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Feb 20, 2013
Taking an anthropology class which focuses on culture, illness and healing provides an alternative way to understand current issues. Especially when I read Ian Hacking’s Making Up People. In the article, the author tried to understanding how certain categories of people are created by society and how, what he called “dynamic nominalism” which means both defining a term from the authority as well as behaved by individuals, reinforce “making up people”. By studying the official statistics of nineteenth century, he found that before the nineteenth century, there seem to be no homosexual people. Then he discussed how the society made up homosexuality.
This is an interesting argument since now we are advocating for LGBTQ rights, however, without carefully researching how each culture makes up their own LGBTQ group we cannot find the exact solution.
For example, the different histories and cultures between Western countries and China make two different LGBTQ social perceptions. From a great case study book on Chinese homosexuality I was reading, a chapter was devoted to the discussion of this difference. While in countries such as the United States which are more religious, the voice against LGBTQ is much stronger since social perception of morality is largely depend on religious believes. However, on the contrary, in a country such as China which has a long history of separation between religion and state, although it may have a much strict morality towards sexuality, however, it is more open in terms of homosexuality.
“China used to be half heaven for homosexual people” said by a leading researcher of sexuality in China and it is true. Chinese people used to be really open to homosexuality. In the Wei-Jin dynasty, there even appeared to be a general reorganization as well as appreciation among educated people towards homosexuality. And even in Shi Jin, which is a super famous collection of poems from ancient China, a well-known poem is suspected by today’s scholars as a love poem from a man to another. Also, what is generally recognized is that China used to and still be a homosocial society—which means Chinese people are comfortable with same sex’s close relationship. And it was until 1949, China started to characterize homosexuality as “wrong capitalism behaviors” and then defined homosexuality as crime but removed it from law later and changed it into some kind of mental illness, but after 2001, the government officially took it out of mental illness and now, it became a gray area but is generating popularity in China again—as there is an increasing popularity and publicity of homosexuality.
So what is clear that if we really want to push LGBTQ right movement forward, it is not only enough if we only look now—we need to know how societies make their own LGBTQ groups up so that we may reverse those processes to break down “norms” which barrier LGBTQ right movement.