When the Supreme Court announced same-sex marriage as a right nationwide in the summer of 2015, many were overjoyed that the country finally legitimized gay unions. Indeed, it was a celebration the LGBTQ movement dreamed of for years. While America has made great strides in becoming accepting of the LGBTQ movement, some other countries are finding it harder to accept.
In China, same-sex marriage is a taboo topic. According to CNN, A 2013 survey by Pew published that only 21 percent of the Chinese population accepted homosexuality. There are several “conversion” clinics in China that offer treatments to “cure” homosexuality.
Many gay men and women are afraid of coming out to their families, including former police officer Ma Baoli who worried about coming out. By day, he worked in the force but at night, he ran a website for gay people in China. After his supervisors found out about his website, he resigned and his family struggled to accept his homosexuality.
The New York Times wrote a profile about Baoli and his desire to help legitimize same-sex relationships. He started Blued, China’s most popular dating app which is the equivalent to Grindr in the United States.
Baoli sees this not only as a way to make profit in China because more people are looking to spend money on gay-focused networking sites, entertainment, and travel, but also to change the notions that homosexuality is “dirty” or “filthy.”
And his movement is working. The app is currently worth $600 million, and the LGBTQ community’s spending power is valued at $460 billion per year.
Blued is a symbol of how important it is to start conversation with innovation and creativity, especially in a country where LGBT professionals fear from a lack of legal protection at work and a lack of visibility in the community. In the ‘90’s, gay sex was a crime and a “psychological disorder.”
The Chinese government also banned all portrayals of gay people on television, dubbing it “vulgar and immoral content,” according to the Guardian. A popular drama called “Addicted,” about two men in gay relationships, was banned from being streamed on popular websites, causing outrage from the many viewers.
The country obviously still has ways to go. While more young people are becoming more outspoken about the problem, a judge in April denied a gay couple’s right to marry in the first same-sex marriage case, according to the International Business Times.
On the brighter side, the fact that the case reached the court is a sign of optimism for some gay rights activists, like John Shen who believes it will raise awareness and encourage discussion in the country.
Already, China’s revolutionary gay activists are depending on the assertion and confidence of the younger generation to help increase the visibility of their community.
Indeed, it is revolutionaries like Ma Baoli, activism, creativity, and a mutual passion for social justice that will help the LGBTQ movement succeed in a place where it is still feared. Like other civil rights movements, it will not be an easy battle, but a battle worth fighting for.
What do you think of the app, Blued? Do you think technology and innovation is the best way to de-stigmatize homosexuality in China? Comment below or tweet me @issabasco