China has a history of tolerance for same-sex relationships dating back to 500 B.C.E.
Three things have ensured a rich abundance of documents on male love in China: a passion for for detailed, meticulous historical records; biographies that treat sexuality with an openness unheard of in Christian Europe; a freedom extended to poets, playwrights, and writers of fiction in the classical Chinese modes.
This tolerance for homosexuality lasted until the mid-1800′s when, guess what, christian missionaries set foot in China and started set fire to Chinese ‘sodomites’.
I am not impressed.
I have noticed this change of opinion–when Christian missionaries show up, tolerance for LBTQ people tends to nosedive. This has happened to Native American “two spirit” people as well. At one time these people were honoured by their people. Then, once the Christian missionaries showed up, tolerance went out the window.
If you look at the countries in Europe and parts of Asia which are the most homophobic, generally the change came after the Christian missionaries set up shop.
I have noticed this, too, Jean-Paul. It seems that anytime Christian missionaries show up, tolerance for GLBTQ people goes straight out the window. We have the same trouble here in the states with the Native American “two spirit” people. Once they were honoured by their people. Now, after 100+ years of Christian missionising, omophobia seems to be rampant in the different Native American peoples. More and more though, younger Native American people are retiurning to their spiritual roots–I hope that will translate into renewed tolerance for their two-spirits. I would suspect that if you check the past of most Europesn countries, there was respect for LGBTQ people–or at least tolerance–and that that respect/tolerance ended when these countries were Christianised.
Jean-Paul, I am surprised by your story. Christianity was and is, and has always been so unpopular in China that it is hard to figure out how its influence could have spread in such a vast country.
Thanks for your feedback. I could be mistaken. How would you interpret China’s refusal to support Shanghai Pride, and let’s not talk mojo?
I live in Shanghai and the whole Shanghai Pride thing has been one big controversy in and out of the LGBT community.
-Firstly it’s being organised almost exclusively by foreigners and expats, the actual input by local Chinese people, the awarness by the majority of the local gay community is very minimal.
-The event is being organised by individuals who have snubbed many of Shanghai’s gay venues. Venues in Shanghai that have asked to be envolved including gay bars and clubs have been told no. The majority of venues and events are being held in places that are more concerned with making money off attendents and have never contributed anything to the gay community.
-The Chinese governments official attitudes towards homosexuality is one of “non-interference”, meaning that people are free to do as they please….as long as it isn’t political. No support is given to the community, but it is neither condemened or percsecuted. However, local officials and the police can wield a lot of individual power and this has cause some problems in the gay community such as bar, nightclub and event raids on the pretense of “incorrect licenses”, drugs, prositution and hoolagnism.
I understand that this is the first such event in China and is a huge milestone and that there will be a lot of room for improvement, but don’t be fooled the event is not happy care free and progressive occassion that everybody is making it out to be.
How can you hear us from way over there? Isn’t life grande? We are living in an age of wonders, like Paul Simon sang.
Well, speaking as a senior who thinks he knowws it all, thank you for your tremendous insight. I am never too old to learn, especially from you young guys.
Just one question though. Why isn’t the gay community there organizing a Gay Pride Parade?
Don’t tell me – lack of funds, right?
So it’s an open market of supply and demand.
Thanks again, Steve.
Unfortunately, the title of this article overshadows what a tremendous success Shanghai Pride was. The big day was Saturday and it went off without a hitch. The cancellation of the play and films was relatively minor in the big picture.
Steve, I don’t know what your talking about in regards the organizers snubbing gay venues. We collaborated with many different venues around the city, gay and straight. It was very inclusive. Several gay venues preferred to involved on a minimal scale. All the businesses involved were taking a risk by hosting these events, but it paid off (in more ways than one.) It was a successful week of events which brought together the expat and local, gay and straight communities.
It was largely organized by expats because we have more freedom, but the efforts of the locals shouldn’t be dismissed. It couldn’t happen without them. It will, however, be a much more significant milestone when the lead organizers are mostly Chinese. I think this year was the first step.
I don’t think a parade is in the cards for China any time soon, but who knows…