China has the potential to be the gayest nation on our planet. Think about it: a country with a population of 1.5 billion people. That’s a billion! You do the maths, how many gays does that work out to…?
Today, the country is slowly emerging from an oppressive Communist rule under which homosexuality was criminalized and seen as a mental illness. It wasn’t until 1997 when it was legalized and then subsequently declassified as a mental illness in 2001.
Historically it wasn’t always like this. Homosexuality in ancient China appears to have been widely accepted well before the 1800s. For example, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) literature (like the Bian Er Chai – 弁而釵/弁而钗) portrays homosexual relationships as being positive, and writings from the Liu Song Dynasty (420–479 AD) allege that homosexuality was an everyday common thing!
The fabulous LGBTQ folk we met during our travels as a couple in gay China were confident of progressive change – albeit very slowly. During our trip in Xi’an we met the awesome Cass Chen who sat us down and gave us this interview about his experience growing up gay in China.