A female college student in the Guangdong Province in south China is suing the Ministry of Education (MOE) over textbooks describing homosexuality as a sexual disorder. Homosexuality has not been considered a mental disorder in China since 2001, yet 40% of all textbooks published since still define it as a disorder in need of a cure.
The 20-year old student of communications at Sun Yat-sen University, who goes by the alias Qiu Bai, in the spring of 2015 made a request to the MOE to determine processes in place to assess textbook content.
She didn’t get a response within 15 working days, the time frame of China’s Open Government Information regulation for responding to the public’s requests. Qiu then filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Education. The Beijing No.1 Intermediate Court accepted the case.
Qiu, who says she is uncertain of her sexual orientation, consulted books in a library only to realize that almost every book she came across described homosexuality as a mental disorder that should be treated. Some books even suggested aversion therapy, electroshock therapy and emetic drugs as homosexuality cures.
“Homosexuals are already under great pressure. Additional stigma from textbooks will cause direct harm. The MOE should bear the duty to monitor and supervise such content,” she said.
Even though homosexuality was removed from the official list of psychiatric disorders in China since 2001, according to the Gay and Lesbian Campus Association, roughly four in every 10 textbooks published since define homosexuality as a disorder. Half of these books argue in favor of treating homosexuality through therapy. China decriminalized homosexual acts in 1997.
Qiu said that she read a psychology text that was published in 2013 that said:
“Sexual orientation disorder is a sexual psychological disorder that involves being sexually attracted to abnormal objects. It includes pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and homosexuality,” the New York Times reports.
Homosexuality is no longer on the disorder list of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) after changes made in 1973. The World Health Organization (WHO) removed it from its own list in 1990. Other scientific and medical organizations no longer regard homosexuality as a disorder but a sexual orientation.
“Speaking from my personal experience, these textbooks would definitely upset gay students,” she said. “And I later learned that gay people across the country have been hurt by this kind of textbook,” Qiu has said.
Before her request to the MOE, Qiu worked with other students to send letters to organizations such as the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and the Guangdong Province Education Department.