The Gay Debate: Tolerance with a Voice

The Gay Debate: Tolerance with a Voice
Jul 21, 2011 By Susie Gordon ,

The Post that Set it All Off

When famous Chinese actress Lü Liping took to her Weibo last month to decry homosexuality as “a sin”, she stirred up an online debate that had countless public figures wading in to agree or disagree with her statements. Re-posting comments by a priest in relation to the legalisation of gay marriage in New York, Lü’s homophobia brought other bigots out of the woodwork, such as her own husband, Sun Haiying who believes that homosexuality is “a sin against humanity”.

The openly gay film critic and playwright Cheng Qingsong spoke for many when he asked: "Do Sun Haiying and Lü Liping think that we should delete the same-sex plot in Dream of Red Mansions? That we must call them sinners when we see Pai Hsien-yung, Kevin Tsai and Ricky Martin? That we should condemn Liu Ye, Chen Sicheng, Tony Leung and Vivian Chow for their gay movie roles? That we should ban Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain?" Kevin Tsai, the gay Taiwanese television host, also denounced Lü, leading the opposition against her bigotry.


The Public’s Reaction

In the aftermath of the brouhaha, an online Sina poll of 60,000 web users found that 70% supported Tsai while only 15% agreed with Lü. From the same cohort, 47% of respondents saw no difference between gay and straight people and only 6% opposed homosexuality. A further 5% believed that other people’s sexual preferences were none of their business.

The affair sparked discussion about the acceptance of homosexuality in China. Exactly how many gay people there are on the Mainland is not known. In 2006, the Ministry of Health estimated that there were five to 10 million homosexuals in China. Sexologist and gay activist Li Yinhe believes that the figure is closer to 48 million, while the official number quoted by the state media is 30 million. Up until 2001, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder, and was considered an act of “hooliganism” by law until 1997. The repealing of these policies has done much to alter perceptions of gay people as mentally ill criminals, and is a clear step forward in bringing China up to date.


While there are no laws forbidding homosexuality, there are also no rules against discrimination. However, cases of gay bashing are extremely rare. Generally speaking, the feeling over recent years seems to have been "three nos", i.e. no approval, no disapproval, and no promotion (不支持, 不反对, 不提倡). In a 2008 survey by Li Yinhe, 91% of people questioned said that they agreed homosexuals should have equal employment rights, and over 80% agreed that gay people are equal to straights. Less cheering was the fact that a narrow majority disagreed that an openly gay person should be a teacher, while 40% of respondents believed that homosexuality was “completely wrong.”

A Cultural Source of Thought

However, it is not a right-wing Christian agenda that is responsible for intolerance of homosexuality in China as it is in the United States. Conversely, it is the hangover of Confucianism that pits non-accepting parent against gay child. The most grievous crime in Confucian thought is the state of being unfilial, and depriving ones parents of a longed-for grandchild (preferably a boy) is a serious offence. This is why the vast majority of gay people end up marrying a member of the opposite sex.


The greatest proof that homosexuality is acceptable in China would be the legalisation of gay marriage, but this will be a long time coming if the recent past is anything to go by.

The issue was brought up for the first time when Chinese marriage law was re-evaluated in 2003. Suggestions were rejected, as were efforts by Li Yinhe when she petitioned for legalisation at the National People's Congress in 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2007. A bill to discuss the matter will only be accepted by the Congress if it is signed by 35 delegates, so more widespread support is necessary before legalisation is even discussed.

The Future of Homosexuality in China

As the years pass and the older generation bows out in favour of a more modern, tolerant and educated demographic, we can expect to see more prevalent acceptance of homosexuality. Only last year, the Smile4Gay campaign saw nearly 5,000 heterosexual members of the public rally in support of gay rights, holding up pro-LGBT signs. Most participants were in their 20s, but supporters included several elderly and middle-aged people, as well as Buddhist monks.

