Recently, the internet has been abuzz with news of sexual harassment allegations against noted American filmmaker Harvey Weinstein. Reports are that Weinstein allegedly used his power in the industry to force himself on more than 80 women over a period spanning decades. As the web of sexual harassment, assault, and silencing unfolded, another actor stepped forward with sexual harassment allegations. This time, a man. His alleged harasser was another man, high-profile actor Kevin Spacey, known to many for his role in House of Cards.
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making sexual advances toward him when he was 14 years old and the two were working in a Broadway show. At that time, Spacey was 26 years old. Rapp told Buzzfeed that Spacey picked him up “like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold” and laid down on top of him.
After the article came out, Spacey took to Twitter to apologize and used the opportunity to come out as gay saying, “This story has encouraged me to address some other things about my life.”
The Spacey allegations and his subsequent apology have shone a much-needed light on another aspect of sexual harassment – the kind that takes place among the LGBT community.
Rapp told Buzzfeed that he has no memory of ever telling his mother about the alleged incident and that “if he had told her right away, it would have meant a larger discussion about his own sexual orientation at age 14, and he wasn’t ready to do that.” Hence, he kept the secret only mentioning it later in life and even then, only after a few drinks with close friends.
The LGBT community in Beijing has been watching the matter of Spacey closely, and the response is far from sunshine and rainbows.
“The LGBT community did feel offended by his coming out. They wrote several articles to criticize Kevin. Being gay is never an excuse for sexual harassment. It also reminds us of how sexual harassment is also common within the LGBT community, and we should all work to raise people’s awareness,” says gay feminist activist Li Maizi.
Tobal Loyola, board member at the Beijing LGBT Center, appears to agree. “The impact of his apology will have is doubled – that harassment of any kind, especially sexual harassment, must stop. And at the same time, it brings to light the fact that being true to yourself doesn’t have to be disguised as an excuse for misbehavior,” says Loyola.
According to Li, the LGBT community in China also has a problem with sexual harassment, and sometimes the harassment is from outside the community.
“Straight men harass lesbians, even though they have declared that they are gay, or they have a girlfriend,” she says. “Sometimes it also depends on your gender expression. If you behave feminine Femme, then you meet more harassment than Butch.”
“The Beijing gay community is following the issue,” affirms Kevin Gao, president of Impulse Beijing, an LGBT and Anti-AIDs NGO. “You can see from Weibo and WeChat official accounts. People are talking. Gay men have been sexually harassed in China.”
Gao recalled a famous case in Beijing about two years ago in which a man was raped by a security guard in his office building. He said the young man went to the local court and the local court accepted the case and convicted the security guard of a criminal offense. However, it was not deemed as rape but as intentional injury.
“The good news is that last year the criminal law of China was amended for the ninth time. The law expanded the scope of victims, including same-sex harassment and rape,” says Gao, pleased.
However, when asked whether there might be any positive outcomes from the Spacey incident in building awareness of sexual harassment in the LGBT community, Gao was skeptical.
“It will in America, not in China. If it happened in China, the influence would be major,” says Gao. “There has been some improvement but being gay is not recognized in the legal system. Maybe after a decade we will see more progress.”
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