Yanzi Peng, a gay rights activist and former “homosexual correction” therapy patient, has opened up about his controversial lawsuit against China’s popular search engine Baidu and a gay conversion clinic in a recent Al Jazeera documentary.
Homosexuality remains highly stigmatized in China, especially among older generations in who believe that only sons can pass on their family name. This results in gay children feeling neglected, abandoned and sometimes ashamed of their sexual orientation, and also the reason Peng had made the bold choice to visit a mental health counseling center last year hoping to undergo “homosexual correction” therapy.
The “therapy” merely consisted of patients receiving electric shocks every time they were asked to imagine a gay experience. Consultants at Peng’s conversion clinic told Hong Kong reporters that “If [patients] are not willing to [convert], theres nothing we can do”. When asked if he had ever “cured” anyone, he said yes, further adding that “[being gay] is not something you can change by coming here once”.
Gay conversion clinics exist in China because many still believe that homosexuality is a “mental disease”. Peng and Iron, the director of Beijing’s LGBT center, were invited to do an interview about the clinics with Phoenix TV, marking a huge milestone for the LGBT community, which rarely makes headlines in Chinese media.
With the help of his lawyer, Duilong, who argued that “homosexuality is not a disease therefore it needn’t be cured”, Peng’s case scored a victory in a Beijing court last December.
Peng believes that his experience brings him one step closer to erasing stigmas surrounding homosexuality in China.
“We can use the results to tell the parents in China that gay cannot be changed,” he said.
Along with Beijing’s LGBT center, Iron and Peng continue to fight for LGBT rights in China.
Watch the clip from Al Jazeera’s documentary below:
By Sharon Choi