Undoubtedly there is still a fair way to go before homosexuality is widely accepted in China, and stunts like Lü Liping’s outburst do little to further the cause. However, as time passes and outdated prejudices are consigned to history where they belong, things will change and China will be a better place for people who identify as gay. Without the jackboot of right-wing Christianity looming large as it does in the United States, China has a good chance of becoming a liberal nation when it comes to gay acceptance.

Related links
Gay China
Mr. Gay China Pageant Cancelled Abruptly
Out and Proud: Shanghai’s LGBT Scene

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Keywords: gay debate in China Lu Liping anti gay comments gay tolerance in China


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Don't worry gay haters! The US is becoming more tolerant, but China will pick up the burden of hatred!

Jun 01, 2014 07:59 Report Abuse


Tolerance of what? The person or what they do? I have met some very nice thieves. I do not agree with what they do? I also heard Jeffrey Dahmer, the gay/cannibal serial killer was a nice guy. The most intolerant people I have met are those in favor of homosexuality. There certainly seems to be a trend there. Liberals say they accept everyone and yet, if you disagree, they become very intolerant and bigoted towards you. Doesn't it work both ways? No. It is their way or no way. "You believe what you believe and I believe what I believe.", is their mantra. The fact is, liberals believe everyone should believe and act the same way as them. Their logic is self-defeating. But of course, it only makes sense to them. They wish to drown out all who disagree who do not share the same banner and, label them, drive them into closets and throw away the key.

May 26, 2014 19:41 Report Abuse


Being called a bigot because you disagree with homosexuality amounts to being a bigot because you disagree with murder, porn, pedophilia, necrophilia and zoophilia. Who is to say when one is a so-called "consenting adult"? Can a mature 13 year old not be consenting when an immature 30 year old can? In the US, there are varying ages of consent. Some countries consent at the age of 12. So, you can be a pedophile in one country and a consenting adult in another. It makes absolutely no sense. But, so does the whole debate. It is completely emotional complete with name-calling. The whole point of marriage is to produce offspring. Chinese parents wish to become grandparents from their own blood lineage. That is why Xinghun exists in China. Homosexuality is like all other mental diseases. It can be treated. Some murderers were born with the desire to kill just as some pedophiles were born with the desire for children. Gay marriage makes as much sense as a man marrying his dog. I think Chinese have it right. They know the TRUE meaning of marriage. Us Western people have no right to impose our faulty and twisted logic upon them. I love living in China because so-called "gays" are not "in my face". Sure, they are here. So are all others with mental problems. They are not glorified like they are in the West. Why should they be? They are not heroes just like necrophiliacs and zoophiles are not. Who are we to impose our self-righteous, patronizing double standards of the West upon the Chinese. It is another cultural imperialism at its dirtiest.

May 26, 2014 18:27 Report Abuse


nice artical,thanks a lot

Jul 27, 2011 00:27 Report Abuse


As a lesbian myself, who has come across many Chinese people; from all the people I've come across only 1 person was disapproving of homosexuality. Everyone else however thinks it's perfectly fine and not strange at all. The people I come by are usually 16-26 though; whom are probably just more accepting people in general. But, to me, it's a good sign. :] The lack of a HUGE Christian influence probably helps a lot. Like, if you look at Taiwan; that's probably one of the most gay friendly places in Asia, not many Christians there if you compare it to say...Korea or something. Acceptance seems a lot easier in these places then here in the states for sure (though it's getting better here too). If it wasn't for that "long blood line/grandchildren" stuff, I'm sure even the elders wouldn't be as opposing. ^^ Though, it's not like gay people aren't fertile or anything; sperm banks and surrogate mothers do know, that or get drunk with a friend(or a stranger o.o), have sex that you won't remember, and boom pregnant! :V lol

Jul 21, 2011 08:47 Report Abuse


I wasn't being serious, don't be so butt hurt.

Jul 21, 2011 19:47 Report Abuse