While China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, their LGBTQ+ population is still fighting to be seen.

The country’s census collection is officially underway, having started on 1 November.

The National Bureau of Statistics informed Reuters that any additional information that didn’t conform to the census’s pre-existing categories or typical responses for “relationship to head of household” category would not be formally recorded.

In retaliation to the pre-existing categories on the census, same-sex couples are protesting online and are urging other LGBTQ+ partners living together to tell census takers: “They are not my roommate, they are my partner.”

Peng Yanzi is the director of LGBTQ+ Rights Advocacy China and is the NGO behind the campaign. He told Reuters that he hopes same-sex couples will be able to gain visibility in the society around them and by the government. Yanzi emphasised the point, that regardless of sexuality, they too “are a part of China’s population.”

“These census takers may have never met, or even heard of, gay people, so if we have the opportunity to talk to them, they can better understand the LGBTQ+ community,” he said.

As the LGBTQ+ population push for recognition and formal rights, there are still daily reminders of how China’s culture and politics are at odds.
For many queer identifying people, they still commonly refer to their partners as roommates or even close friends. By referring to a partner as a “roommate” it is easier for them to convey the sentiment on the title without having to be explicit.
However, this trend is changing as more activists and individuals are supporting the campaign to challenge the labelling of “roomate” and supporting causes like Peng Yanzi’s.
China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 but the rights to same-sex marriage is not yet recognised as it is deemed “too controversial”.