On April 13, 2018, one of China’s most popular social media platforms Sina Weibo started removing LGBT-themed content from its site but reversed the ban after a few days of widespread online backlash. For more background on the short-lived ban, please refer to news reports in Chinese and in English.
State media People’s Daily published a commentary on homosexuality shortly after Weibo’s announcement of the ban. I translate the commentary in full. It should be noted that the commentary was published on the “People’s Daily Commentary” WeChat account (a social media platform), not on the People’s Daily website (people.com.cn).
People’s Daily Commentary: Different fireworks can also blossom
By Yi Nuo | April 15, 2018
Note: The title is in reference to the song “I” by Leslie Cheung, a cultural icon and an openly bisexual Hong Kong singer who committed suicide at age 46. The lyrics goes, “I am what I am; I am fireworks of a different color.”)
Many people find it awkward to discuss the issue of sex. But children always love to ask, “Where did I come from?” Many parents have no choice but to give evasive answers. Recently, however, a set of textbooks titled “Love Your Life—Sexual Health Education for Primary School Students” has eliminated parents’ and teachers’ embarrassment when explaining to children the issue of sexuality. This set of sex-ed textbooks, written according to UNESCO’s “International Technical Guidance on Sexuality,” was first perceived to have “gone too far” but is now becoming more and more popular. The reason behind this (change of public perception) is that “the textbooks’ views are correct,” to borrow the words of Internet users.
This set of textbooks’ “correct views” can be illustrated by one example. In the book for the first semester of sixth grade, there is a special unit on “sex/gender and rights”, which describes different sexual orientations. The textbook says that there is more than one sexual orientation and that both homosexuality and bisexuality are normal and definitely not a disease.
Indeed, it should be a consensus that homosexuality is by no means a mental illness. As early as 1990, the World Health Organization formally removed homosexuality from the list of diseases; in 2001, the Chinese Society of Psychiatry also removed homosexuality from the mental illness classification. It is the basic principle of modern society that it does not discriminate against homosexuals and that it safeguards their rights and interests. As mentioned in this textbook, each individual is unique, their looks, skin tone, height, weight, personality, ethnicity, and citizenship all different. Sexual orientation is just one aspect of the differences.
However, the fact that this understanding is written into children’s textbooks did not come naturally. Respect and protection of different sexual orientations reflect, to a certain extent, the development of society’s civilization. This (argument) can be understood from two aspects. First, from the perspective of individual rights. Sexual orientation, in essence, is a kind of personal right. As long as he does not interfere with others, everyone has the freedom to choose his own way of life. Second, from the perspective of minority rights. Homosexuals are minorities in sexual orientation. Protecting the rights of minorities is a must if we want to achieve social fairness and justice. Emotionally, people’s acceptance of homosexuality can be different; but intellectually speaking, everyone should respect others’ sexual orientation.
Eliminating prejudice and understanding differences should be society’s firm belief. We can all learn more from this set of primary school textbooks. Perhaps we can learn to understand the “different fireworks.” Bertrand Russell once said, “Diversity is essential to happiness.” To a large extent, the existence of homosexuality is also a manifestation of the “diversity” in human sexuality and sexual orientation. From the friendship between the hero Achilles and his companions in Homer’s Epic, to the warm praise of same-sex beauty in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, many literary and artistic works touch upon the theme of homosexuality in the process of exploring the human mind, helping more people see that the most precious human emotions exist beyond gender boundaries.
Of course, if activities involve illegal crimes, they should be punished by law, regardless of whether they are (committed by) homosexuals or heterosexuals. This is also a basic principle. If online content involves pornography or violence, or violates laws and regulations, it should be resolutely cleaned up regardless of whether the content is related to homosexuality or heterosexuality. It is concerning that the Internet has (both good and bad content), but (regulators) also need to exercise caution when cleaning up (the Internet) and make sure that they do not confuse (non-illegal content with illegal content) when rushing to take action. It will inevitably cause public anxiety if (regulators) speak of homosexual content and pornographic/bloody/violent content in the same breath, or regard homosexuality as an abnormal relationship similar to sexual assault or sexual violence.
On the other hand, sexual orientation should not become subject of a few people’s attempt to pander to the public. If people use all possible means to please the public with claptrap, get attention on Internet platforms, and take sexual orientation as a “selling point”, the content will become vulgar and profane. When there is more vulgar content, it is inevitable that people, especially minors, will think that this is fashionable and thus blindly follow. In short, homosexuals are also normal citizens. While claiming rights, they also need to assume their own social responsibilities.
When the set of sex-ed textbooks was first introduced, it upset many people, and many schools even withdrew the books. In actuality, sex education for children is not only important but also necessary. For society, the same is true as well. Sex is not shameful, let alone love. I hope that more people can put their prejudices behind, eliminate misunderstandings, and accept others. Hope no kind of love is harmed; hope everyone can make his inner colors shine.
Note: In Chinese, the same word (xingbie) can refer to both “sex” and “gender.” Thus, the two words are used interchangeably in the above translation.
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