LGBTQ people still being forced to undergo ‘therapy’

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/24 18:43:39

Chinese gay man Yang Teng, also known as Xiao Zhen, holds a statue of the Goddess of Justice and a rainbow flag as he shows the court verdict in front of the Haidian District People's Court after winning his case of gay shock therapy in Beijing, China, December 19, 2014. Photo: IC

Three years after China's first gay conversion therapy case brought attention to  the continued pathologization of homosexuality, a wider group of LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) are still being forced by their family members to receive various forms of therapy.

Clinics advocating conversion therapy are also reportedly prolonging the treatment process to make more money, and are also avoiding notorious forms of treatment such as electro-shock therapy that can be used as evidence in court.

"We received three to four calls each month this year, seeking help to escape forced treatment," Peng Yanhui, director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a Chinese NGO, told the Global Times.

Family members sent the victims, mostly middle school and college students, to psychiatric hospitals, clinics, psychological counseling agencies and even rehabilitation centers for drug and internet addicts, Peng said.

According to statistics the NGO collected as of May, China has about 170 agencies, the majority of which are psychological counseling agencies providing various kinds of treatment to LGBTQ people.

The third version of the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (CCMD-3) in 2001 removed homosexuality and bisexuality from the list of disorders.

Stealth treatment

Many clinics claiming to 'cure' homosexuality are repeatedly asking victims to undergo all kinds of tests including CT scans and blood tests in order to prolong the process and make more money, Peng said.

"Some LGBTQ people were forced to run tests for several months before being prescribed with some psychotropics, and one spent over 10,000 yuan just on tests," Peng said.

The plaintiff in China's first gay conversion therapy case, Xiao Zhen (pseudonym), recorded the entire treatment process, in which the psychological counseling center claimed to be able to 'cure' homosexuality and later gave him electro-shock therapy.

The case ended with a Beijing court in December 2014 ruling that the psychological counseling center had to apologize and give compensation to Xiao Zhen.

Despite the wide coverage the case received, these forms of therapy have continued.

In the most recent case, a girl in her early 20s fled from home after being hospitalized for three months. She is still on the run, Peng said.

"Her father asked her to quit her job and locked her in the home before she managed to flee. We'll help her after she settles down and will call the police if she is captured by her family," Peng said.

The founder of a Guangzhou-based NGO, Trans Center, who identified herself as H.C., said that the center has received about three such calls each month since May.

"Many transgender people have no time to seek help, as their families have cut themselves off from the outside world before sending them for forced treatment. Thus the actual number of victims is much bigger," H.C. told the Global Times.

Peng's NGO is collecting information on clinics that offer conversion therapies. China has 170 such clinics, with the majority of them located in first and second tier cities.

One listed psychological counseling center in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, claimed that the center has treated over 1,000 gay people since it was founded in 1995.

"We normally offer medication and hypnosis to patients, and many of them were 'cured' eventually," a center employee surnamed Chen told a Global Times reporter posing as a client.

When asked how she defines being cured, Chen said their parents reported that their behavior had gone back to normal. 

Earlier research in Western countries claims that the odds of "curing" homosexuality is near zero.

Repeated media exposure of gay conversion therapy cases has failed to curb the practice, but according to Peng, more LGBTQ people have called for help before the therapy starts and no longer blindly obey their parents. 

Long way to go

Upon receiving help calls, Peng Yanhui will usually recommend local gay-friendly doctors and suggest that they collect possible court evidence, such as recordings and receipts.

"For those who have already received therapy and are locked up at home, we would suggest they apply for a restraining order from the court," Peng said.

Under China's first anti-domestic violence law, which took effect in 2016, victims can apply for restraining orders against their partners or family members without filing a case first.

But helping transgender people has its own difficulties, as they prefer to use pseudonyms because their names on their ID usually indicates their original gender, H.C. said.

Peng Xiaohui, a sexologist at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei Province, told the Global Times that it's hard to officially ban LGBTQ conversion therapy in China as many still believe sexual minorities are sick.

Peng Xiaohui suggested that LGBTQ groups continue campaigns to claim their rights.

"But LGBTQ groups should be independent of foreign political groups or foundations while claiming their rights," Peng Xiaohui warned.

Newspaper headline: Conversion controversy

Posted in: SOCIETY

blog comments powered by Disqus