasn't until the 20th century that homosexuals in China became marginalized and regarded as deviant. In the wake of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, a significant shift occurred in cultural attitudes with same-sex relationships increasingly characterized as socially deviant, which has now been reinforced by the People’s Republic of China for decades. Since 1949, in an ironic reversal, China, as part of the process of 'modernization,' chose to abandon traditional attitudes for the historical Western view of homosexuality as a perversion. Under the rule of the Communist government, social acceptance of homosexuality virtually disappeared.
After coming to power in 1949, the Communist Party under Mao Tse-tung stamped out anything they deemed deviant or decadent, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s (during the Cultural Revolution), gays were subjected to public humiliation and long prison terms. During the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976), homosexuality was heavily persecuted, regarded as both “disgraceful” and “undesirable.” Exposed homosexual individuals underwent public denunciation, examination, and in some cases were beaten to death.
LGBT individuals have been victims of violence, extortion, and rape. But they are often afraid or ashamed to report such crimes to law enforcement officials due to the fear of ridicule and discrimination. Same-sex rape is not an offense punishable by law. The civil rights of LGBT people are not protected in a variety of areas, including adoption by same-sex couples, inheritance, joint property rights, cohabitation, and compensation in the case of divorce.
After economic reform and opening up of the Chinese economy and society in the 1980s, the concept of “homosexuality” in its modern form became known to the Chinese public, but in this historical context many misunderstood homosexuality as an import from the West, denying the long histories of same-sex desire, cross-dressing and gender diversity native to China.
From 1979 to 1997, the Chinese government enacted an anti-hooliganism law, criminalizing any male who conducted ji jian (sodomy) with a male. "Hooliganism," a term used for anything the Chinese Communist Party regards as anti-social, could result in dispatch to labor camps without trial or jail terms of up to seven years. This law was used to persecute gay and bisexual men in China, many of whom were arrested by police in gay-related sociability spaces. While decriminalization occurred in 1997, the complex trauma of such laws and practices on the lives of LGBT people has not faded away. The Chinese Society for the Study of Sexual Minorities (CSSSM) states that the more recent police raids of gay bars, discos, and other establishments seem to be more financially than politically motivated, which indicates that the gay community is a victim more of bureaucratic corruption than of political persecution.
Historically sexual activity between women has not been criminalized, however society has heavily stigmatized lesbians. This is partly due to the fact that in China’s traditional patriarchal society, sex without a male partner was not considered an actual sexual act (phallocentrism). Thus while lesbianism was never actively criminalized in China, this led to the almost complete invisibility of lesbians and bisexual women. For instance, the Chinese government’s Health Examination Criteria of Blood Donors, enacted in 1998, prohibited lesbians from donating blood until 2012. Chinese lesbians have had even lower social visibility than gay men. Most lesbians choose to conceal their sexual orientation from their family.
Censorship laws explicitly ban homosexual content in any form in movies and television. This prevents a broader public discourse on LGBT people as well as sexual and gender identity. In 2016, the Chinese government cracked down on gay materials in the media, actively removing numerous websites and web-series on the allegation of “immoral content”.
At the height of this restrictive campaign, the Chinese government proposed to ban all gay content from Weibo, a popular social media platform. Weibo released a notice on 13 April 2018 saying that content such as comics and videos related to “prostitution, violence and homosexuality” would be cancelled and banned. The notice quickly provoked an outcry, and the issue simmered for the next few days, with tens of thousands of Weibo users clicking on the #Iamgay hashtag to express their support for the LGBT community and protest the ban. Within two days, the hashtag vanished from Weibo after getting 270 million clicks. Sixty-six hours after the notice was released, Weibo clarified that their clean-up would no longer target gay content and would focus only on pornographic and violent material. But the public and private censorship of LGBT materials is ongoing.
Blued founder and CEO Geng Le launched the app in 2011, and by 2015 it had more than 15 million subscribers and an average of three million daily active users, said the former police officer, when the app pulled in $30 million in third-round financing. The 36-year-old, who quit his job to play Cupid, said he wants to liberate fellow homosexuals across the world. The Blued announced its plan to expand the production of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) multimedia content with RNW, former Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
Finka is a leading gay social networking app in China targeting younger generations. It helps young users establish social contact and record and share their daily life through rich product features like matching, private message, posting moments and live streaming. According to the Frost & Sullivan Report, Finka had over 2.7 million registered users in 2019. Finka is a top choice for young Chinese gay men to make friends.
On 25 November 2020 BlueCity Holdings Limited (NASDAQ: BLCT), a world’s leading online LGBTQ platform, announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement with iRainbow Hong Kong Limited (“Finka”) and all of its subsidiaries and other entities under the control of Finka, pursuant to which BlueCity agreed to acquire 100% equity interests in Finka for an aggregate consideration of RMB240 million in cash.
No laws criminalize private consensual same-sex conduct between adults. The intersection of LGBT stigma with cultural values (familial responsibility, filial piety, and loss of face) and larger structural changes (the aftermath of the one-child policy, economic reforms and globalization, LGBT human rights, and HIV policies) are creating dramatic shifts in Chinese society and impacting the lives of LGBT people. The increasing prevalence of HIV among gay and bisexualr men, although rarely acknowledged, is also contributing to challenges facing LGBT older adults and their families. These changes render LGBT older adults and those living with HIV and their caregivers at risk of economic insecurity.
Individuals and organizations working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) issues continued to report discrimination and harassment from authorities similar to that experienced by other organizations that accept funding from overseas.
LGBTI individuals reported incidents of violence, including domestic violence; however, they encountered difficulties in seeking legal redress, since regulations on domestic violence do not include recognition of same-sex relations. Accessing redress was further limited by societal discrimination and traditional norms, resulting in most LGBTI persons refraining from publicly discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nonetheless, the 28 May 2020 civil code includes a provision that protects certain tenancy rights for designated partners of deceased property owners without officially defined family relationships.
There is little documentation or evidence about organized gay and lesbian life in the 1980s or before. In the midto late 1990s, organized social gatherings explicitly for lesbian and gay people began at both private residences and in commercial venues. Police raids and harassment were common for venues that attracted too much attention. With the development and expansion of the Internet in the early 2000s, gays, lesbians, and to a lesser extent bisexual and transgender people, began to form online forums to discuss experiences and connect with each other. By 2010, the number of civil society organizations (CSOs) had increased dramatically.
Some diplomatic missions in China, foreign foundations, and other sources have begun funding some CSO initiatives, and the work of these groups expanded in scale. CSOs working on LGBTI issues reported that although public advocacy work became more difficult for them due to laws governing charities and foreign NGOs, they made some progress in advocating for LGBTI rights through specific antidiscrimination cases. Tensions and conflicts are common within the LGBT community due to lack of communication, mutual discrimination as well as the unbalanced distribution of resources.
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