On Tuesday, LGBT activist Chen Qiuyan met with government officials in Beijing after months of campaigning to have the Ministry of Education remove textbooks which identify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
In 2001, the Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its list of recognized mental disorders, after the Chinese government decriminalized consensual homosexual acts in 1997.
That said, a study last year by the Gay and Lesbian Campus Association in China found that out of 31 psychology textbooks that have been published in China since 2001, 13 of them classified homosexuality as a mental disorder.
Chen claimed that in one textbook, which was published in 2013, it stated: “Sexual orientation disorder is a sexual psychological disorder that involves being sexually attracted to abnormal objects. It includes pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and homosexuality.”
There were also multiple textbooks which recommended treatments that included “aversion therapy” techniques, which involve the use of electroshock therapy, among other techniques.
Chen Qiuyan, a 20 year old communications major at Sun-Yatsen University, has spent the greater part of this past year pressing various government departments for answers as to how these textbooks were approved to be published. On May 14th, Chen sent a letter to the Ministry of Education, demanding that it disclose its procedure for approving these textbooks. After fifteen working days, which is the set time limit for government departments to respond to such requests, the Ministry of Education had still not responded. Therefore, Chen sued the ministry, and on August 14th, her case was accepted by the Beijing No. 1 Court.
Instead of a trial, the case was a meeting between Chen and two education officials, presided over by a judge. Although no decision was reached by the end of the two-hour meeting, Chen’s lawyer Wang Zhenyu seemed pleased about the meeting. Afterwards, he told reporters:
The people from the Ministry of Education said they had read reports about this case, and they had studied whether or not homosexuality was an illness. They’re paying attention to this issue. I think that’s good. Only if there’s attention on a problem can it be solved.
To be able to go to court, and have the media here report about it, that indicates that this topic is slowly opening up and prejudice can be slowly eradicated.
Although no law condemning homosexuality in China exists, thanks to a lack of sex education, there is still a strong stigma surrounding homosexuality. After discovering that their daughter was lesbian, Chen Qiuyan’s family rejected her.
“What I”m trying to do is eradicate prejudice in society toward [the homosexual community],” Chen told reporters. “It’s very difficult to make your parents, that generation, to accept.”
By Kevin Engle