May 07, 2019 08:08 PM

Charts of the Day: Research Reveals Difficulties of China’s LGBTQ Students

China decriminalized homosexual acts in 1997 and the Chinese Society of Psychiatrists stopped labeling same-sex attraction an illness in 2001, but China’s sexual minorities still face significant difficulties in their everyday lives.

Just last month, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform Sina Weibo reversed a brief ban on a community page titled “les,” which is short for lesbian, after a social media outcry. During the ban that lasted for about five days, netizens took to hashtags such as “les” and “wo shi les” (“I’m les”) to support the lesbian community. Weibo reversed a ban on gay content at roughly the same time last year after a similar outcry.

Even though there’s some support on social media, many difficulties remain for the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students (“Questioning” refers to a person who’s interrogating their sexual orientation or gender identity). A recent national survey published by Beijing Normal University suggested few schools on the Chinese mainland actually provide LGBTQ-related resources and many teachers don’t pay much attention to LGBTQ issues.

The survey, published in January, collected 732 online responses from LGBTQ students from May to July 2014 in 29 provincial-level regions.


Graphics: Li Jinghua, Lu Wanqi and Gao Baiyu

Chinese LGBTQ students were at great risk of suffering psychological distress, the report showed. About 85% of respondents felt depressed and around 40% had suicidal thoughts.

“Having a more inclusive school climate and more school resources, especially a positive LGBTQ role model, were significantly associated with the reduction of LGBTQ students’ suicidal ideation,” the report said. However, only 2.9% of the respondents reported that their teachers — a key part of school climate — were trained to understand LGBTQ issues and support LGBTQ students.

Wei Chongzheng, a fellow at United Nations in Thailand who conducted the survey with Beijing Normal University, suggested in the report that further research, development, and implementation of robust LGBTQ-specific policies, training, and counseling should be undertaken immediately to improve the lives of China’s LGBTQ youth.

In China, the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center can be reached for free at 800-810-1117 or 010-82951332. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached for free at 1-800-273-8255. A fuller list of prevention services by country can be found here.

Contact reporter Timmy Shen (

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