Even though the Chinese Psychiatric Association stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental illness 15 years ago, some Chinese hospitals continue offer conversion and reparative therapy as a way to “cure” same-sex attraction, some even going so far as offering procedures like electroshock therapy.
After a landmark 2014 court ruling against one such torture clinic, China’s biggest LGBT rights group — the LGBT Center — began secretly filming Beijing medical facilities to reveal the harmful treatments. BBC Four recently documented the Center’s efforts (you can watch the video for free over the next month).
At one clinic, a nurse suggested taking a cold shower or jogging to release excess hormones whenever same-sex urges arise. She also suggested nausea-inducing drugs and self-inflicting electric shocks to discourage queer desire. Another clinic administered electric shocks to an undercover activist in hopes of “rebalancing” his nervous system, all for the low cost of about 537 dollars a visit; and of course, they suggest regular visits over the long term.
It’s snake oil — there’s no medical proof that electroshock can change a person’s sexual orientation (and even if it could, sexual orientation doesn’t need changing in the first place). In fact, a Chinese therapist interviewed by Channel 4 said that the “therapy” does nothing more than to break down a person’s sense of personal identity and that the trauma can have a lifelong damaging effect.
Of course, the therapy continues amidst China’s anti-gay atmosphere. Members of the LGBT Center say that they’re targeted by police because of their activism — they’re convinced the police monitor their office and cell phones. They worried for months until moments leading up to their big annual fundraiser that the police would come and shut it down. Argue with police, one activist says, and you get thrown in jail.
Without the fundraiser, the center wouldn’t have money to operate for the next year. The organizers didn’t reveal the location of their fundraiser until moments before it began so police wouldn’t have time to mobilize against it. The organizers also came up with alternate locations just in case.
What’s surprising is that even though many of the activists at the LGBT Center are willing take on the police and conversion therapy quacks, many of them aren’t out to their own parents. Confucianist teachings say that one of the biggest disrespects that a child can pay to their parents is not to have kids. Some parents will require their kids to go to these conversion clinics in exchange for financial support, and the kids will oblige, eager to affirm their love and respect to their