Two years ago, Qiu Bai discovered that her school’s medical textbook said homosexuality is a disease that can be cured. Now, 20-year-old Bai is suing China’s Ministry of Education.
Bai, who uses a pseudonym, told NBC News that she was curious about her own sexuality as a freshman at Sun Yat-sen University in Southern China, so she looked in the textbook “University Students Mental Health” and found it said gay people can change their sexual orientation through therapy.
“I thought textbooks should be trustworthy, but when I saw these lines, I felt horrible,” she said. “I was so worried about other people being afraid of gay people, like me. This is discrimination against homosexuality.”
According to a nationwide student psychological handbook called “Student Psychological Health,” the most common forms of sexual deviance are “homosexuality and the perverted addictions of transvestism, transsexuality, fetishism, sadism, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.”
Bai’s lawsuit was filed in August 2015 and a pre-trial meeting was held November 24.
Director of an LGBT Rights Advocacy Group who goes by the nickname Yanzi said the acceptance of the case by a Beijing court is a big step for China.
“The education ministry needs to send people who hold real responsibility to answer this case,” he said. “In one public library in Guangzhou alone, we found 42 books out of 90 we picked out that refer to homosexuality as mental illness, and these are from 2001, 2002, not a very long time ago.”
Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997 and was removed from the Chinese Psychiatric Association list of mental disorders in 2001.
Bai said she won’t give up on the case.
“I want related departments to admit these errors and I want to have an equal and open discussion with them about these errors,” she said. “This case is not even close to ending. Unless the Ministry of Education takes some real actions to change this, I won’t give up.”
U.S.-based rights activist Liu Qing said he believes the future for LGBT people will be positive in China.
“The [ruling Chinese Community Party] is unlikely to see the LGBT community as a likely threat to its hold on power,” he said. “That’s why they probably won’t take too tough a line with them; the outlook is quite hopeful for LGBT rights in China.”
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