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A gay Chinese man said Thursday he is suing a "gay conversion" therapy clinic, the first lawsuit of its kind in the country, after suffering physical and mental harm when the clinic used electroshock therapy and hypnosis during the "treatment." 

The man told the Agence France-Presse the Xinyu Piaoxiang clinic in Chongqing first instructed him to have sexual thoughts involving men, and then painfully shocked him. He is also seeking an apology from China's Internet search engine Baidu for running advertisements for the facility.

The man's lawyer, Li Duilong, said the lawsuit is rooted in their argument that homosexuality was not a disease and should not be treated. China had declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 2001. 

"According to the law, both sides should sign an agreement before electric shock or hypnosis is carried out, but [the clinic] did not offer," Li said. "The staff told my client the electric shock felt like 'being bit by a mosquito' but it turned out not to be."

The "treatment" is one of the options those who come out are pressured to undergo, as friends and family in the country often encourage any method possible for sexual conversion.

"In China, most people who undergo 'conversion therapy' do so because they are pressured by their family," said Xiao Tie, an executive director of the Beijing LGBT Center. "Parents, once they realize their child is gay, urge him or her to go to a psychiatric hospital or undergo treatment."

China has taken steps to promote LGBT acceptance with organizations like the Center, but much of the population remains intolerant, prompting the Center to send activists outside of the court to demonstrate support for the plaintiff. 

The Haidian District People's Court in Beijing is expected to rule on the case within a  month. The plaintiff is looking for compensation of more than 14,000 yuan ($2,300) as well as an apology on the websites of both the facility and Baidu.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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