If you were to grow up in China, and go through the education system, you may find yourself learning that ‘homosexuality is an abnormal sexual mental disorder’, and would even be compared to bestiality or necrophilia. However recent breakthroughs have seen that perhaps public perspective could be shifting. A man in china, only identified as ‘Yu’, has been issued an apology from a mental institution in the Henan Province, after he was admitted by his wife in 2015 and forced to undergo treatment including injections and oral medicine for 19 days. Mr Yu had been diagnosed with ‘sexual preference disorder’, and the court had decided that if he ‘did not pose a danger’, then forcing him into a mental institute infringed on his human rights. Although the courts did not state any opinion on the practice of gay conversion, this is a significant step towards gay rights. In the run-up to London pride weekend, we look at landmark moments in Chinese gay rights.

Despite what seems like a recent hostility towards homosexuality, China seemingly has historically always had a conflicted outlook towards gay rights. Early poetry and novella seem display same-sex relationships alongside heterosexual ones, with perhaps one of China’s greatest books ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’, also known as ‘Story of the Stone’ displaying the relationship between two of its protagonists, Bao-Yu and Qin Zhong, as homosexual. Although this shows that it was in the Chinese consciousness from a very early time, it wasn’t exactly tolerated. The characters are bullied for the thought that they are perhaps too close, and the story displays a hostility towards the thought of homosexuality.

Perhaps the traditional view of sons as a vehicle to carry on the family name and reputation means that the idea of homosexuality especially in men conflicts with the traditional Chinese values. However views seem to be shifting. Although only 15% of homosexuals have come out to their families, (and over half of them received discrimination for it), attitudes are shifting. A recent study shows that only 9% of those born after 1990 would reject a gay child, as opposed to 35% born before 1970. In 2001, homosexuality was removed from the health ministry’s list of mental disorders.

History and Geography students should look the difference between the social and political views on homosexuality both in different periods of time, and in different geographical situations. English students should look at the way literature reflects the values of the society in which it is written, and how it can potentially push the boundaries of accepted opinion. Consider ‘Women in Love’ or ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ as western explorations of implicit homosexual relationships. Medicine students should look at how illness is defined, and how homosexuality was ‘treated’ through the ages.

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