Uncredited and undated graphic | Hornet | 18303
Matt Baume writes in about ancient China and its tolerance of homosexuality.
For centuries, same-sex relationships in China were simply no big deal. One collection of literature dating from around 600 BC describes male attraction at court; other scholarship identified numerous same-sex partners for male emperors around 200 BC.
Emperor Ai, for example, tried to arrange for his male partner to inherit the throne. It is from Emperor Ai that we get the euphemism of the cut sleeve: a story says Ai’s partner fell asleep on Ai’s sleeve, and so the emperor cut it off so as not to wake him.
China’s history has many similar stories. A story around the year 150 about Huo Guang describes a same-sex romance. Ruan Ji and Ji Kang were described as lovers around the year 300.
From the 1300s to the 1600s a number of writings record gay couples in a matter-of-fact context which indicates such relationships were common.
Laws against homosexuality in China originated in the 1600s. There was government surveillance over relationships. By the Second World War, Chinas’ LGBT community faced harassment and persecution.
Queer Comrades | 15153
The Diplomat have been looking at the re-emergence of open homosexuality in China. Yuxin Zhang explains.
In ancient China, which was polygamous, same-sex sexual behaviors were well-received and tolerated. Positive descriptions of homosexual behavior, or Nan-Feng as it was called, in historical records and in Chinese literature can be dated back to the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). … Traditional Chinese gay culture changed with the introduction of monogamy from the West, and the establishment of institutions and “ethical standards” that regulated sexual behavior, thus shaping contemporary Chinese attitudes and social values. This produced what we know of today as a “normal” (as it is perceived) sexual orientation, in turn contributing to the development of conservatism and homophobia.
Shanghai in 2009 | Nir Elias/Reuters | 14153
Despite ten years of Chinese citizen petitions for same-sex marriage, the Chinese government has never responded with a public statement. Recent developments suggest that the Chinese government policy on homosexuality is being relaxed, but in reality no official policy exists. Harassment might be on the decline, but LGBT rights are still ignored on a political level.
China’s landmarks are the 1997 decriminalization of ‘hooliganism’, which was widely assumed to include homosexuality, although the law was never explicit, and the 2001 decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental diseases.
Since 1993 Renowned sociologist and activist Li Yinhe has repeatedly tried to have homosexuality legalised but his attempts have never been met by sufficient support of parliamentary representatives to pass the threshold of 30 votes for becoming a proposal.
Attitudes remain deeply conservative and traditional. There is a big gap between those who participate in the activities of LGBT organizations, who are often aware of and sympathetic towards international debates on gay rights, and other gays and lesbians, simply living in other parts of Chinese society. Wei Wei, a scholar who does in-depth fieldwork, talked to ‘non-active’ gay men and found that, even when they have same-sex partners, many consider marriage as something that could and should only be between men and women.
Many gays prefer not to initiate a confrontation with their families. Their parents might actually know or suspect they are in a same-sex relationship, but as long as it remains unsaid, no social taboos are violated. So they bring home their partner to celebrate Chinese New Year, as “their best friend.”