Here’s another piece on the new queer studies class at Fudan University. Besides thinking this is really cool and China is so ready this, the remarkable thing is the way most progressive gay issues are presented as another round of patronisingly applauding backwards old China as it finally tries to catch up to progressive and been-there-forever English-speaking utopia.
I’d be surprised if there was any country that could claim to have a nation-wide group of universities which have had an established queer studies department of more than 15 years. Even Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, which is pretty much a pivotal text in the whole identity politics field was only published in the early 90s. And as I think I’ve said before (wow!, I actually did), there’s an attitude to sex in China that is wholly and intrinsically different to that of the Christian English-speaking enclave of countries, which would be much more interesting to see evolve than to have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, coloured handkerchiefs, and pissy queens calling each other ‘sister’ transplanted onto a hundred million Chinese queers.
A class like this would be unremarkable in the US, where many students are quite open about their homosexuality and the curriculum has long included offerings reflecting their interests. But among China’s gay and lesbian population, which may be as large as 48 million by some estimates, the new course is being portrayed as a major advance.
Less than a decade ago, homosexuality was still included under the heading of hooliganism in China’s criminal code, and it was only four years ago that the Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
“This is definitely a big breakthrough in contemporary society, because for so many years, homosexuals have lived at the edge of society and have been treated like dissidents,” said Zhou Shengjian, director of a gay advocacy group in Chongqing. “For such a university to have a course like this, with so many participants and experts involved, will have a very positive impact on the social situation of gay people, and on the fight against AIDS.”