Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,

[BRIEF NOTE] On changing attitudes to homosexuality in China

Joe. My. God linked to an eyecatching Xinhua article on support for GLBT rights.

More than 80 percent of Chinese people born after the 1980s hold no discriminatory beliefs regarding homosexuality, according to a survey on marriage perspectives conducted by jiayuan.com, a major Chinese dating website.

The survey results, which were published in the Monday edition of the Beijing News, indicate that 83 percent of respondents born between 1980 and 1989, as well as 82 percent of those born after 1990, do not disapprove of homosexuality.


This survey has to be taken with a non-trivial amount of skepticism. Is jiayuan.com's surveyed population representative of the Chinese population at large, for instance? What exactly does "no discriminatory beliefs regarding homosexuality" mean? Still, compared to the United States where as recent as 2008 a Gallup poll on the subject revealed a roughly even split over the moral status of homosexuality and even adjusting for the well-known phenomenon of younger demographers being more pro-gay than older, figures in excess of 80% are noteworthy.

What's up? Commenters at Joe. My. God. highlighted the contributions of gay-positive sexologist Li Yinhe for this rather high figure, along with more broadly a lack of the religious opposition to homosexuality found in the West in indigenous Chinese traditions. Presumably without deep-seated objections to homosexuality as a moral issue, rapid shifts in public opinion would be considerably easier than in the West.

Homosexuality as a moral issue, however, is one thing. Homosexuality as a lived experience compatible with expected behaviour, however, is another. This China Daily report on gay life in China on Valentine's Daily makes the point that whatever changes have occurred on homosexuality as a moral issue, as a practical issue homosexuality is incompatible with familial expectations.

"Love can exist between a boy and a girl, and so it does between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, doesn't it?" said Li Yinhe, a renowned female sexologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

She said that on this day of love, the gay community also wants to, and should, express love for their partners.

"It's good to see that Chinese gays are more active nowadays. Society has been more and more inclusive, and they have begun to step into the sunshine from the dark," Li said.

Li's comment reflects a recent survey on marriage perspectives conducted by jiayuan.com, a major Chinese dating website, which found that over 80 percent of respondents born after the 1980s bear no discriminatory beliefs regarding homosexuality.

However, most gay lovers prefer to get into the Valentine's spirit in a low-key manner.

A gift may not be necessary, and gay couples often opt to go to a gay bar or a less public place where their intimacy won't make them too "noticeable."

"After all, we are different. If we walk hand-in-hand or kiss in the street, people will see it as abnormal, some may stare at or even laugh at us," said a gay man surnamed Xie, who celebrated Valentine's Day by having a simple dinner at a local restaurant with his boyfriend.

Meanwhile, the holiday is more bitter than sweet for those gay men who have married women.

Mu Sen, a fashion stylist living in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province, had a tiring day commuting from his "underground" boyfriend's house and his home.

He skipped work and drove a long way to his boyfriend's house to give him a gift and have lunch with him during the day. But, in the evening, he will make dinner to please his wife on this special day.

"My boyfriend wants me to stay with him the whole day as he values this festival a lot," he said, "but, you know, I am a husband and will soon be a father to my second child."

Li, who has been fighting for the recognition of homosexual marriages in China, called on gay men to avoid marrying women.

Li said that the situation for gays in China has indeed become much better, but pressures remain. These pressures can compel a gay man to choose to marry woman -- a so-called "normal marriage" -- but sometimes become a source of tragedy for the gay men and their wives.


This is not so different from the situation in the West at all.
Tags: china, glbt issues, links, marriage rights, popular culture
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