China opens first clinic for transgender youth

China broke with its usual practices regarding LGBTQ rights and problems and opened its first medical clinic to treat transgender children and adolescents.

Chinese state-backed media company The Global Times recently reported that the clinic opened at Fudan University Children’s Hospital in Shanghai, and said it will “serve as a bridge between transgender children, parents, doctors and various sectors of society”.

The opening of the clinic and its celebratory coverage in the Chinese state media comes as the country works at the same time to curtail LGBTQ activism and voices.

Homosexuality has not been illegal in China since 1997, but restrictions on LGBTQ people remain.

Last week, a Chinese LGBTQ advocacy group, which has led many legal cases in the country to expand LGBTQ rights, announced that it would cease work “indefinitely.”

Chinese tech giant Tencent’s social media platform WeChat deleted dozens of LGBTQ accounts held by university students in July on the grounds that the accounts violated Chinese internet rules. However, critics argued that the deletion of the accounts amounted to censoring LGBTQ activism.

And after 11 years of operation, Shanghai Pride canceled its annual LGBTQ celebration last year and said – with no explanation – that it would no longer hold the event.

The Global Times reported that research by Chinese scholars linking transgender teenagers with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide attempts led doctors to believe that special care was needed for trans minors.

In the United States, lawyers and academics are also warning of the disproportionate rates of bullying, harassment, and mental health problems that afflict trans teenagers.

A opinion poll of over 35,000 LGBTQ adolescents and young adults this year from The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, found that more than half of transgender and non-binary respondents are seriously thinking of suicide.

It is unclear how many children in China identify as transgender as the country does little research about its trans community. However a Analysis 2021 from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that 14 percent of over 1,000 Chinese respondents say they have transgender acquaintances.

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