Zoo accused of homophobia after telling two women they didn’t count as a couple

LGBT+ couple holding Pride flags

A zoo in Guangzhou, China, has been accused of “homophobia” after two women were barred from buying a “couples ticket”.

In an incident that captures the longstanding discrimination LGBT+ people face in the republic, Chimelong Safari Park reportedly refused to recognise a lesbian couple’s relationship.

Leslie Song, 29, explained on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media websites, that she and her girlfriend visited the safari park on Friday (21 May).

The pair had booked tickets in advance on Ctrip, a Chinese travel agency.

But on arrival, staff allegedly refused to let them enter. Only mixed-sex couples, they said, were allowed couples tickets.

They were asked to pay ¥300 for each individual ticket, rather than the discounted ¥510 couples deal.

“We respect all the protocols and regulations of the park,” Song wrote in the post.

“However, we strongly defy Chimelong Safari Park’s behaviour of arbitrarily excluding same-sex pairs from the definition of ‘couples’.”

Song told Sixth Tone, an English-language Chinese news outlet, that she and her partner sought to complain about the discrimination only to be dismissed.

Chimelong Safari Park allegedly told her the joint couples ticket deal was “designed for men and women only”.

“The categorisation of the tickets and the way the staff explained it to us makes it clear that Chimelong is homophobic,” Song said.

“We didn’t want to be silent about this, so we decided to call Chimelong out online.”

On the zoo’s website, the outlet reported, the couples package has since been changed to a deal specifically for “male and female pairs”.

The park weathered near-identical accusations of homophobia in 2018, where another same-sex couple were barred from purchasing the couples ticket package.

In a since-deleted Weibo post, a same-sex couple was similarly stonewalled from entering the park with a couples ticket.

Chimelong Safari Park administrators vowed to amend the policy at the time, promising to provide “better experiences and services for everyone”.