China OKs Labeling Homosexuality a ‘Psychological Disorder’ in Textbook

May 10, 2019, a gay student poses with a rainbow flag in Beijing. - China's LGBT community has had a tough year: Censors have shut down some of its social media forums, online news media have curbed coverage of gay issues, and online shops have removed sales of rainbow-themed products. …
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A Chinese court has ruled that the printing of the words “homosexuality is a psychological disorder,” which appeared in a university textbook used in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, was “not an error,” Chinese state media outlet the Paper reported Thursday.

The Suqian Intermediate People’s Court of Jiangsu Province rejected an appeal by a plaintiff referred to as Xixi (a pseudonym) on February 22 and upheld the original hearing’s judgment, which found the printing of “homosexuality is a psychological disorder” in a textbook published by Jinan University Press in 2013 “was an academic point of view and a divergence of understanding, and it was not an intellectual error in the scope of book editing.”

Xixi, a then-20-year-old Chinese university student, sued the Chinese publisher Jinan University Press and its retail platform in 2017 after she learned that homosexuality was described as a disorder in a psychology textbook the publisher printed. A court in Jiangsu province first heard her case in July 2020.

The textbook in question, titled Mental Health Education for College Students, was publicly selected for use in a Jinan University course in the Chinese province of Guangzhou in 2016. Its 2013 edition classified homosexuality as “a disorder in sex or the perversion of the sex object,” according to the Paper.

The Chinese government officially dropped homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders in 2001. The Chinese Psychiatric Association said at the time it would consider homosexuality a part of “normal” sexual behavior “with the proviso that those who are unhappy with their sexual orientation may still be judged to be in need of psychiatric help.”

State-controlled publishing houses publish most university textbooks in China, making it difficult for citizens to successfully challenge their content. A Chinese college student named Qiu Bai took China’s education ministry to court three times in 2015 and 2016, accusing the bureau of failing to address her complaints against allegedly “anti-LGBTQ+ terms used in academic textbooks.” Like Xixi, Qui also sued university textbook publishers for allegedly printing that homosexuality is a mental disorder.

“Since 2001 when homosexuality was declassified as an illness in mainland China, 40 percent of the psychology and mental health teaching materials published on the mainland say homosexuality is an illness,” Qiu claimed.

Although Qui’s suit was heard, her efforts to sue China’s Ministry of Education ultimately proved unsuccessful.

China’s longest-running gay pride event, “ShanghaiPRIDE,” was canceled indefinitely in August 2020. The event’s organizers did not provide a clear reason for the cancellation but suggested that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may have been a factor in the decision to call off the gathering.

“China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from a list of mental disorders in 2001. But same-sex marriages are still illegal, there are unspoken rules on censorship of LGBT topics, and discrimination runs deep in many aspects of society,” the South China Morning Post noted when reporting on ShanghaiPRIDE’s cancellation.


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