In spite of rigid opposition from the state government, understanding of LGBT identities is largely on the upswing in China. There are obviously huge strides still to be made, but the overall presence of gay culture in mainstream society is leagues ahead of where it was 20 years ago (in the 90s, you would likely be told that there were no gay people in China). The official stance against same-sex partnerships has not changed since homosexuality was removed from the country’s list of mental illnesses in 2001, and it was only in 1997 that it was decriminalized. But changing cultural currents in the mainland have brought LGBT groups into a more modern and accepted place in the past ten years, and the country’s major cities now have a wealth of gay community venues, dating apps, and events like Shanghai Pride.
Shanghai Pride started in 2009, and was reputedly the first mass LGBT event to take place in mainland China. It’s since grown into a huge annual celebration, now in its ninth consecutive year. But attendees this year were left scratching their heads at one of the events key sponsors – the US State Department and its Shanghai consulate.
After all, the LGBT community overwhelmingly voted against Donald Trump in November’s presidential election (only 13 percent backed Trump, according to the Pew Research Center), and recent LGBT marches across the US have been tinged with anger at the current administration. A key LGBT leader in the US recently said the community is “at war” with Trump.
In Shanghai, event attendee @wtf_Life questioned the State Department’s sponsorship:
— Chris (@wtf_Life) June 18, 2017
Later he told us: “Under Hillary Clinton, the state department had a mission to promote LGBT rights around the world, so that trickles down to consulates and embassies, including in China. That was during the Obama administration. So now we have the Trump administration, and they’ve struggled to fill these diplomatic posts. So I think you have a lot of Obama holdovers and nonpartisan diplomats who are sympathetic with gay rights, even though now they’re working under Trump.”
One thing all attendees seem to agree on is that Donald Trump in all likelihood had no knowledge or part in this. @wtf_Life points out that one of Trump’s big talking points is that the US is spending too much money overseas.
“I’m not sure if the state department’s policy to promote gay rights around the world has changed. It might not have changed. It just seems weird to me.”
Trump’s decision to keep Obama’s top gay rights envoy at the state department earlier this year came as a surprise, and might offer some explanation as to the department’s continued support for LGBT communities worldwide. In any case, it looks like the United States’ international reputation is at least in somewhat decent hands, if the consulates themselves have anything to say about it.