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Precarious Progress: Advocacy for the Human Rights of LGBT People in China



Darius Longarino

Publish Date

December 16, 2020

“Precarious Progress: Advocacy for the Human Rights of LGBT People in China” explores the relationship between law and the lives of LGBT people in China. It also discusses the Chinese LGBT movement’s efforts to make laws that ensure equality for LGBT persons.  The LGBT community in China has experienced a period of tremendous change. For the past several decades, LGBT people have gone from being nearly invisible in Chinese society to forming a vibrant social movement. Once focused on grassroots community building and service, China’s LGBT movement is increasingly reaching beyond the realms of LGBT communities, striving to make society more inclusive through advocacy. 

Progress has been promising but remains precarious. Discrimination and state repression are still pervasive, and advocates must navigate treacherous and ever-changing political waters. News celebrating progress – a court ruling against a clinic offering so-called conversion therapy, a campaign going viral, mispunctuated by setbacks — the police detaining activists and shutting down events, censors removing online content, and policymakers snubbing calls for equality. Developments have been rapid and full of twists and turns. 

Yet, China’s LGBT movement continues forward, building visibility and gaining support. Surveys show increasing acceptance of LGBT people among younger generations, views of pro-LGBT social media hashtags have reached hundreds of millions several times (though they are often censored shortly after), and LGBT plaintiffs have won pioneering rights litigation in court. Whether state decision-makers will pursue policies to protect equal rights for LGBT people in the coming years will come down to a mix of ideology, pragmatism and public pressure. LGBT advocates strive to turn that calculus in their favor and, facing the long and rough road ahead, remain hopeful.

Following the release of this report, Outright hosted two webinars in late January 2021, led by Grace Poore, Outright's Regional Program Coordinator for Asia. Speakers shared examples of advocacy strategies in China that aim to make the law a force for greater equality rather than one that entrenches stigma. 

Check out the webinar recordings here: Webinar 1 | Webinar 2 

Download speaker presentations:

  • DARIUS LONGARINO: Research Scholar, Yale Law School | Slide deck
  • DI WANG: Feminist Researcher and Advocate from China | Slide deck
  • YING XIN: Executive Director, Beijing LGBT Center | Slide deck

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