Documentary Photographer Douglas Hook is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. These images are from his project “Forbidden Love“. To see Douglas’ projects click on any image.
Elephant in the Room!
Mencius, an eminent Confucian philosopher, once said “There are three things that are unfilial, and to have no posterity is the greatest of them” highlighting even the modern societal values of China. Little has changed in the mindset of the Chinese when it comes to family, however in regards to the same sex relations, as far back as 650B.C. there are records of sexual diversity in China with references stating that homosexuality may have been a common occurrence. Attitudes started to change when the west, with their traditions and values, started flowing into the country during the 19th century. Communist China’s official stance on homosexuality are the three no’s; No approval, no disapproval, no acceptance (不⽀支持, 不反对, 不提倡). Though there are no official figures, millions of gay Chinese live hiding their true selves in fear that if they came out their family would lose face among their community or worse still their parents would disown them. The consequence is that gay Chinese people often marry due to family pressure in continuing the family line. According to the ‘China Daily’ up to 80% of gay men marry straight women (these women are referred to as homowives – 同妻).
Particularly for lesbians, the family pressure to have a significant other is immense, around the ages of 26-27, if a women hasn’t a boyfriend she is viewed as odd or that there’s something wrong with her (They are negatively referred to as ‘leftover women’- 剩⼥女), so finding a partner is vital.
There’s evidence of change and debate around the issue on Youku (Chinese equivalent to Youtube), Cai Kongyong Kevin Tsai and Jinxing (who is transgender) have a chat show called ‘Qípā shuō’ (Wonderful), in which “coming out” was one topic of debate.
Unlike some other nations there are very few hate crimes aimed towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT), generally the populous show great tolerance in this issue as long as it doesn’t affect them. A 2014 poll by the ‘Chinese Journal of Human Sexuality’ showed that 85% of Chinese support gay marriage, however there are few signs that there will be a revision in mainland Chinese law with homosexuality only being removed from the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (CCMD) in 2001.
There are homegrown organizations working in the mainland in order to raise consciousness; Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays in China (PFLAG), Beijing LGBT Centre and Tongyu to name a few, but they are not widely known in the gay community with many relying on online forums and friends for support.
LGBT rights seems to be an issue that is suppressed and ignored by the very people in a position of power who have the ability to make significant change in policy. Though things are changing, this change is moving at snail’s pace with governmental ignorance on the issue.
By Douglas Hook