Why China’s Gay Academics Feel They Must Stand Out or Stay Hidden

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01/05/2020

Since 2018, I’ve interviewed 40 gay men who either currently teach or have previously taught at Chinese colleges and universities. My aim was to discover what challenges they face as teachers and researchers and to find out how they cope with Chinese academia’s often hostile stance toward sexual minorities. Unsurprisingly, many of my interviewees told me their sexual identities were a source of stress. School leaders often take an ambivalent view of LGBT staff, and those who choose to come out publicly must balance their desire to be accepted for who they are with the risk of discrimination from colleagues, bosses, and even students. But not everyone chooses to strike this delicate balance. Some gay professors instead embrace their minority status and use it as a source of motivation. By outperforming their heterosexual colleagues, they seek to force their schools to recognize and accept their identities.

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