The Guardian
China’s Gay Shock Therapy
By Sam Wollaston
October 10, 2015

electroconvulsive therapy chinaA young man calling himself John goes to a hospital in the Chinese city of Tianjin and is seen by a senior psychiatrist. What seems to be the problem, she asks. John tells her he’s gay.

Homosexuality may no longer be illegal or classified as a mental illness in China, as it was. But it’s not accepted by many – the authorities included.

The psychiatrist tells John it’s in his mind, and outlines a range of remedies that will put him on the road to straightness. Cold showers, jogging to run off the gay hormones – and a drug he can take that will make him feel sick when he feels sexual urges towards another man.

John asks her about electric shock treatment. Yes, that also works, says the doctor (senior psychiatrist, don’t forget, in a hospital in a major city in a global superpower). But it’s not available in this hospital. Sadly. Because John’s not simply a gay man looking to be made straight, he’s an anti-“conversion therapy” activist working with Shaunagh Connaire on Unreported World – China’s Gay Shock Therapy (Channel 4).

Another man goes to another Tianjin hospital, and has better luck with another senior psychiatrist. After an hour-long consultation she hands him over to a nurse, who places electrodes on his head. Half of his head goes numb. But it will rebalance his nervous system, so it’s worth a bit of pain. Physical and financial: that’ll be 3,500 yuan (about £350, or, on average, more than three weeks’ wages), please.

Oh, and he’s not even cured. For that, he’ll need to come back again and again, presumably at 3,500 yuan a pop.

Oddly, there’s no evidence that electric shock treatment can change sexual orientation. Really? Yeah, but how many gay cows do you get? Very few, right? And have you thought about why that is? Electric fences, exactly! They’ve all been shocked straight. (My own theory, not the senior psychiatrist’s.)

Hey, I wonder if it works the other way, maybe you can be shocked into being gay, if you put the electrode on the other side of the brain. I quite fancy being bi, perhaps I’ll go to China to have some alternating current passed through my head, see if that works. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so … well, shocking.