Fighting homophobic content in Chinese textbooks is an uphill battle

In 2017, a university student in Guangdong, who goes by the pseudonym Xīxī 西西 when talking to the media, filed a lawsuit against Jinan University Press (JUP). She accused it of “stigmatizing gay people” by publishing anti-homosexual content in a textbook about college students’ mental health.

“Compared with sexual orientation of most people, homosexuality can be seen as a mental disorder or a confusion of sexual desires,” reads a paragraph that Xixi found particularly offensive.

Frustrated and enraged, Xixi approached a few editors at JUP, but her complaints fell on deaf ears. She also took the issue up with Guangdong’s Press and Publication Bureau, which replied to her in a letter saying that the content had no “factual or logical mistakes.” Disappointed at the response, she then decided to file a lawsuit against the publisher over “misleading and false information.”

But what followed has turned out to be an uphill battle. In a recent interview (in Chinese) with the Beijing News, Xixi revealed that while JUP had deleted the problematic content in the latest edition of the textbook, the court had canceled hearings for her case multiple times in the past three years, saying that it needed more time to examine evidence. “I don’t feel confident about the case at this point,” Xixi told the publication. But she said that she hadn’t given up on it yet.

On Chinese social media, Xixi’s frustration and anger has struck a chord with people across the spectrum of sexual identities. “I am not gay, but I respect all kinds of love,” a Weibo user commented (in Chinese).

Read more about Xixi and similar cases:

—Jiayun Feng