The start of October signifies the beginning of LGBTQ+ History Month, an annual month-long celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as well as their history and culture. It was established in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri. The celebration aims to promote the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, strive for equal justice and highlight the impact and achievements of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Although Hong Kong may still have a long way to go in terms of same-sex marriage equality and rights, it’s still worth for us to look back at the progress Hong Kong has made in this time of the monthly celebration.
“It is absolutely imperative that every human being’s freedom and human rights are respected, all over the world.”– Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, 2014
Moving towards equality
Under Western and Chinese influences, not only have Hong Kong’s legal aspects been distinctly affected, but also the conventional values towards sexuality and culture. The conventional doctrines in different societies believed that heterosexuality is the nature of human beings. Individuals with different sexual orientation were often then associated with psychological distress in the past.
During the colonial Hong Kong era, homosexuality was illegal. Under the British legal system, the maximum penalty could be a life sentence. But after years of debate, in July 1991, the Legislative Council had finally come to an agreement of the decriminalization of the “homosexual acts between consenting same-sex individlas aged 21 years and above”. 1991 was also the year of the HK AIDS Foundation as well as opening of Propaganda on Wyndham Street, the first gay nightclub in Hong Kong (closed down February 2016). The year thus marks a significant milestones for equality of the local LGBTQ+ community.
In 1995, the Sex Discrimination Ordinance was enacted, along with the Disability Ordinance. The Ordinance came into full practice in 1996. Under the ordinance, it is unlawful for one to discriminate against another individual based on their sexuality or marital status. The Hong Kong Government also agreed on conducting studies on discrimination based on sexual orientation, age and marital status.
Establishment of LGBTQ+ organisations
Few months before the end of the British colonisation in 1997, hundreds of Chinese “tongzhi” (a Chinese word for members of the LGBTQ+ community) assembled in Hong Kong to take part in the first Tongzhi Conference in regard to social, health, culture and political issues. This event continued to take place even a few years after the first conference. And in 1999, the first Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM) was established. The TCJM strives to connect various LGBTQ+ organisations in Hong Kong, provide support in terms of networkings, research and more to these welfare institutions. In particular, the non-profit LGBTQ+ organization, Pink Alliance was then established by the TCJM. It advocates for the equal rights of LGBTQ+ community through encouraging community engagement and education in the public.
2003: First openly-gay district councillor candidate
In 2003, Kenneth Cheung became the first openly-gay candidate to run for the District Council in Hong Kong. A prominent gay activist, Cheung was also the first to open up about his HIV+ diagnosis. He later organised Hong Kong’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) in 2005, and helped launch the first gay pride parade in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, in September of the same year, Nutong Xueshe (NTXS) was also founded, an advocacy group aiming to raise public awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, hence promoting seuxal equality in the society.
Cultural and business development
With these years of hard work, the Hong Kong public now has a better understanding of the LGBTQ+ community. The social inclusion for LGBTQ+ groups in various industries such as art and entertainment has distinctly increased. Nowadays, there are also many LGBTQ-owned brands and businesses in Hong Kong, such as bars, cafes and nightclubs. These LGBTQ+ friendly places often throw exciting festivals and live performances, attracting visitors from all over the world.
FLM is one of the most famous gay bars in Hong Kong, located in Jervois street in Sheung Wan. The place often holds themed nights, parties and live shows, including drag performances.