BEIJING, July 21 (UPI) — Chinese gay rights activists are upset over a new dictionary edition’s failure to include a definition widely used by homosexuals in China for “gay.”
In China, the word “tongzhi,” which was primarily used to mean “comrade,” is colloquially used to mean “gay,” the BBC reported Saturday.
Revisers of the sixth edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, the main dictionary in China, said they made a choice to exclude the alternative meaning of “tongzhi.”
“We knew about the usage but we can’t include it,” said linguist Jiang Lansheng, one of the compilers of the dictionary. “You can use the word whichever way you like, but we won’t put it into a standard dictionary because we don’t want to promote these things. We don’t want to draw attention to these things.”
Some gay rights campaigners have complained that it is unacceptable that the “gay” meaning of “tongzhi” was excluded from the dictionary.
“Tongzhi is the most commonly used, non-offensive term used by our circle to refer to homosexuals,” Nan Feng, a gay rights activist told Xinhua. “We hope the compilers can view the word from an impartial standpoint.”
Meanwhile, observers say they are not surprised the dictionary did not include the definition.
“The use of ‘tongzhi’ to describe homosexuality started in Hong Kong and Taiwan to make fun of the mainland’s communist terminology because Chinese leaders address each other using ‘tongzhi’ meaning ‘comrade’ — for instance, ‘Hu Jintao tongzhi’ or ‘Wen Jiabao tongzhi’,” said Ding Xueliang, a social sciences professor from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “So it’s quite normal that the Chinese government doesn’t want to take this new meaning into the dictionary.”