While this semester’s Fudan University course on homosexual studies is not the first gay-themed course to be offered by the Shanghai institution, it is the first one open to undergraduates. This is also the first year enrollment has surpassed the five student mark.
Two years ago, at the behest of Hong Kong-based HIV activist Chung To, Fudan University school of public health professor Gao Yanning offered China’s first course on homosexual studies. At that time, it was on the medical campus and only one student officially enrolled (despite what the Shanghai Daily and the Associated Press reported). The vast majority of attendees were the hundreds of Fudan students and general hangers-on from elsewhere that didn’t want to sign their names to something gay.
Well-known gay Chinese author Bai Xianyong‘s lecture last year attracted especially large crowds.
Getting to that point was no easy task, as approval of the course had to pass through one of the university’s top cadres.
“That was the first time in Fudan’s history that a course had to be approved by officials,” says organizer Steven Gu, director of MSM outreach for the mainland China branch of the Chi Heng Foundation. “And it’s just because it had the word ‘gay’ in the title.”
This year’s course will be taught by sociology professor Sun Zhongxin and will focus more on homosexuality in general.
Despite China’s strong Confucian moral bent to get hitched, the country’s long and well-researched history of homosexual culture was relatively peaceful until colonial influence led to the first real discrimination against gays. The nationalists and New China government strengthened this into law. Still, Chinese gays were relatively unharmed until the great unrest of the Cultural Revolution. Subsequent years have seen gradual improvement of views of homosexuals, including taking being gay off the list of mental disorders — in 2001.
China’s increasing openness to homosexuals does not surprise Shanghaiist. Considering the government’s efforts to clamp down on population growth, supporting a large segment of the gene pool that won’t be breeding any time soon just makes sense.
Will Chinese pride parades be far off? Not likely, unless the scantilly clad tongzhi are also burning Japanese flags.
Photo from the Association of Gay, Lesbian and Bi University Employees network at the University of Southern California [link].