Li Yinhe's Opinions on China's Gay, Lesbian Athletes

  • January 3, 2014
  • Editor: Frank Zhao
  • Change Text Size: A  A  A
Li Yinhe's Opinions on China's Gay, Lesbian Athletes
Famous sexologist Li Yinhe insists Chinese gay and lesbian athletes will eventually come out. []
On December 1, British Olympic diving star Tom Daley revealed he was in a relationship with another man in a video uploaded to YouTube. The news attracted the attention of millions of Chinese diving fans and reignited debate about why no Chinese gay or lesbian athlete has ever come out despite reports implicating some in same-sex relationships.

Fear of public backlash is a major reason Chinese gay and lesbian athletes stay in the closet, according to Li Yinhe, a famous Chinese sexologist and professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

However, Li is optimistic about the future and believes that as Chinese society grows more tolerant, Chinese gay and lesbian athletes will be persuaded to come out.

China's Gay and Lesbian Athletes

There are 13 million to 65 million gay and lesbian people in China, accounting for between 1 and 5 percent of the total population, Yunnan daily the Chuncheng Evening News reported on June 28, 2013.

Recent years have seen a growing number of gay and lesbian entertainers come out, but no athletes have followed suit.

In August 2000 when Chinese lawmakers solicited public opinion on revising the marriage law, Li proposed legalizing same-sex marriage. Her proposal received predictable opposition. However, more startling was that none of the gay and lesbian people whose rights Li had long advocated for came forward to support her.

According to Li, Chinese society has become much more tolerant of homosexuality since 2000. Both the government and public have become more open-minded, even if homosexuality has remained a taboo topic in the Chinese sporting arena.

Some Chinese female soccer players have reportedly been in lesbian relationships, but none have spoken openly about their sexuality.

In 2010, the Tianjin Daily reported there were at least four lesbian couples in a Chinese women's youth soccer team. It was also reported that a pair of teammates in a women's soccer team in north China even fought over a girlfriend.

In 2007, sports journalist Zhao Liaoliao posted a blog entry making further claims of lesbians in Chinese women's soccer teams.

Leading by Example

Even though Chinese gay and lesbian athletes have been reluctant to step into the spotlight and speak out about their sexuality, there is one athlete who hasn't been shy to admit she is a lesbian. Brittney Griner, a 23-year-old American basketball star who plays for Women's Chinese Basketball Association team Zhejiang Chouzhou, is the only professional athlete in China who is openly lesbian. Griner confirmed she was a lesbian in a media interview in April 2013, a month before she signed with Zhejiang Chouzhou.

Before she came out, many journalists were careful not to raise questions about her sexuality. "She occasionally says she is like a boy, but apart from that there is nothing particularly odd about her," Yin Peiqin, a journalist with Zhejiang newspaper City Press, said of Griner.

Griner's teammates have all been accepting of her sexual orientation. "As far as I can tell, nothing has prevented her from getting along well with her teammates. No one is avoiding her," said Yin. 
Li Yinhe's Opinions on China's Gay, Lesbian Athletes
American lesbian basketball star Brittney Griner shows off her Zhejiang Chouzhou jersey. []

But why hasn't a gay or lesbian Chinese athlete come out? Li cites fear of public accusations and the belief among athletes that sexuality is a private matter as main reasons. By contrast, gay and lesbian celebrities in Western countries, particularly those with political influence, are expected to come out and speak for the gay and lesbian community.

"If a public figure comes out, they are seen as setting a good example because they usually have many followers. In Hong Kong and southeast China's Taiwan, many famous gay and lesbian entertainers like [TV host] Kevin Tsai have come out," said Li. "But on the Chinese mainland, there have been few to do so."

In an interview with before her arrival in China, Griner confirmed her goal to be a role model and inspire more athletes to come out of the closet. "I wanted to set an example for lesbians. I know many don't understand what I am doing, but I don't care," she said. "Yes, I am a lesbian. I kept it a secret when I was at university, but not now."

However, Griner has never talked publicly to Chinese media about homosexuality-related issues as of the press time. 
  • 1 2 Next Page Last
  • Please understand that,a non-profit, information-communication website, cannot reach every writer before using articles and images. For copyright issues, please contact us by emailing: The articles published and opinions expressed on this website represent the opinions of writers and are not necessarily shared by

    comment on this story

    Messages that harass, abuse or threaten others; have obscene or otherwise objectionable content; have commercial or advertising content or links may be removed.

      • Hello Is there a statistic or a study that I could research on the matter of women's land use rights? Do women in rural areas manage/contract their own land or is the land contracted in the male head of household's name?Pia from Finland
      • To the Director Women of china, Greetings from Action for Integrated Approach To Development Initiative (AFIADI) Kampala Uganda and Bishop Samuel Ssekadde our Chairman,My names are Joseph Musajjawaza the founder. AFIADI is a non governmental,not ...Joseph Musajjawaza from Uganda East Africa
      • Dear Women in China Staff to Shanghai, It is our pleasure to invite you to attend the Shanghai Business Forum. Shanghai Business Forum is a series of events for those who do business in and outside of China, create opportunities, and drive chang ...Shanghai Business Forum from Shanghai
      • Sirs, I have published a feminist paper about the women's situation in France. My paper shows the importance of women in high level at technolo from France
      • Dear Sirs, I am interested to visit China and learn the Chinese language. Please send me a few - free of charge internet addresses - to learn the Chinese language for BEGINNERS ONLINE. Thank you for your help Best regar ...Giuseppe from Italy
      • I’d like to have an interview with the president or vice president about her professional works, and thoughts about leadership. The interview could be conducted via email, skype, phone or in person. My name is Hyeonsuk Lim, and current GMAP stude ...Hyeonsuk Lim from Republic of Korea
      • Hi, I am looking into doing charity work and as music is my profession i have taken an interest in Sound of Yida - Love Music Classroom Project. Has anyone got a contact for this project as I am interested to get involved in the project? Tha ...mica atkinson from China, Guangzhou
      • I am interested to know how Chines women feel about their opportunities for business ownership in mainland China. Prefer an English response, but Chinese is welcome, THXBrad Glass from Ohio
      • Chairman Ma Zedong once said that in China women uphold half of the sky. I am preparing an invited editorial on healthcare in women in China and would like very much to quote his saying in Chinese in his own calligraphy. I wonder if you would be ab ...Professor Tsung O. Cheng, M.D. from Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
      • Dear Mrs Mr I have found a picture on your site of Karen Mok Karen Mok (Mo Wenwei)[Photo source: I am wondering if I can use this photo for job that I am doing for a Branding book. The book and power point presentation is only ...Charlotte Therme-Lindell from Netherlands
        • Seek the Most Beautiful Families
        • 银川妇女
        • Our Chinese Dream
        • 台港澳婦女頻道