China’s LGBTQ Population
Until 1999, the Chinese government had outlawed homosexual behaviors, and homosexuality was removed from the Chinese Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders in 2001. What I found through my research project is that attitudes towards LGBTQ identity vary greatly from person to person. Young people in China (especially in urban centers like Beijing and Shanghai) are understanding and largely accepting of queer culture, while others, as one Beijinger I interviewed in 2012 explained, “don’t even know the word gay…[we] don’t know of its existence.” At this point in time, queer identity is not widely discussed in China, though many urban-dwelling Chinese are becoming more aware of topics of minority-sexuality.
In a climate that does not receive homosexuality openly, it can be difficult for Chinese gays and lesbians to build supportive communities. The act of coming out can be a major difficulty for young Chinese, and few choose to reveal their sexuality to anybody outside of a circle of close friends, who are typically gay themselves. This leaves family members, especially parents, completely in the dark and oftentimes concerned when their child becomes a certain age and has not expressed any interest in marrying, for example.
My Experience As a Gay Student in China
As much of my semester was focused on my research project, studying the gay and lesbian population in China, I was probably more aware of the issue than many other international LGB students. Although a gay or lesbian student interested in studying at TBC may be concerned with how their sexual identity will be received in another culture, it might be relieving to know that even same-sex friends tend to be visibly affectionate. Several organizations in Beijing serve the LGBTQ population. Perhaps the most accessible is the Beijing LGBT Center, and more information can be found on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bjlgbtcenter. The Beijing Center faculty and staff are also great allies, and the Division of Student Development has even been recognized with international awards for their work to support the LGBTQ student community at TBC.