Homosexuality in Chinese culture


I recently read an article saying the reason homosexuality is frowned upon in Chinese culture is because it goes against the Confucian idea that all couples must procreate offspring. It certainly has nothing/little to do with religion as Buddhist scriptures are virtually silent on the matter. But now, more and more heterosexual couples in Taiwan (and elsewhere in East Asia which are also arguably influenced by Confucian values) are choosing not to have children. Just look at the birthrates. It doesn’t seen heterosexual couples who choose not to have kids are as frowned upon as gays. My point is this - the fact that homosexuality is frowned up has little to do with this Confucian idea that we all must have children. I think its even more fundamental. Some people feel threatened when others hold values and behave in ways that are different from our own. Full stop.


Every time the olds in my family trash talk gay marriage they mention the (pretty ridiculous) notion that somehow human beings will go extinct if we let them get married. As if they’re able to produce children whether we let them marry or not…at least if they get married they can adopt children more easily…but anyway.

Every now and then when it comes up, I hear them pooh-pooh gay marriage, but the more astute ones (usually the ones who have a few kids who are still unmarried and/or didn’t have children) will then say “Then again, it doesn’t really matter since nobody is having children anymore these days.”

I honestly think for some of these more old-fashioned types it’s still more about the idea of having children. Obviously they are also afraid of the new and unfamiliar, but I think it’s still largely rooted in this idea.

When I look at the ways in which my family is fucked up (especially the favoritism, sexism, etc.) I always find Confucianism at the root. I’m not disagreeing with you, I just think that clinging to this dated system of values is the main way that small-minded people continue to justify their small-mindedness. It’s very hard to beat back shitty views that are enshrined in “culture” and “tradition” because it makes people feel so noble and right about their shittiness.


It’s interesting how homophobia permeates every culture. Everyone always looks for a socially learned source for it, when it seems more logical that it is innate. All forms of bigotry and fear of the other are natural results of evolution. This is why the electorate should not have a say on human rights as they will give the wrong answer.


Maybe, but I think this is a gross misunderstanding.

Threatened, yes, but the threat is more closely related to superstition than to a fear of those who “hold values and behave in ways that are different from our own.”

As you get older - as a result of a lifetime of curiosity - a realization of just how fragile is civilization kicks in. What is truly frightening is just how easily a just society can go pear shaped. Civilization seems to be made of gauze, not concrete (although I think it behaves more like a very elastic, trampoline-like surface that oscillates in reaction to big changes).

Traditional marriage has worked for millennia and among all cultures. Given how thin is the line between savagery and civilization, why fuck with what has been proven to work?

I think that fear explains the bulk of your point, right or wrong. It’s not that people fear the values of others per se, it’s that they perceive the human experience as akin to walking in a minefield. Taking even a single step off the well-worn path begins to seem very dangerous the older (and more aware) you become.


Ok, but how does gay marriage destroy civilization or lead to savagery? The fact that there is no procreation (as mentioned before) is an argument but (as also mentioned before), some (and perhaps growing number of) heterosexual couples also choose not to procreate.


It is why Mao in China tried to eradicate Confucianism and would be shocked that the PRC now promotes Confucian institutes around the world in the same way the Saudis do for militant mosques . Not a huge fan of Mao, but the logic behind the Cultural Revolution was not necessarily wrong – the implementation sure was.


Who can know?

Why does the earnest desire to distribute a nation’s resources more equally (communism) result in the mass murder of millions every time it’s been tried?

That’s why I said it’s akin to superstition, although it’s a superstition that’s based not on the supernatural but on a growing realization of just how fragile civilization is. An uneasy hunch may be more accurate.


Yes, one could make a case that Confucius was one of the worst things that ever happened to Chinese culture/civilization. History has been too kind to him - one could easily argue.


Pardon my ignorance, but where does Confucius mention a duty to have children?


The most famous statement about the duty to have children is 不孝有三,无后为大(Of the three breaches of filial piety, failure to have children is the worst). But that’s by Mengzi, the most influencial Confucian after Confucius himself. In the Book of Rites (礼记) — some of which is attributed to Confucius — failure to have children is given as a legitimate ground for divorcing a wife. Also, there’s so much emphasis on the importance of family relations by Confucius that a general duty to have children can be inferred.

As for male homosexuality, it was tolerated and often publicly accepted throughout most of China’s history. More precisely, bisexuality was tolerated. Men could have male lovers while still getting married and having children.


So what changed?


It’s a question that never gets answered. The accepted history is that there was a golden age of acceptance of homosexuality in every society that for some unknown reason suddenly ended. Ancient Greece, native Americans, even Muslim cultures were totally rainbow. And then, suddenly, they all become homophobic.

It these cultures were all two-spirit and accepting (and I don’t think they were), why did they all suddenly stop being so? Often independent of one another.


Certainly not evolution then.


Good point, if the cultures were at some point accepting of different sexualities. I said that I don’t think they were.


I assumed you accepted it too there for a second :slight_smile: I guess that could all be looked into. I think even cultures where homosexuality was “accepted” may have actually just been accepting those playing the dominant role. I’ve heard that was the case in ancient Rome and later in Mediterranean cultures


Yep. Rum, sodomy, and the lash. Nothing changes in the services.

Of course Spartan soldiers etc were going to be at it with beardless lads. It does not equate with acceptance.


I’ll see if I can find a link, but I remember the word bugger evolved from an abusive term for some tribe an incredibly long period of time ago (3 or 4 thousand years). People have always been homophobic, very sadly.

EDIT: OK, maybe only a thousand years.


Homosexuality came to be seen as backward/feudal among late Qing proponents of Westernization. During the Republican era, Western ideas about homosexuality became widely accepted (for instance the medical view that it was an “illness”). Soviet communism likewise saw homosexuality as a disease.
Basically China was culturally ‘modernized’ into the (then) Western mainstream with regards to homosexuality.


Much of opposition to homosexuality came from the British Empire, which instituted many laws against homosexuality, which are still on the books in many of its former colonies and territories. Before the US became the “shining city on the hill” that nations around the world looked up to following WWII, the British Empire, though hated by many, was also looked up to as the paragon of modernism, so many of its policies and practices, good and bad, were emulated worldwide in the name of modernization.


So why is China generally more homophobic now than most Western countries?