LGBT in China
Keith K. Elphick
LGBT in China
Firstly, I would like to narrate to a real story about my friend. She is a lesbian. Often, she tells me that she is discriminated not only at work but, also in her daily life. Most parents in China are influenced by traditional thoughts and teachings that depict same-sex relationship as mental illnesses. In fact, it was just recently that the China government removed same-sex relationships from the list of mental illnesses. My friend often thought that she would turn out heterosexual and indulge in intimate relationships with the opposite. However, she was not attracted to boys irrespective of the good personalities even though. As she was stuck in the denial stage, it was difficult for her to come out of the closet and openly date a girl. In fact, when she tried informing her mother about her sexual orientation, the conversation did not end well. This paper critically examines the history and fate of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in China.
As earlier mentioned, LGBT relationships in China were recently removed from the list of mental illness. To be precise, it was crossed out in 2001. It is clear to understand that there are different understandings of the existence of the LGBT community in China. Research shows that same sex relationships in China were considered normal before the 1840s. However, there are still entities that ruthlessly opposed the issue during the recent centuries. It is clear to note that discrimination against LGBT began during Western civilization. For this reason, it may be speculated that the civilization influenced the opinion of the Chinese regarding same-sex relationships. Until 1997, it was considered illegal to engage in same-sex relationships in China (Sears 153-154).
Indeed, LGBT relationships were normal in China before Western civilization. The opinions were observed in their ideas, religion, as well as in their philosophical beliefs. As a matter of fact, the literature of the Ming Dynasty depicted male same-sex relationships as fulfilling and satisfying. Other writers in the Liu Song Dynasty echoed that the presence of homosexuality as rampant as that of heterosexuality. Later, during, Tang Dynasty, the Chinese began to view same-sex relationships from a negative perspective. This opposition was mainly from writers with influence from religious values. Christianity and Islam were at play in altering the notions and opinions of same-sex relationships in China. However, Tang’s Dynasty was incapable of garnering full support on the opposition end.
It was during the Qing Dynasty that there was an extreme discrimination regarding homosexual practices in China. Moreover, it may be concluded that discrimination of LGBT was influenced by the Indian culture due to Buddhism and Indian literature. The two entities strongly opposed the practice of same sex relationships. Nonetheless, there were no harsh laws against homosexuality during the Qing Dynasty. It was during Song’s Dynasty there were harsh laws against homosexuals in China. As a matter fact, the Jijiang Emperor barred all forms of sexual intercourse among homosexuals in China.
Moreover, Chinese literature may have influenced the opinions of people on LGBT matters. Often, intimate poems would not be addressed to a specific sex. For this reason, the reader of the poem has the freedom to interpret it in the way that they deem fit. Whether the poem was written by a man, the reader could assume that the poet is addressing it to another man. In the same way, female poets may have been writing to female parties. In fact, other male poets often mimicked the voices of females while writing their poems. They would also be addressing the poems to males while lamenting due to various reasons. Additionally, during the Tang Dynasty, there was great written material on homosexual relationships.
Also, it is clear to realize that the leaders in China may have been involved in homosexual tendencies. It is learned that during Han’s Dynasty, one of the officials experiences a homosexual encounter with his superior. The superior is surprised but, after a fabricated explanation from the former, the superior raises the rank of the official in the Dynasty. In his explanation, he mentions a prominent homosexual. It is; therefore, clear to realize that homosexuality was a non-issue during Han’s Dynasty (Sears 153).
The prominence of same-sex friendships is also important in discussing matters of LGBT. In China, most of the male writers addressed their works to male friends. The writers treasured the friendships and ensured that they passed the message through poems and lyrics. These male friendships often turned out to be romantic relationships. It was normal to the Chinese for members of the same sex to develop strong and deep friendships. Moreover, it is necessary to learn that some homosexual relationships were merely passionate and intimate. During Zhou’s Dynasty, these relationships did not begin from friendships. The male individuals were attracted to one another thus they instantly pursued their attraction (West & Richard 55). It is shocking and superstitious to learn that some relationships continued even after the demise of the lovers.
Also, it is important to note the prevalence of lesbian and bisexual instances in some Chinese authors. For instance; Ding Ling, a renowned female author often wrote about lesbian and bisexual women. Other authors such as Huang Buyin also openly write about lesbian topics and themes. In the past China, there is knowledge concerning the ease of gay people coming out. Another author, Pai Hsien-Yung, comes out and writes a story about living as a gay man in China. In addition to writers, there existed other forms of art that upheld same-sex relationships. Here, it is possible to observe homosexual innuendos in paintings and scrolls.
Today, same-sex couples have a lot of benefits in China. They rarely undergo discrimination because of the places they spend most of their time. The LGBT community has been considered thus there are public places that are friendly to those individuals. For example; there are restaurants, bars, and clubs where gay folk are free to be themselves. It is unfortunate that most of them often undergo discrimination in the midst of heterosexual individuals. The issue of homosexuality has also been largely discussed in the media thus giving people a better view of same-sex love and relationships (Sears 153-155).
Additionally, there are many gay forums, groups, websites, and organizations, among others. These entities have greatly assisted heterosexual folk in understanding that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are the same. They are not only about sex but, also love, care, and compassion. These LGBT organizations also arrange parades and festivals in which members of the community bond and mingle. In fact, this is important as it assists the individuals in coming out. Often, homosexuals fear coming out because of discrimination and stigma. However, mingling with fellow homosexuals often gives them the courage to accept themselves (Doman 179-180).
In today’s society, the rampant spread of HIV/AIDs is also monitored by these organizations. Research shows that the virus spreads faster in homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals. Therefore, it is important for homosexuals to learn prevention measures to avoid spreading HIV/AIDs (Sears 155). Nonetheless, it is also important to realize that times have changed. The views on same-sex love in today’s generation are different from those in the earlier centuries. It is difficult to engage openly in homosexual acts in today’s generation. In the past, it is observed that even rulers did not dispute homosexuality. There was opposition from different groups but, it was not as much as the proposition. In China today, homosexuals are not openly denounced but, they are not accepted either (Zhang 239-241).
Furthermore, it is necessary to realize that there are also men that indulge in sexual practice with men in China. Ironically, such men are not referred to as homosexuals within the Chinese community. They only indulge in those homosexual pleasures for business and commercial purposes. To be precise, these men are often classified in a distinct social group among the Chinese. Just like the homosexuals, these men are also classified under the minority; regarding poverty.
In summation, it is clear to learn that homosexuality in China emanates due to various reasons. Other than biological reasons, there are factors that dictate an individual’s sexuality. As mentioned, poverty and lack of money often caused men to engage in sexual intercourse with other men. Also, it is evident to observe that homosexual practices are indeed legal in China. It is the public show of affection that is illegal in China. However, it is necessary to note that this applies to heterosexual couples as well. Regardless, gay couples have certain restrictions such as those of adopting children. It is also necessary to acknowledge the recent happenings regarding gay marriage in China. The media drafted a positive coverage on the male same-sex marriage that took place in China, in 2009. In fact, there were intimate photos of the two men in China’s newspapers.
Doman, Evelyn. Insight into Efl Teaching and Issues in Asia. , 2014. Print.
West, D.J, and Richard Green. Sociolegal Control of Homosexuality: A Multi-Nation Comparison. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002. Internet resource.
Sears, James T. Youth, Education, and Sexualities: Vol. 1. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2005. Print.
Zhang, Kaining. Sexual and Reproductive Health in China: Reorienting Concepts and Methodology. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Print.
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