China’s Gay and Disabled Face Double Discrimination

China’s Gay and Disabled Face Double Discrimination

Sixth Tone

23rd February 2018

China’s Gay and Disabled Face Double Discrimination

LGBT people with disabilities seek support for their millions-strong minority within a minority.

When Chen Rui finally found a man he adored and who didn’t mind that Chen uses a wheelchair, the stares from everyone else drove them apart. People gave them strange looks every time the pair showed affection in public. “Our relationship became very fragile and ended after two months,” Chen says, following a long pause.

Originally from the southern city of Guangzhou, Chen, 22, tells Sixth Tone that he came out to his parents in 2015. They worried that his “choice” would complicate his life, he says. A year later, he injured his spine in a car accident, paralyzing his legs. He had become a cantong — an LGBT person who has a disability.

In recent years, sexual minorities have gained greater visibility and acceptance in China, due in part to support from an increasing number of nonprofit organizations dedicated to their cause.

Meanwhile, people with disabilities have also begun to speak out against outdated views and enjoy increased support from the government. However, individuals at the intersection of these two identities, like Chen, often feel voiceless — outsiders in both groups.

“I feel discriminated against within the community of sexual minorities and within the community of disabled people,” Chen says.

Cantong likely number in the millions in China, though the exact figure is unknown. China’s LGBT population is estimated at around 90 million, or around 6 percent of the total population. According to the last national census in 2010, there are more than 85 million people with disabilities in China. Six percent of that figure would put the number of cantong at more than 5 million.

Chen feels that his disability has limited his dating options, but that’s not his biggest concern. As a senior in university, his priority is finding a good job. He has only applied for positions at multinational companies in China’s most developed cities, because he believes they are more open to hiring both LGBT employees and people with disabilities. Though there is a range of government incentives for companies to hire people with disabilities, “many companies would rather pay extra taxes to avoid hiring someone like me who sits in a wheelchair, as [they believe] we cause trouble and affect work efficiency,” Chen says.

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