As the world embraces unity and acceptance under the Olympic rings, SSO investigates whether China is embracing its gay and lesbian population.
Despite being officially denied a cinema release throughout mainland China, the film Brokeback Mountain left a lasting legacy on the Chinese consciousness: brokeback is now used as descriptive slang for gay.
Many people criticised the decision not to screen the film because it was over one guy who didn’t like the gay theme. But it didn’t matter because people could still get the film on DVD, said Beijing-raised Victor Wu.
The Chinese media did, however, report the Oscar win of director Ang Lee.
As a result of all the media attention, -˜brokeback’ has become a popular word, Victor said. Even a host on Phoenix Television [a Hong Kong-based station] said on air, -˜Everyone has brokeback in their heart’.
Since the mid-1990s television stations such as CCTV (China’s national network) and Phoenix have played a significant role in introducing homosexuality to the predominantly conservative Chinese society.
In 2007 Phoenix broadcast Same-Sex Get-Together, an internet television series dedicated to covering issues pertaining to the Chinese gay community. The program’s producer, Gang Gang said, when launching the show, We hope that after this show airs, homosexuality will no longer be an issue, that society will be more enlightened about it, more understanding and more tolerant.
Prior to the recent reforms and economic expansion, Communist leaders would denounce the West, citing drugs, AIDS, orgies and homosexuality as products of capitalism. With a significant part of the Chinese population having lived through this period, it will take a generational shift before Chinese society embraces alternative lifestyles.
Victor believes this generational change is occurring extremely fast.
My grandmother can’t read or write. My father is very poor. And yet I am in Sydney studying for an MBA, he said. It’s like the natural generation progression has skipped one or two.
The internet is largely responsible for disseminating information to the huge Chinese population. As China is politically Communist, people are generally guarded about what they say in public.
However the Chinese authorities cannot effectively monitor discussion over the web.
The internet changed the way people talked, how information was delivered. People feel freer on the internet. You can talk about whatever you want, said Victor. Even today if you go on to a gay forum most people are not open, not out. They may be married.
According to Victor, the Chinese government generally passes legislation in line with society’s views.
Normally the legislation is behind the people’s thinking. Society accepts first and then the government changes the laws, said Victor.
Sodomy was decriminalised in 1997 and homosexuality was struck off the Chinese Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Mental Disorders in 2001, ensuring that being gay in China is no longer considered a mental illness. There are no anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexuality in China.
Same-sex marriage has been discussed and lobbyists have attempted to persuade the government to legislate. To date, these efforts have proved futile.
I don’t think they will change the law to allow gay marriage. They don’t need to. What’s the benefit to the government? said Victor.
Victor has been living in Sydney since 2005.
I wanted a country with warm weather that was English-speaking. Australia is culturally close to Asia, he said. I like the diversity of people in Sydney.