Scared Straight: LGBT Community Unites Against Conversion Therapy

Despite activists’ outcry and a shocking kidnapping case, medically discredited “gay conversion” treatments still find a market in China

It was early February, 2014, shortly after Spring Festival, when Yanzi left the warmth of Guangzhou and flew to drizzly Chongqing, to try to turn himself straight.

“Conversion therapy” for homosexuals has quietly persisted in Chinese medical circles and society for years, although the World Psychiatric Association stated in 2016 that “it has been decades since modern medicine abandoned pathologizing same-sex orientation and behavior.” The treatment includes a wide range of methods, offered at both illegal clinics and government-backed hospitals, to convince patients their sexuality can be changed: shock treatment, pharmaceuticals, or counseling sessions.

Yanzi knew he was gay, but wondered what the therapy was like—and what damage it could do.

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Scared Straight: LGBT Community Unites Against Conversion Therapy is a story from our issue, “Fast Forward.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Phoebe Zhang is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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