Thursday, 18 May 2017

Visit to Beijing LGBT Center



I had the joy last week of attending the Beijing LGBT Center.  Unlike similar centres in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, this centre is a lot smaller.  Its director whose nickname is Little Iron but whose formal name is Ying Xin, holds a Master of Public Administration who decided that rather than going into government or banking, she would be better off serving the community and therefore took up the role with the Beijing LGBT Center. 

Little Iron is one of those people that you meet in life who are truly inspirational.  She inspires by her leadership – for which the very simple response is that LGBTIQ people are entitled under law to be treated equally and therefore should be treated equally. 

The Center provides outreach services, including counselling.  It has recently taken on a full-time transgender employee.  It works with law associations across China to train up lawyers about dealing with LGBTIQ clients and issues in LGBTI law. 

It does this while operating out of a converted apartment in a hospital complex.  It operates on the smell of an oily rag.

Way back in 1948, Alfred Kinsey in writing Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male, said that 10% of the male population is gay.  More recently, the Gallup poll after carrying out polling of Americans said that at least every fifth person in the US is gay.  The current population of China is estimated to be 1.371 billion people.  If the Gallup estimate is accurate for China and one in five Chinese are gay or lesbian, the numbers are staggering and the work ahead of the Beijing LGBT Center can’t begin to be measured.  If that number is correct, then 274,200,000 Chinese are gay or lesbian. That is over ten times the population of Australia or 50,000,000 less than the entire population of the United States.

The Chinese Constitution does not explicitly deal with sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.  According to Wikipedia, there is no anti-discrimination provision for sexual orientation or gender identity under the Chinese Labour Law.  The Labour Law specifically protects workers against discrimination on the basis of a person’s ethnicity, gender or religion.

Only in 1997 was homosexual sex legalised in the Peoples Republic.  Only in 2001 was homosexuality removed from the official list of mental illnesses in China.  Conversion therapy – where therapists try to convert people from being gay or lesbian to straight – a therapy that has been widely condemned by western psychological and psychiatric associations and criminalised in California – continues in China.

In 2014 a Beijing Court ruled in favour of Yang Teng, a gay man, in a case against a conversion therapy clinic.  In Chongqing in which the clinic was ordered to pay compensation after it told the man it could treat his homosexuality with electric shock therapy.




Meeting with Zhang Zheng in Beijing



Last week I had the privilege of meeting Zhang Zheng who is the visionary founder and boss of NestGene.  NestGene is a business that helps people in China become parents.  Quite simply, the quality of IVF services in China is highly variable from very good to not so good and the primary work that NestGene does is to help infertile Chinese couples undertake IVF in China. 

For gay couples and single men in China, however, relief isn’t there.  This is because whilst surrogacy occurs underground in China, it is against the code of practice of doctors to engage in surrogacy.  Therefore, for single men and gay couples who want to become parents through surrogacy and to do so in an open, transparent and legal way, they need to undertake surrogacy elsewhere, for example, in the United States.

NestGene helps these intended parents as well as many heterosexual couples, undertake surrogacy.

Given the rapid growth seen in the last couple of years with the number of Chinese intended parents undertaking surrogacy in the US, it is likely that these numbers will greatly increase – with the increased prosperity in China and in particular the rise of the middle class and the knowledge that no longer do those who want to become parents have to suffer in silence but can instead do something about it.

It was a wonderful meeting with Zhang, and I hope that next time I will be able to spend more time with him!



Inaugural Asia-Pacific Rainbow Families Forum in Hong Kong



Over two days last week I was extremely lucky, honoured and privileged to take part in the inaugural Asia-Pacific Rainbow Families Forum held in Hong Kong.

They made sure that they made full use of my talents!  The forum was held over two nights, the first with the showing of the Australian film Gayby Baby, which is from the children’s perspective of growing up in gay and lesbian households and then with the forum proper on the Friday. 

I took part in three panel discussions, one on the Thursday night and two, back to back on the Friday. 

Delegates attending came from Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Fiji, China and of course Australia.  I was at last able to meet three Hong Kong colleagues, a barrister Azan Marwah and fellow solicitors Winnie Chow and Jonathan Mok.  Azan Marwah is counsel at the private bar in Hong Kong. Winnie Chow, Jonathan Mok and I are all Fellows of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, the world’s leading group of family lawyers.

It was good to see all three of them there at the conference in support of this vital issue.

The conference dealt with the barriers and opportunities that are presented to families of LGBTIQ people across the Asia Pacific, including particular focuses on China, Japan, Fiji and the Republic of Philippines. 

It was an amazing event that was put together with the assistance of the Australian Consulate and San Diego Fertility Center amongst others by the extraordinary and inspiring fellow Aussie but Hong Kong resident Bess Hepworth.

This was truly an inspiring event that hopefully will lead to change to ensure that rainbow families across the region are heard and are able to ensure above all that their children are recognised and are safe and well.