- CHINA 2010: Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Hainan, Beijing
- INDIA 2010: Bangalore, Trivandrum, Alleppey, Cochin
|This interview was
written by Felix
Liew, photo at right.
The following is an interview Felix Liew of Other Sheep
conducted with Doudou, founder of the LGBT Campus
Association in Guangzhou, China. Felix made this interview by
email sometime following Other Sheep's visit to the Campus
Association on July 13, 2010.
Other Sheep: What led you to start the Gay and Lesbian Campus Association?
Doudou: The reasons I got involved in campus outreach are very complicated. I have
written several articles that shed light on that. You may read my article--Why I am so
persistent, at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_50de17330100hdhp.html .
Four years ago, when my friends and I were persecuted for being gay, I decided to do
something for myself and the community. I saw that there were many gay and lesbian
organizations in China already but none catered specifically to university students. So
naturally my friends and I who share the same hopes and dreams got together and the Gay
Campus Association was born. Later we had lesbians joining us and then we expanded our
services to the women also. Where there is no way, we make a way. If we did not walk
ahead of others to take the lead, how could others be expected to understand and support
us? And how can our life get better?
OS: Tell us something about yourself as it relates to being a young gay person in
D: I think it is better for me to talk about the needs and feelings of the young LGBT
community in China as a whole than to do it from a purely personal angle, as I am just as
much a part of this community as anyone else.
There is a need for young people to actively participate in the fight for a better life and
equal rights for LGBT people in China. The rights of LGBT people in China need to be
spearheaded by a group of young LGBT leaders that are responsible, wise and capable as
well as courageous. From the perspective of social education, the non-discrimination
education on school campuses and the self-confidence and growth of young LGBT
students are possible factors in shaping a new generation of “LGBT citizens.” If we don’t
proactively encourage a new generation of young LGBTs to get involved in life
improvement services as well as promote sexual diversity and a friendly and inclusive
campus ambience, I’m afraid the LGBT movement of China will not likely come out of its
Over the past few years, the social life of LGBT people in China has improved a great deal.
With increasing social tolerance and the tremendous impact of the internet on
contemporary youths, the needs of local young LGBT students within the LGBT
communities in China are slowly taking shape. They are facing more and more challenges
these days. For example, China is extremely short of campus/young LGBT groups that are
led by local LGBT students (both male and female). There is also virtually no sex education
in the education system of China’s more remote interiors, especially in the area of equal
rights for sexual minorities, the art of sex, etc. Sex is held in contempt and prejudice by
educators and students alike in school campuses across China. The young LGBT people
do not have any positive model and icon to look up to and they often feel helpless and lost.
There is a shortage of resources on health education for the young LGBTs. HIV/AIDS and
other sexually transmittable diseases, depression, etc are getting more and more
prevalent. Apart from the needs of the average young person, the young LGBTs of China
also have a need for same-sex sexual relationship, interpersonal relationship skills with
their partners, and a direct developmental plan.
OS: Can you tell us what the objectives of the Gay and Lesbian Campus Association
D: Through our ongoing effort and participation in providing knowledge and skills and in
supporting a sexual environment, we aim to foster independent thinking and growth among
young LGBTs. Besides, we want to improve our own life proactively, so that a new
generation of “LGBT citizens” can be raised up. Our four specific objectives are:
- Elevate the power of independent thinking, complete the process of self-acceptance,
boost self-confidence, and encourage young people to participate in community
development through empowerment.
- Build a community support network, provide psychological and interpersonal support,
foster personal growth by means of peer counseling and assistance, and strengthen
the community's dreams and aspirations.
- Promote safer sex, respect sexual diversity, and raise the bar on physical and mental
- Positively create diversity, inclusiveness and non-discrimination in the life of the
campus and push for campus equality on the basis of sexual orientation.
OS: How many members do you have in your core organization?
D: At present we have five core members, one of whom is a full time staff. They are all gay
university students. The Association has a team of volunteers numbering 37.
OS: How many LGBT people would you say visited or participated in the activities of
the center in a given semester? And who might they be—teachers, students,
residents, invited guests etc?
D: The Gay and Lesbian Campus Association is the first of its kind in China that is founded
on student initiative alone. It is a service-oriented non-profit and non-government
organization serving young LGBT students. Founded in March 2007, the Association is the
earliest LGBT organization in the country that specifically caters to young LGBTs for the
long term. Members of the Association include young people from a range of sexual
orientations consisting of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and straight allies. At present, the
Association is serving over 1300 people annually with 2500 visits. These are primarily gay
and lesbian students of higher learning in Guangzhou, as well as young people who have
just entered the job market. Our Association does a lot of public educational work to
counter the wave of discrimination against LGBT people. It also provides training to many
campus societies involving students and teachers alike. Therefore the actual number of
people who benefit from our services far exceeds the number stated above.
OS: How is your website doing in terms of generating interests in your work?
D: We do not have a website but we have an official blog, Douban group, email group and
QQ instant messaging group. These are the communication and publicity channels of the
Association. Our blog keeps the community informed of the latest activities and programs.
OS: Tell us a little about what the Association has done in the last four years.
