May 6, 2015
This group of Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy graduate students flew from the United States to China in the wake of an historic United States Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage. As such, it seemed almost serendipitous that we had the privilege to meet with the Beijing LGBT Center during our trip. We were all eager to bring a comparative policy perspective and learn more about Chinese public policy issues that impact people in the LGBTQ spectrum, and how the Beijing LGBT Center interfaces with China’s domestic social policy.
Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy visits the Beijing LGBT Center!
The Beijing LGBT Center 北京同志中心 is an NGO that seeks to empower China’s LGBT community to live rewarding lives unconstrained by sexuality, gender, or other identities. The organization currently has two strategic focus areas: HIV / AIDS outreach and advocacy, and mental health outreach and direct service.
Despite the massive size of China, the Beijing LGBT Center is amongst just a few LGBTQ-identified NGOs in China, and one of the most prominent, thanks to its location in the center of Beijing. The Center’s immediate work lies primarily with grassroots community organizing and direct mental health services for those who experience toxic stress and emotional trauma related to their identities. However, the organization has a longterm goal of depathologizing transgender and genderqueer identities such that Chinese people no longer are forced to live with medical diagnoses that their gender identity presents as a psychological disorder. The organization furthermore strives to build grassroots support for creating safer spaces in the Beijing nightlife.
In recent years, LGBTQ advocates in China have witnessed the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1997, as well as the declassification of LGB identities as a mental illness. And just last year, the Central Government has started addressing the issue of homosexual conversion therapy through the form of damages and reparations.
So what’s next? The Beijing LGBT Center says the work is far from over, and that they will continue with their primary strategic focus to create safe spaces for LGBTQ people in China, and of working to raise the profile of the organization. As with the LGBTQ movement in the United States, there is some perceived disagreement amongst Chinese LGBTQ people regarding national policy priorities for the LGBTQ movement.
As with many NGOs, the organization is focused on capacity building. While the organization does experience some strong support from international LGBTQ organizations, there are just a few NGOs within China that support the Beijing LGBT Center. The NGO does, however, enjoy a wealth of donated volunteer time from local expatriates who are passionate about helping the organization raise its profile. A potentially effective strategy for raising the profile of the organization could include celebrity endorsement, or a major public philanthropic gift from a high-profile donor.
–Kim M, MPP