Gay Relationships in China - Lagging far behind the West

by fulltimestudent 2 Replies latest social current

  • fulltimestudent

    There are two interesting stories in recent issues of Chinese newspapers that highlights the gap between Chinese cultural attitudes and the west in relation to this topic.

    But first I should point out that gay relationships are problematised in different ways in China and the west.

    In the west the problem arises because of the moral barrier erected by Christianity. Pre and non-Christian Graeco-Roman culture were not deeply against men having sex with other men. There was a stigma attached to men who took a passive role in a sexual activity, but how deep that stigma ran is difficult to figure out. The subject often becomes controversial when the personal views of a scholar run counter to the material he is considering. If anyone wants to consider Graeco-Roman attitudes to male to male sexuality the Wikipedia entry under Homosexuality in Ancient Rome ( ) could be a good place to start, but I suggest that it should not be the end of anyone's search for understanding. But the coming of Christianity brought a change in attitudes, that continues to this day and results in enormous tensions for some people and often a recourse to violence because of internalised homophobia. Because of the controlling nature of Christianity same sex activity was often criminalised, and only recently has there been a de-criminalisation process, resulting in same sex attracted people being able to live more honest lives. Part of the de-criminalisation has been the legalisation of same sex relationships through gay unions or marriage.

    In China, prejudice has an entirely different foundation, part of the contemporary prejudice is based on Confucian family traditions that place a responsibility on family members to reproduce, but in addition there has also been some absorption of contemporary western prejudice absorbed during the modernisation process. This is a fairly recent devlopment for as late as the 1920's it is reported that there were many blocks of male brothels to be found in the centre of Beijing.

    This preamble is leading up to two recent news items in a Chinese newspaper and the reactions to it.

  • fulltimestudent

    Here's the first, from the Global Times of 18-09-2014, in the internet, English edition, in view of what I've posted already, its really quite ironical:

    Wedding highlights plight of homosexuals in China
    By Fang Shaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-18 18:03:12
    Brian Davidson, Britain's Consul General in Shanghai, recently married his Chinese-born partner Scott Chang at a ceremony held at the residence of the British ambassador to China. News of the couple's union, which is recognized under UK laws, quickly unleashed a torrent of comments on Chinese social media. Thousands of Weibo users forwarded pictures of the ceremony and posted supportive remarks. Many wished the couple a lifetime of happiness and praised their openness. At the same time, many speculated about whether same-sex marriages would some day be recognized in China.

    Davidson and Chang haven't been the only openly gay couple in China to attract attention recently. Hanscom Smith, the Consul General of the US in Shanghai, has also made no secret of his male romantic partner.

    The number of jurisdictions that legally recognize same-sex marriages has grown rapidly over recent years. These days, same-sex couples can now get married in dozens of countries and many US states. Despite opposition from certain religious and conservative groups, acceptance of homosexuals and support for gay marriage seems to be gaining momentum worldwide. No doubt more places will soon get onboard with the spreading marriage equality trend.

    Unfortunately, societal views have been slow to change in China. Many in the country still lack even a basic understanding of homosexuality. Indeed, many Chinese people regard homosexuality as a purely foreign phenomenon.

    What's more, the intersection of family planning polices and a deep devotion to ancestral lines means that gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities are often ridiculed, shamed and ostracized by their families. In other words, because of China's one-child laws, many parents put an incredible amount of pressure on their offspring to perpetuate the family line with a child of their own. Of course, much to the dismay of some less-than-progressive citizens, homosexuality can throw a big wrench into one's ability and willingness to reproduce sexually.

    But while beliefs are one thing, actions are another. Within families, reports say that some parents are now forcing their gay children into "conversion" therapies that promise to "turn" their kids straight. Certain fundamentalist religious groups in the US have long offered such "treatments," which most members of the mainstream medical and psychological community roundly condemn. What's more, familial and social pressures often force gay and lesbian women into loveless sham marriages with opposite-sex partners. In joking tones, many people often refer to such unions as "Chinese-style gay marriages."

    For its part, the Chinese government has taken no stand on homosexuality, which is neither supported nor forbidden. Given current political and social conditions, China is unlikely to legalize gay marriage any time soon.

    Nevertheless, stories and reports about openly gay couples can hopefully encourage more gay people to embrace their sexuality. As people begin to see and acknowledge homosexuals in their daily lives, this could lead to a greater acceptance of homosexuality in general. In many overseas countries, opinions and beliefs about homosexuals have changed substantially over recent years and many people are now enjoying the respect and recognition they deserve. With time, I hope that similar attitude changes can happen in China. Source:
  • fulltimestudent

    By a strange co-incidence, the Consul General of the USA in Shanghai also has a same sex partner, and this was reported in another article in the Global Times:

    Mr Smith goes to Shanghai

    By Yang Lan Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-18 18:18:01

    Hanscom Smith, the US Consul General in Shanghai (center), talks to members of the media at a conference Tuesday. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

    Hanscom Smith, the US Consul General in Shanghai since September, held a press conference Tuesday to discuss not only his vision of serving the American community in the city, but also the US visa situation for Chinese citizens and the economic relations between the US and China. According to Smith, the Consulate General in Shanghai will process 400,000 visas this year.

    Sharing the diversity

    Hailing from Maine, Smith has worked at US embassies in Yaounde, Copenhagen, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Kabul and Beijing. He has also worked in Iraq and the island of Taiwan.

    Smith described Shanghai as a gateway allowing foreigners to learn about China. His first visit to China was to Shanghai in the 1990s. He was impressed by the vitality and the energy of the city and its people. He returned many times as a tourist and ultimately decided to learn Chinese.

    While working on economic issues at the US Embassy in Beijing starting in 2012, he became quite familiar with China and the Chinese language. When asked about his Chinese language skills, Smith responded to the Global Times by saying: "haiyou jinbu de kongjian (there is still space for improvement). I still have a lot of work to do on my Chinese. I am fortunate that I have a digest of articles from different Chinese publications, and I have the chance to look at a very broad range.

    "I am especially honored to have the chance to serve in Shanghai and to help support the bilateral ties between the United States and the people in China," Smith said.

    Smith's partner is Eric Lü. When asked if he will get married in China like the British Consul General and his male partner, Smith said: "I have not yet had the chance to meet my British counterpart. But I congratulate him on his wedding." Smith went on to say that, "America's strength is its diversity. So I am very proud that in Shanghai we are able to reflect that diversity and share it with our friends in China."

    For a full account of Hanscom Smith's interview:

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