Is China LGBTQIA+ friendly?

LGBTQIA+ travellers are those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (a more inclusive LGBT initialism), plus queer or questioning, intersex or asexual individuals, as well as those who identify beyond these commonly used sexuality and gender expressions. Specific situations and issues may present themselves to travellers who identify with one or more of these terms when visiting China.

LGBTQIA+ rights in China

Although there are many instances of LGBTQIA+ relationships, art and literature spread throughout China’s long recorded history, LGBTQIA+ identifying people in China do not receive the same legal protections or rights as heterosexual and/or cis-gender populations. The government heavily censors portrayals of same-sex relationships and, up until 2001, homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Same-sex couples are unable to marry or adopt in China, and legal protections are not the same between LGBTQIA+ and non-LGBTQIA+ identifying citizens.

Through the dynasties, homosexual relationships were treated with indifference, but with global and Soviet influences into the 20th century, laws were put in place to ban same-sex relationships. China still has a long way to go to appropriately recognise LGBTQIA+ people; however, some minor progress has been made in recent years, including recognition of these relationships.

In saying this, LGBTQIA+ travellers should have no issues travelling freely throughout China, provided they understand cultural norms and act with discretion. Chinese people are generally tolerant and homophobic-related violence is incredibly rare. While it’s common for friends of the same sex to hold hands, further public displays of affection are generally frowned upon, both for heterosexual and same-sex couples.

There are small but energised gay scenes in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong; however, public displays and pride events do not usually have a place in China, due to authorities keeping a lid on any form of public demonstrations.

LGBTQIA+ culture in Beijing

Beijing skyline at dusk

The LGBTQIA+ scene in Beijing may be small, but it is thriving. Q-Space is a safe, inclusive space for LGBT+ communities in Beijing, offering a lot of community-based activities and support. At night, heading to the progressive Destination club or Funky (opposite each other) is ideal for a hassle-free and fun night out.

LGBTQIA+ culture in Shanghai

Aerial view of Shanghai skyline and cityscape at sunset, China.

Although China does not have what is usually considered a pride parade due to political and cultural reasons, each year Shanghai holds a festival called ShanghaiPRIDE in late May or early June. The city plays host to a number of film events, art installations, parties and community events, as well as a Pride Run and Rainbow Bike Parade.

During other times of the year, the LGBTQIA+ scene may be scattered around Shanghai, but it still can be found. Your best bet is to head to the French Concession area of town, where gay bars like Happiness 42 and Lollipop are heaving, especially on a weekend.

Solo travel and room sharing

If you are travelling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travellers who do not wish to share a room.  

For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or ILGA before you travel.

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