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.