How the Chinese Communist Party’s Need for Children Translates to a Suppression of 2SLGBTQIA+ Rights

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China has repeatedly suppressed 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, and this seems to be ramping up in recent years (Image credit: The Economist).

On May 15, four days after its 15th anniversary and two days before the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, the Beijing LGBTQ Center said on its official WeChat account that it was closing because of “force majeure,” a polite euphemism for being shut down by the government. 

Considering China’s shrinking population, it is not surprising that gay representation is seen as a source of political subversion and a threat to youth reproduction rates. 

Beijing needs a total fertility rate of 2.1 to maintain population levels, it is currently 1.09 – if current trends continue China’s population in 2100 will be half of what it is now. This time bomb was planted from the very impetus of the one-child policy and is being exasperated by a myriad of factors including the changes of young people’s attitudes toward marriage, the economic toll of covid 19, and the rising cost of living in China’s cities. 

So how does 2SLGTBQIA+ activism come into this bleak picture? If global averages are to be considered accurate, estimates of China’s 2SLGBTQIA+ population stand at around 8% of the total citizenry. That equates to about 2% of the population being active female 2SLGBTQIA+ members (between the ages of 16 and 65), if the government was able to get them to reproduce 2.1 babies per woman, that would result in 60 million births. Therefore, because the suppression of queer relationships and the promotion of childbearing in heterosexual relationships is conducive to China’s demographic interests, the role of 2SLGTBQIA+ rights will not be ignored in this population growth quandary by the Communist Party. 

In addition, this attitude is held by most conservative Chinese parents but for different reasons. Continuing the family line is an important responsibility in Chinese culture, perhaps even more important than supporting your parent’s retirement. This is why many gay men in China marry to appease their parents while having relationships on the side. The legalization of gay marriage is a pipe dream at best with the only alternative being a limited form of legal guardianship. Since 1 October 2017, couples have been able to enter into guardianships, offering partners some limited legal benefits, including decisions about medical and personal care, death and funeral, property management, and maintenance of rights and interests. Despite the Chinese courts .org website disseminating the messaging that increased liberty, equal rights, and gay representation is a sign of social progress and sophistication, official sanction and promotion of gay representation seems unlikely because prominent Chinese 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations are seen as sources of Western subversion and political instability by Xi’s government. A lesbian plotline in the popular sitcom ‘Friends’ was censored on popular Chinese streaming services in keeping with 2016 guidelines for television shows to not show “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content”. The hashtag received more than 54 million views on the site on Friday night, but was later censored by the platform on Saturday morning, with search results showing, “This topic is not shown according to relevant laws and regulations.” Another more recent example would be the censoring of two minutes of gay content from the 2019 film Bohemian Rhapsody which included two men kissing as well as the word “gay” China censors LGBTQ-related plotline in ‘Friends’. To emphasize the Chinese government’s emphasis on censorship of specifically Western media, yaoi (gay love) comics and shows thrive in China’s massive entertainment market. 天官赐福 (Heaven’s Official Blessing) is a Chinese anime that revolves around the chemistry between the two main male characters and is free of censorship, other media like this thrives unfettered on Taobao (Chinese Amazon) and is extremely popular. 

 As seen by the proliferation of suggestively gay relationships in Chinese entertainment, the animosity towards members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is hardly, if ever, moral. Unlike Western democracies with histories of religious fundamentalism, China’s main religions Daoism and Buddhism have nothing against gay relationships on principle and the sentiment of most critics is nationalistic. This national interest presents a stark contrast when considering the CCP’s superficial stance on gay rights. According to an article by the Economist: “[China] allows free speech and bans discrimination against gay people, most recently at a hearing this February of a un rights committee.” Locally, the closure of Beijing’s LGBTQ center is a potent example of China revealing its true colors, preserving political stability under the guise of “流氓罪” or “criminal hooliganism”, and other means to force grass-roots organizations back underground. “Criminal hooliganism” constitutes the chasing, intercepting, cursing another person … creating a disturbance in a public place, or causing serious disorder.” Since its rather coincidental institution in 1997 (the same year homosexuality was decriminalized), it has been used to convict 3000 people of the death penalty and jailed countless more for periods of up to 5 years. Most recently it has been used as an effective legislative boot to stamp out 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations under the threat of detained members remaining in jail: Shanghai Pride, a small annual event for queer get-togethers founded in 2009 was closed in 2020 after mounting pressure from the authorities. 

This leads to a more general point: China is not homophobic, what really makes the CCP tick is sociopolitical instability. If China empowers its 2SLGBTQIA+ community, it empowers the Taiwanese separatists, the disgruntled youth that graduate into a job market that has no place for them; it empowers the blank-paper protestors and the brutally silenced. The 2SLGBTQIA+ community. might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We’ll have to see.

Written by Zechariah Chen

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