LGBT Chinese describe what it was like being forced into therapy to ‘cure’ their homosexuality

International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a sadly not so shocking reportcalling for China to put an end to so-called “gay conversion therapy.”

For its 52-page report, HRW interviewed 17 Chinese individuals who had endured therapy targeted at “curing” their homosexuality. Those individuals spoke about being essentially abducted by their loved ones and taken to public hospitals and private clinics where they were made to remain against their will and “treated” with forcible medication and electroshocks.

HRW said that all of the individuals were emphatic about one thing: “they would not have undergone conversion therapy were it not for family and social pressure.” Some described how their parents had even threatened suicide if they did not go to therapy.

My mom started… screaming about unfortunate things happening to our family, how she could ever survive it… My dad kneeled down in front of me, crying, begging me to go [to the conversion therapy]. My dad said he did not know how to continue living in this world and facing other family members if people found out I was gay. He was begging me to go so that he could live… I mean, at that point, what else could I do? I didn’t really have any other options…

The parents were convinced by doctors who claimed that homosexuality was nothing more than a mental illness which could be treated and cured.

The doctor at the hospital we visited is a very famous one in the city where I am from. He appeared on all kinds of advertisement for mental illness treatment. We saw him quite often on TV or on newspaper. The psychiatrist told my mom: “Homosexuality is just like all the other mental diseases, like depression, anxiety, or bipolar. It can be cured. I have confidence in your son’s case. Trust me, leave him here, he is in good hands.”

Those children who were not coerced into going by threats were forcibly taken to hospitals for therapy by their own family members.

My parents wanted to take me to some kind of treatment. I was just afraid they were sending me to some kind of electroshock therapy. My dad said there wouldn’t be anything like that involved, and that they just wanted me to be “cured” and be fine… I didn’t want to go even after what my dad told me. So my aunts helped drag me out of my parents’ place into a minivan parked outside. They drove a couple hours and we finally arrived in Chongqing. The hospital in the city of Chongqing is the closest one to my home that offered conversion therapy… I was told to wait with my mom at the hospital when we arrived. My dad was taking care of the registration, after which the nurse said I could go put my stuff in my room and then go see the doctor.

Once inside the hospital or clinic, the unwilling patients were not allowed to leave or have contact with their friends.

At the beginning, I managed to hide my cellphone and take it with me into the hospital. I hid it under the mattress. I was texting my friends or messaging them on QQ [a popular instant messaging application], telling them what happened to me and what was going on here in the evenings, when I was in my room and no one was watching me… Later, the staff at the hospital found out about my cellphone while inspecting patients’ rooms, and they confiscated it. I was out of touch with my friends for the rest of my time [about three weeks] in there.

As part of their “treatment,” they had frequent conversations with doctors who informed them that homosexuality was “abnormal,” “sick,” and “perverted.”

I sat down, and the doctor gave me a form and asked me to fill it out… The doctor started saying to me: “You are sick. You know that yourself, right? I am not lying to you. If you feel like having sex with another man you are sick. But don’t worry about it too much now, I can help you with that. This is why your parents brought you here.”

And that it would lead to an early grave and a fractured family.

This is pretty much what that doctor told me: “This [homosexuality] is promiscuous and licentious. If you don’t change that about yourself, you will get sick and you will die from AIDS. You will never have a happy family … Have you ever considered your parents’ happiness?”

In order to “cure” them of their “illness,” patients were made to take pills though they were not told what the pills contained.

They were white pills in a bottle. I didn’t know what they were. I mean, I still don’t know what they are. The doctor and the nurse refused to tell me what the pills were. They just told me they were supposed to be good for me and help with the progress of the “treatment”… After I took them, I usually feel hyper-energized for a while, like a few hours. Then after a few hours, I started to feel very exhausted and depressed.

Five of the 17 interviewees also described undergoing electroshock therapy with four of them saying that they didn’t even know what was going on until it was too late.

One part of that machine looked like a helmet, it was connected to the main part with cable. The interior of the helmet is covered with many dots, they look like metal dots… when they put the helmet on my head and turned on the machine, my head started to feel weird. It was like your skin on your head was being bitten by many bugs at the same time. As they turned it up, I started to feel pain instead of just numbness. It felt like being pinched or having needles stabbing on my skin. Then after a few minutes, my body started trembling… It was not until later did I realize that was an electroshock machine.

One said that even after refusing to continue with electroshock therapy, the treatment didn’t get any easier for him.

I told them I couldn’t put with electroshock anymore… [so] the hospital recommended medicine by injection… The doctor said it would be more “gentle” than electroshock, and maybe less side effects… They asked me to watch and concentrate on the gay porn playing on the screen. And a nurse injected some liquid into me with a syringe… The liquid has no color and it was usually injected in my arm… Soon my body started to feel like it’s burning. My stomach was very uncomfortable, I felt very disgusted and constantly wanted to vomit in the whole process, but I didn’t really vomit. I was having a headache too… Every few minutes, the doctor and the nurse asked me to calm down and keep focusing on what is being shown on the screen.

While this report may be shocking, it’s not surprising.

Despite the fact that homosexuality was removed from China’s list of psychiatric disorders in 2001, gay individuals are still being diagnosed around the country with “sexual preference disorder.” Meanwhile, a landmark court ruling in 2014 against a counseling center in Chongqing which had used electroshock conversion therapy in an attempt to “cure” one man’s homosexuality has done little to stop hospitals and clinics from using the therapy and gay individuals are still being forcibily abducted by their families and taken to these facilities.

Earlier this year, a court in Henan ruled in favor of a gay man who was kidnapped by his wife’s family after she discovered his true sexual preference and taken to a government psychiatric hospital where he was beaten and drugged for 19 days to “cure” his “disorder.”

“It’s been more than 20 years since China decriminalized homosexuality, but LGBT people are still subjected to forced confinement, medication, and even electric shocks to try to change their sexual orientation,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “If Chinese authorities are serious about ending discrimination and abuse against LGBT people, it’s time to put an end to this practice in medical facilities.”

Read the full report here.

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