D: Our group is founded and run by a team of young gays and lesbians. We initiated this
program during our freshman year in university. We have been running this center for four
years now. All the while our founders, coordinators, staff and grass root volunteers have all
been serving on a voluntary basis. We have to depend on the charitable spirit of the young
people and the financial support of many of our friends and allies in order to survive all
Initially we did not have a permanent place to hold our activities, and that made it difficult
for many gay youth who needed to be discreet in accessing our health services and
message. It was not until June 2009, two and a half years after our inception, that several
friends of the community at home and abroad who were or are still actively involved in
LGBT community services, donated funds toward the opening of a LGBT youth center.
In June 2010, four years after we started this health and community service program for
LGBT youth, we graduated from our university studies. At this time, we are faced with the
test of sustainability of our own livelihood and the work of the Association. Currently we are
left with one core member who runs the daily operation of the center. The rest of our core
members would continue to contribute their resources on a part time basis. At the same
time, we will carry on training new volunteers.
OS: Can you comment personally on the idea of translating the book The Children
Are Free into Chinese?
D: When this book has been translated into Chinese, it would meet the needs of a specific
group within the LGBT community in China. It would greatly make up for the current lack of
LGBT religious organizations in the mainland. It could also act as a catalyst to inspire the
formation of similar organizations in the country.
OS: Can you comment on having received the 13 copies of The Children Are Free on
how you plan to use them?
D: We will distribute these books to LGBT youth who are in desperate need, mainly those
who have a religious background and the need to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.
Meanwhile, we will try to share the handouts we received with the university clinical
counseling centers. As for the two Chinese books by Rev. Oyoung, we will make them
available in our center library for public reading.
OS: Can you comment on your feelings when the Baptist girl said she was Baptist and
lesbian? And that she knew her church did not support her and the pastor said don’t
ask don’t tell. What thoughts came to your mind?
D: I personally was deeply moved by the whole session. It dawned on me that within the
Christian church there are so many complex denominations and divisions. The lesbian’s
comments made me feel all the more that we in China have neglected some of the needs
within our local community. They come from a religious background. Besides being
influenced by the Chinese traditional culture, they are also bound by religious teachings.
This particular sub-group needs to actively participate in serving their own community.
What we can do given the current situation is to provide whatever information we can get to
support them. This is also why I suggested translating that book. I also feel the need to
personally understand religious information more systematically. This would help us do
better in our service to the community. I think the pastor’s attitude is not just his alone, but
reflects the attitude of many people out there who may not be directly impacted by the
issue of homosexuality. I do not understand religion much, but I can sense the subtle
meaning underlying it.
OS: Can you tell us a little about the government-funded HIV prevention and
educational program you are doing?
D: We are working with the government HIV program in reaching out to the local MSM
campus community. We provide pre-test and post-test counseling, rapid screening,
emotional support, medical treatment and related work. These services are all free of
charge and completely anonymous. Meanwhile, we also provide vocational training on HIV
and sex education, case counseling and so forth. Through our team effort and
collaboration from various groups, we have effected several changes under the current
situation of HIV prevention in China.
1. We managed to secure better operating hours of the screening centers to suit the
schedules of the students, thus making the services more accessible to the
community. Now we have three weekends each month set aside for anonymous HIV
screening in different locations.
2. We provide various health and integrated services to 1100-2000 LGBT youth in
metropolitan Guangzhou each year. We have increased the accessibility of our
services in the area.
3. We have explored the various modes of services and singled out the most
appropriate procedure to screen young LGBT students.
4. The leader of the team is an expert with the provincial HIV prevention and
treatment technical team. In the last two years, the number of HIV infections has seen
a rapid increase among MSM in China, which prompted the team to actively promote
and participate in the program planning of HIV intervention among young MSM in the
regional (Guangdong province) level.
5. We became the only organization in China to represent young LGBT students in
making recommendations for the government’s HIV program on the national level. In
2010, we presented a paper on our experience in providing HIV-related services to
the young MSM student community at the National MSM Youth Intervention Forum
held in Qingdao. We trained representatives coming from seven major cities across
China including Beijing, Qingdao, Xi’an, etc.
OS: What are the challenges you are facing?
D: Our internal organization presents a big challenge in terms of securing and retaining
human resources, strengthening the executive power and building the service skills of the
team. In the service strategy, we need to more systematically understand the needs of
young LGBT students from evaluation and research, and study the theories related to our
services, and sum up our experiences.
OS: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
D: I hope this will not just be another LGBT youth organization. I want it to be an
organization that educate young people and guide them to develop independent thinking
as they grow. I hope the Association will become a representative body among the youth
services in the country, so that more young people will be encouraged to join our
community service team.
OS: What would you like us to publish about the idea of growing PFLAG in China?
D: As this has to do with PFLAG China, I am not in a position to speak. I am not sure what
should be published. You will have to ask Mama Wu for that. But like the Gay and Lesbian
Campus Association, PFLAG naturally grew out of the LGBT community development in
China and the increasing tolerance of the community at large toward LGBTs in the country.
It is an inevitable product of the times.
OS: Thank you Doudou for having us interview you. You are one awesome guy! We
wish you well and the LGBT campus community in Guangzhou a better future. With
people like you, things will definitely get better for LGBTs in China. Press on
Felix Liew on the train
from Shenzhen to
July 12, 2010.
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