It’s been an eventful Gay Pride Month in China already, a gay man in Henan has sued a mental hospital that tried to forcefully “cure” his homophobia, gender-neutral bathrooms have been introduced at many Beijing bars and 190 Chinese LGBT groups issued a collective statement condemning Sunday’s massacre inside a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Now, the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court has accepted a lawsuit filed by a 21-year-old lesbian university student against the Ministry of Education over homophobic content in textbooks.
In the case, the woman, Chen Qiuyan, who goes by the pseudonym “Qiu Bai” — “Qiu” (秋) is part of her name, while “Bai” (白) was inspired by the character Baymax (“Big White” in Chinese) from Big Hero 6. Qiu hopes to be kind and optimistic in her activism, just like the giant inflatable robot.
Qiu’s activism began in early 2014 when she searched for information regarding sexuality in a library at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou and was disturbed by what she found. In 2001, China stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder; however, many textbooks have yet to note this change. In fact, a 2014 survey conducted by China’s Tong Cheng Gay and Lesbian Campus Association found that 40% of textbooks published after 2001 still classified homosexuality as a psychological disorder.
For example, one textbook published in 2013 states: “Sexual orientation disorder is a sexual psychological disorder that involves being sexually attracted to abnormal objects. It includes pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and homosexuality.”
Qiu also claims that many textbooks recommend that homosexuals seek therapy in order to set themselves straight. Chinese health clinics have been known to use beatings, electro-shock therapy and even exorcism to “cure” patients homosexuality.
This isn’t the first time that Qiu has sued the Ministry of Education. Back in May 2015, she sent a letter to the Ministry demanding that they reveal the procedure they use to approve textbooks. 15 working days passed, the time limit for government departments to respond, and still there was no answer. Thus, Qiu sued the Ministry and the court agreed to hear the case last August.
However, during the pretrial hearings for the case, she was persuaded not to go to court and to instead go through the complaints process.
Then, in January 2016, Qiu and 80 of her friends sent letters to the Ministry of Education. And once again, the Ministry ignored all of their requests. Apparently, they didn’t learn their lesson, so on April 25th, Qiu once again sued the Ministry on the grounds of their lack of response. This time, the court refused to hear the case.
But Qiu refused to give up and on June 3rd, she filed the suit for a third time. Well, third time is really the charm. On Tuesday, the Bejing First Intermediate People’s Court accepted her case, Sohu reports.
However, Qiu’s perseverance has come with a price. Thanks to her advocacy, her parents found out that she is gay and have been less than supportive. Her father lamented, “Being homosexual is abnormal, how do you expect me to face other people?”
But Qiu’s motivation is clear. In an interview with Sixth Tone, she asserted, “Textbooks should at least describe homosexuality with objectivity.”
“I don’t want discrimination permeating the school I live in and the materials I use every day.”
By Sarah Lin
[Images via Tencent / Sina]