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Activist loses legal battle over homophobic textbooks in China

Chinese LGBT activist Xixi has just lost a long court battle over homophobic textbooks

Chinese LGBT activist Xixi Xixi sued a state-backed publishing house for describing being gay as "a common psychosexual disorder", in an attempt prove the Jinan University Press book contained more errors than permitted, and was therefore not suitable for sale to the public.

The case, which was heard in a court in the eastern province of Jiangsu on July 28 after being adjourned three times, is being seen as a landmark lawsuit regarding homophobic content in China.

Sadly, after waiting three years, Xixi's case was thrown out by the court.

China stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental illness in 2001, but publication still continue to use textbooks that contain terms such as “disorder” and “impediment” to refer to homosexuality.

“Even though homosexuality is not classified as a mental illness in China anymore, there are still people producing false knowledge, therefore increasing the stigma around it.” said Xixi

It has been a struggle for Xixi of being a member of the LGBT community in China. According to reports in Chinese media, Xixi felt she was not able to fit in at university even after joining LBGTQ+ events, and found herself often frustrated with open discriminatory remarks against gay people in classrooms.


This is not the first time that LGBTQ+ communities have taken to the courts to address discriminatory language in Chinese textbooks.

Back in 2016, a student named Qiu Bai took China’s Ministry of Education to court three times over its failure to respond to her complaints against anti-LGBTQ+ terms used in academic textbooks. Although the court heard the suit, Qiu’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

Activists continuously attempted to use China’s courts to challenge homophobic policies and behaviour in recent years:

  • In 2014, a counseling centre was successfully sued over its use of electroshock therapy in response to homosexuality

  • Earlier this year, judges ruled the Chinese e-commerce giant unlawful after the firing of an employee who underwent sex reassignment surgery

  • The last few years have also seen a rising number of people writing letters to lawmakers in support of legalising same-sex marriage

More Is Needed - LGBT Rights in China

More info:

  • Last month the country’s longest-running LGBT group, ShanghaiPRIDE, said it was stopping all its activities and events for safety reasons

  • There are no employment laws in China that specifically outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexuality, and court cases based on such discrimination are rare. Even in tier one cities, in which increasingly progressive attitudes abound, the vast majority of LGBT people do not talk to work colleagues about their sexuality


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