When the Chinese government declined to register Xiang Xiaohan's gay rights organization Same-Sex Love Assistance Network claiming "homosexuality had no place in Chinese traditional culture and 'the building of spiritual civilisation,'" Xiang took it upon himself to file a lawsuit against the government. The bold move marks the first time a gay man has done so in China. According to the BBC:
"I believe what the government said [in the reply] defames the reputation of the gay and lesbian community in China, and I want them to issue a written apology," said Mr Xiang.
He also wants the government to reverse its decision not to register his organisation. Registering his group as an NGO would enable it to legally receive donations and enjoy tax exemptions.
In the country where the government's stance on LGBT issues remains "No approval, no disapproval, no promotion," there are hardly any LGBT-friendly NGOs that take an open and blunt stand in support of the gay community—which is why Xiang's lawsuit is so remarkable. And while the court promptly threw out the case, Xiang has committed to pursuing an appeal, saying:
"If we can't force the civil affairs department of the Hunan government to withdraw what it said on homosexuality, then other government bodies would likely follow its example, and this would cause irreparable psychological damage to gay and lesbian people.
"If gay and lesbian people have no place in China's traditional culture, how can you encourage them to pursue the China Dream?"
While many find Xiang's actions to be quite naive, the fact that he has elicited a formal response from the government goes to show how far the LGBT cause has come. Yu Fang Wiang of Justice For All, another non-profit in China, stated, 'It is the first time in China that a local government department has formally given a written reply to a request from the gay and lesbian community, whereas in the past the government would just simply ignore it."
It is a bit sad to think that progress can be marked in the different ways a governing body denies the requests of its people, but there is definitely still a quantifiable difference. Best of luck to Xiang Xiaohan.
Image via AP.