LGBT+ rights in China during the pandemic

By December 7, 2022 Advocacy, Regional

(to protect the safety of the contributor)

It has been 3 years since China went into lockdown with its zero Covid-19 policy. However, such policy comes with a cost especially for the LGBT+ community with issues from increased financial burden to reduced access to community and medical support. Below are some of the issues the LGBT+ community faced and still facing in China during this pandemic.

Increased financial burden for LGBT+ groups

The lockdown in China has brought the economy into a slowdown and many found themselves out of jobs in 2022. It is reported that 1 in 5 young people were unemployed in China as of September 2022. Consequently, in order to make ends meet, they need to cut regular expenses, including their monthly donations to LGBT+ groups. According to the director of a Beijing based LGBT+ group, they lost 20% of their monthly donors because of the economic recession and this percentage keeps increasing. Because of the strict lockdown requirements in China, organising events for fundraising becomes increasingly difficult and thus gravely affect their income flow.

Increased mental health risks for men who have sex with men (MSM) in China

Continuous lockdown means LGBT+ individuals are forced to stay home, resulting in more social isolation and lack of social connection to the LGBT+ community. Unemployment and lack of food security increased the mental health issues of the community. Among the group, MSM living with HIV reported higher psychological distress due to the challenge of seeking medical help, gaining access to antiretroviral medications and interrupting HIV treatment care which may result in treatment failure.

Reduced access to medicine for transgender individuals in China

Some transgender individuals rely on the black market to purchase hormone-related medicine online and delivered to their home. However, nation-wide lockdowns disrupt the delivery process in China and therefore it has become increasingly challenging for them to arrange delivery of the drugs. Although some transgender women can purchase the drug over the counter in the pharmacy, this kind of medicine usually is not treated as life-saving drugs and so they will not be sold during the lockdown. To make matters worse, the National Medical Products Administration announced in November this year that they are considering to ban the online sale of the two most used drugs by transgender women for hormone replacement therapy, which adds the financial burden for transgender individuals to buy drugs.

Leveraging technology to marry overseas

On the bright side, thanks to technology, getting married is no longer a dream for same-sex couples in China. Since 2021, an estimate of at least 200 same-sex couples were married via online ceremonies conducted by wedding officiants in Utah, USA. Although such marriage is not recognised in China, it helps same-sex couples to immigrate to other countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

To conclude, the continuous lockdown affects both the mental and physical health of the LGBT+ community. LGBT+ groups are also struggling financially due to the decrease in funding from the community. More support from the region and the global community is needed to help the LGBT+ community ride through the seemingly never-ending lockdown.

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