That homosexuality is not an illness is just a fact to be reckoned with nowadays. Unfortunately, traditions and values still make acceptance difficult in some societies. China is no exception.
Even though attitudes towards LGBT communities in some major cities have changed in recent years, prejudice against sexual minorities prevails.
It is regrettable that a mainland court recently upheld a ruling that a university textbook description of homosexuality as “a psychological disorder” was merely an “academic view” rather than a factual error.
Published by Jinan University Press and used by some mainland universities, the 2013 edition of Mental Health Education for College Students listed homosexuality under “common psychosexual disorders” – along with cross-dressing and fetishism. It stated that homosexuality “was believed to be a disruption of love and sex or perversion of the sex partner”.
In a ruling last week, Suyu District Intermediate Court in the city of Suqian upheld a lower court’s decision last year, saying the description resulted from “perceptual differences” and was not a factual error.
The view is probably still held by many in different societies, even though there is no shortage of studies showing it lacks scientific evidence. In any case, it does not square with the official removal of homosexuality from a list of mental illnesses by the mainland authorities in 2001, a move in line with international practice.
The lawsuit filed by an activist, who is working as a social worker in Hong Kong, is said to be the first of its kind on the mainland. Thanks to growing awareness of rights and equality in some cities, the case has aroused wide concern within the LGBT communities.
But the outcome shows there is still a considerable gap between perception and reality.
The ruling must not be taken as an endorsement of prejudice and distortion. While it is not uncommon for publishers and the authorities to adhere to entrenched views in mainstream societies, it may reinforce misconception and discrimination at the same time.
This is not just denying the rights of those who have been mistreated and marginalised, but also perpetuating the long-standing but unjustified divide arising from different sexual orientations.
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