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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 06
Sports Illustrated China features cover story on LGBT athletes
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Sports Illustrated China features cover story on LGBT athletes

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

With rainbow runners and the words 'Go Gays!' on its cover, Sports Illustrated China's January 21 edition features a major story on LGBT athletes.

According to the independent LGBT webcast Queer Comrades, 'It's the first time a Chinese sports magazine pays full attention to world Gay sports events and informs society about the relationship between LGBT and sports.'

It may also be the first major Chinese-language article to cover China's LGBT community.

Gay-themed articles have appeared in the Chinese press before, but mainly in English-language publications like China Daily and the English version of People's Daily.

Sports Illustrated China is owned and operated by the U.S. magazine of the same name, but publishes in the Chinese language.

In May last year, Sports Illustrated in the U.S. ran a story about openly Gay Welsh Rugby star Gareth Thomas. The story was described as 'very, very big and very well received' by the Sports Illustrated communications department.

Sports Illustrated China's story runs to nine full-color double pages.

The story includes a photo spread and interviews with five Chinese Gay and Lesbian athletes who represented China at international sports events, profiles of foreign LGBT athletes, and an interview with sexologist and LGBT rights activist Prof. Li Yinhe.

Queer Comrades host Wei Xiaogang explained that the story was originally intended to be a short feature, but expanded because the magazine's editors wanted to do a serious report.

Speaking on his webcast in Chinese with English subtitles, Wei said:

'Writer Zhang Xinming told us that Sports Illustrated took this report very seriously. At first they wanted to do a small report on LGBT sports, but in the end, with the support of the chief editor, it became this edition's cover story.

'According to Zhang Xinming, the chief editor urged him to stay true to the Sports Illustrated values and to write a piece respectfully representing the LGBT community.'

Wei concluded his webcast with the words 'Chinese media, let these words and this magazine report inspire you!'

'Comrade' is Chinese slang for Gay, and a mocking reference to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Same-sex relations have been legal in China since 'hooliganism' laws were repealed in 1997. 'Hooliganism' was a catchall term used by the Chinese government to describe a range of supposedly anti-social behavior ranging from vandalism to unauthorized sex.

In 2001, China removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Beijing's first Gay bar opened in 2005, and in June 2009 Shanghai hosted China's first Pride Festival, although the parade was cancelled by authorities.

June 2009 also featured the five-day Beijing Queer Film Festival, an event that police blocked in 2001 and 2005.

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