Breaking with its usual practices on LGBTQ rights and issues, China launched its first medical clinic to treat transgender children and adolescents.
The Chinese state-backed media outlet The Global Times recently reported that the clinic opened at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, saying that it will “serve as a bridge between transgender children, parents, doctors and the various circles of society.”
The clinic’s opening and its celebratory coverage in Chinese state media comes as the country simultaneously works to limit LGBTQ activism and voices.
Homosexuality has not been illegal in China since 1997, but restrictions for LGBTQ people still remain.
Last week, a Chinese LGBTQ advocacy group that has led many of the country’s legal cases to expand LGBTQ rights announced that it would be halting its work “indefinitely.”
Chinese tech giant Tencent’s WeChat social media platform deleted dozens of LGBTQ accounts run by university students in July, saying that the accounts had broken Chinese internet rules. But critics argued that the wipeout of the accounts amounted to censoring LGBTQ activism.
And after 11 years in operation, Shanghai Pride canceled its annual LGBTQ celebration last year and said — without explanation — that it would no longer hold the event.
The Global Times reported that research by Chinese scholars linking transgender youths to higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide attempts led doctors to believe that specialized care for trans minors was necessary.
In the United States, advocates and scholars have also been warning about the disproportionate rates of bullying, harassment and mental health issues plaguing trans youths.
A survey of over 35,000 LGBTQ youths and young adults this year by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, found that more than half of transgender and nonbinary respondents seriously considered suicide.
It’s unclear how many children in China identify as transgender, as there is little research from the country on its trans community. However, a 2021 analysis by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that 14 percent of over 1,000 Chinese respondents say that they have transgender acquaintances.
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