Shanghai pride, for the first time ever

In a promising sign, China holds a gay festival -- just not a parade

By Frieda Klotz

Published June 10, 2009 6:11PM (EDT)

Until 2001 the Chinese government classified homosexuality as a mental illness, but this week, the gay and lesbian community is getting its own -- very cautious -- celebration.

The BBC reported today the first-ever Shanghai Pride festival is taking place, with lectures and film screenings. There’ll be no parade, though. A lawyer warned organizers that it would be too provocative.

An editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper has shown strong support for the event: “For long, most Chinese viewed the phenomenon of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals as weird imports from the decadent West," it reads. But the tide of public opinion has shifted: Gay and lesbian groups, blogs, bars and (my favorite) teahouses have recently flourished, and the 30 or 40 million homosexuals on mainland China experience less prejudice than before -- though still quite a lot. The editorial dubs the festival "an event of profound significance for the country and the world."

Of course, with the People's Republic of China, it's hard not to suspect any event of being an orchestrated PR move to make the country seem more open. But Shanghai Pride certainly appears to be a reassuring step toward more acceptance for homosexuals in China, despite the sad (though predictable) lack of a flamboyant, joyous pride march as its centerpiece. Guess we'll take what we can get. Tea, anyone?



Frieda Klotz

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