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Monday October 10, 12:53 PM
China gays under pressure to stay in the closet
BEIJING (Reuters) - China is becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, which until 2001 was listed as a mental disorder, but gays remain widely misunderstood and under heavy pressure to stay in the closet, state media said on Monday.
Attitudes towards heterosexual relationships have relaxed since China began Western-style market reforms in 1978, unleashing a boom in extramarital sex which the Communist Party has blamed on liberal, bourgeois mores imported from the West.
But few of the "official number" of 30 million homosexuals among China's 1.3 billion people were open about their sexual orientation, the China Daily said.
Pressure on gays to keep silent came less from society at large than from families, driven by traditional beliefs that homosexuality is amoral, the newspaper said.
"On the mainland, 80 to 90 percent of homosexuals are prepared to marry or have married the opposite sex," Professor Gao Yanning was quoted as saying. He did not elaborate.
To try to shatter common stereotypes about homosexuals, Shanghai's prestigious Fudan University had launched two courses on homosexual health and research, the first of their kind at the school, the China Daily said.
"We hope to help people change their mentality, to begin to see the world from varying perspectives and take a more tolerant attitude towards the outside world," Gao was quoted as saying.
Many Chinese associated homosexuality with HIV/AIDS, fears of which ran so strong that some people refused to go to hospitals they believed had treated AIDS patients, the newspaper said.
Gao blamed widespread misunderstanding of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality on a lack of education.
China was slow to acknowledge its HIV/AIDS problem and rights groups say AIDS activists still regularly face harassment, censorship and other persecution.
The government claims to only have 840,000 HIV/AIDS cases nationwide, while the United Nations has warned the country could have 10 million cases by 2010 unless urgent action is taken.
Lesbians, gays gaining acceptance
Updated: 2005-10-10 05:59
SHANGHAI: Long a taboo, homosexuality in China is being brought out into the open.
Lectures for two courses on the subject have packed auditoriums recently at Shanghai's Fudan University.
Press from London, New York and Atlanta have all reported on the popularity of homosexual research in China. Some hold that the growing interest in the issue is a sign that homosexuality is finally being accepted as normal in a society which previously believed same-sex relationships to be unethical or the symptom of a mental disorder.
In September, Associate Professor Sun Zhongxin from the Sociology Department of Fudan University started a course entitled "Homosexual Research." At the same time, Professor Gao Yanning with Fudan's Institute of Public Health, began giving social science lectures concerning homosexual health.
Traditionally, courses on sexual sociology, social gender, sexual health and feminism only included homosexuality as a small segment. Courses devoted to the issue, rarely, if ever, seen in the country, are a first for Fudan, Sun Zhongxin said.
According to Professor Gao Yanning, there are misunderstandings about homosexuality in China. Many Chinese tend to associate gay people with HIV/AIDS patients. Some patients even refuse to go to hospitals that are believed to have received HIV/AIDS patients. Gao ascribed the poor understanding of homosexuality and HIV/AIDS to limited education.
Professor Gao said, "Through our courses, we hope to help such people change their mentality, begin to see the world from varying perspectives and take a more tolerant attitude toward the outside world."
Official statistics suggest there are approximately 30 million homosexuals on the mainland, but few are willing to acknowledge their sexuality.
On the mainland, 80 to 90 per cent of homosexuals are prepared to marry or have married the opposite sex. In Western nations, the proportion is only 10 per cent, Gao said.
"In comparison with their predecessors, who often felt guilt, the current generation of homosexual people in China is more eager for freedom and happiness," Gao said.
Most homosexuals are under pressure from their family members rather than from society, Gao said.
Most of those who choose to "come out" about their homosexuality are only children, Gao said, and their families prefer to tolerate their sexual orientation rather than lose them.
Sun Zhongxin said some homosexuals have made public their sexual orientation just because they have a higher social status and thus enjoy more tolerance in society.
In 2001, China published a third version of its classification and diagnosis criteria of mental disorders, excluding homosexuality from the list.
(China Daily 10/10/2005 page2)