Beijing LGBT Center closes down; reporting on LGBTIQ+ issues

Disheartening news this week on the eve of IDAHOBIT that Beijing LGBT Center has been forced to shut. Beitong, as it was known in the community, was the leading NGO for queer advocacy and research in China, as well as providing important welfare and peer support services. Our paths crossed frequently over the years that I was reporting on LGBTIQ+ issues in China, so this loss feels quite devastating both personally and politically – the China I knew and loved is being eroded piece by piece.

A bright pink sanlunche draped with Pride flags in a Beijing hutong, 2016.
Beijing’s NGO community made such a big impression on me but a lot of what I remember is already gone. Q-Space, where this was taken, closed their physical space in 2020.

Foreign Policy has a good analysis of Beitong’s closure in the context of a natalist push for gender normativity, heterosexual marriage, and more babymaking to rebalance the country’s demographic woes. I’m quoted there, as well as in articles by the AFP and Bloomberg wires that have been syndicated pretty widely. I also gave NBC an interview for their story that should be out soon – I’ll add it to my press page when it’s published.

A few articles misgendered me, which I managed to get corrected, but it’s been interesting to see: I was rendered male in French and female in English, while a queer Italian media outlet not only got it right but taught me something new: the gender-inclusive suffix ə, which linguists and writers in Italy have popularised against strident opposition from many, including the national language watchdog.

Anyway, it’s pretty cool to go on a late-night tweet spree and then see it translated into half a dozen different languages, but disappointing that so many media outlets remain inattentive to gendered language, even when reporting an LGBTIQ+ story. My pronouns have been in my Twitter bio since I started the account, and in my website bio and email signature (ey/eir/em, they/their/them, 伊 or TA).

It’s ironic too, because what I’m most proud of from my time in China journalism was building up LGBTIQ+ and gender reporting into beats that were taken seriously and resourced appropriately, and integrating that area expertise into editorial processes, ethics and house style. Using the correct pronouns for someone is just one very small part of that but often revealing of broader priorities. It’s something that Beitong and their peers like Tongyu and BGHEI invested in, too, with media guidelines, training, analysis and awards. So I hope media outlets take stock and use events like IDAHOBIT and Pride as an opportunity to consider how they could improve their LGBTIQ+ reporting.

Articles mentioned:

LGBTQ spaces are shrinking in China, James Palmer, Foreign Policy, 16 May 2023.

Chinese LGBTQ Center Closes Down Abruptly Amid Xi Clampdown, Bloomberg, 16 May 2023.

Leading Chinese advocacy group Beijing LGBT Center closes down, citing ‘unpreventable circumstances’, AFP (syndicated in Hong Kong Free Press), 16 May 2023.

* IDAHOBIT is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex discrimination and Transphobia.