China opens first gender clinic for trans youth: ‘It’s definitely a good sign’

A group poses for photos at Shanghai Pride

In a surprising development amid fears of a government crackdown on the LGBT+ community, China has opened its very first gender clinic for trans youth.

The multidisciplinary clinic has been set up at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai to care for trans children, according to the state-run Global Times.

The publication reported that the clinic, which includes psychology, urology, endocrine and genetic metabolic departments, will serve “as a bridge between transgender children, parents, doctors and the various circles of society”.

The Children’s Hospital of Fudan University said it was already treating patients, and gave an example of a teenager who, as puberty set, began suffering from anxiety and depression and realised that they were transgender.

While the teenager’s parents tried to “dismiss the concept as being in her mind”, they were seen at the hospital, where clinicians confirmed that their trans identity was valid.

The hospital worked on improving the teenager’s mood and mental health, and prescribed medication to stop menstruation which helped the their dysphoria, while letting them know their options are open when it comes to further medical interventions later in life.

A 2019 study found that trans students, as in most parts of the world, had higher rates of anxiety and depression that their cisgender peers, according to Global Times, which is run by the Communist Party of China.

If they are not supported, the publication said, “they may have problems in school and with social adaptation, or there may be confrontation between family members, or unexplained self-harm behaviours and even suicide tendencies”.

According to a 2013 census bureau report, there are an estimated four million transgender people in China, but being trans is still considered a psychiatric disorder.

Trans people are required to undergo surgery, be over the age of 20, be unmarried and gain permission from their families to have their gender legally recognised.

LGBT+ activists in China are both happy and surprised by the Shanghai gender clinic

Considering the current climate in China on LGBT+ rights, the opening of the Shanghai gender clinic has come as a surprise.

Xin Ying, director of the Beijing LGBT Center, told Sixth Tone: “It’s definitely a good sign… It’s essential to have transgender clinics targeted toward children and teenagers because many transgender people develop gender awareness in childhood.”

In recent months, there have been growing fears of a government crackdown on the LGBT+ community in China, following reports of media restrictions and social media censorship.

The government has insisted that broadcasters must only “vigorously promote excellent Chinese traditional culture” by banning “sissy” effeminate men from TV, and has announced that video games featuring same-sex relationships will not be approved.

There have also been reports that social media platforms in China have been “wiping out” LGBT+ accounts.

LGBT+ activism also seems to be affected. Last year Shanghai Pride, the country’s longest-running LGBT+ Pride celebration, was cancelled abruptly, without explanation, having taken place every year for more than a decade.

Earlier this month, a major LGBT+ advocacy group, known for fighting legal battles for the queer community in China, also shut down without warning.