It was only a decade ago that China considered gay men and women criminals, and mandatory therapy for same-sex loving was common practice. But is the capitalistic communist country experiencing a sea change of public opinion? Last week’s very public Valentine’s Day gay marriage display in Beijing — with men wearing tuxedos and women in bridal gowns — made headlines, but not the size they would have in recent years. And while there is no law on the books protecting us from discrimination there, and no amount of openly gay public figures, data points to the Chinese having more acceptance of gays than, well, America.
“Gay men and lesbians say there is less overt hostility than in the west and certainly less physical harassment,” reports The Guardian. “[Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Li Yinghe's] research in cities suggests about 91% of people are happy to work with gay colleagues – a higher rate than in US surveys – and that 30% back gay marriage.”
And here’s why: While the United States’ religious fundamentalists exert tremendous power in keeping legislators from passing gay marriage laws, the Chinese have more pressure placed on young people simply getting married. In America, gay marriage would trespass on “traditional values”; in China, “traditional values” means getting married, and to some gay marriage is still marriage.
But is that enough for widespread acceptance?
“Family is such an important concept here; people aren’t supportive of homosexuality because they basically believe same-sex couples can’t form a family. If we have stable families, society will see we are safe, that we are mainstream,” said the 24-year-old student, who asked that only her English nickname be used.