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People Stories of Allyship and Equality in the LGBTQ Community in Hong Kong

Stories of Allyship and Equality in the LGBTQ Community in Hong Kong

People demonstrate during Equality March at the Main Square in Krakow, Poland on August 29, 2020.  At the same time an anti-LGBT demonstration organised by far-right nationalist groups and pro-life foundation took place nearby.  (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Members of the Tatler network share their thoughts on being part of the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong and explain the importance of their allies. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
By Tara Sobti
By Tara Sobti
September 02, 2020
Kayla Wong, Julien-Loïc Garin, Ray Yeung and others give their thoughts on being part of the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong and explain the importance of their allies

An “ally” is someone who genuinely supports, accepts and advocates for members of the LGBTQ community. Allies are important, and anyone can be one—regardless of their sexual orientation. When Tatler’s Eric Wilson sat down with Gigi Chao and her father Cecil for September’s cover story, the importance of increasing the visibility of LGBTQ members in our society was an important topic of discussion. “Equality is for everybody, it is not just lip service,” Chao says. 

See also: Property Tycoon Cecil Chao And His Daughter Gigi On Building A Lasting Legacy

Chao, a leading activist within Hong Kong’s LGBTQ community, last year co-founded the NGO Hong Kong Marriage Equality to campaign against discrimination based on people’s sexuality. Her work is a labour of love, shining a light on the triumph of the human spirit and actively pushing boundaries to ensure everyone in Hong Kong has access to equal opportunities.

(Photo by Piotr Lapinski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Piotr Lapinski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

While Hong Kong is one of the most tolerant and accepting societies in Asia, this hasn’t always been the case: homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1991. There have been incremental advances made over the last 29 years. Who could forget Cantopop singer Leslie Cheung publicly coming out as bisexual in 1992? Then, there was filmmaker Wong Kar-wai releasing Happy Together, a landmark film featuring a gay couple played by Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung that scored Wong the best director gong at the 1997 Cannes film festival.

Since then, we’ve seen the launch of the Rainbow of Hong Kong in 1998, a charity geared towards making life easier for sexual minorities in Hong Kong. Other milestones include the city’s first official—1,000-person strong—Pride parade in 2008; a high court giving transsexual women the right to marry in 2013; 2018’s winning bid  to become the first city in Asia to host the 2022 Gay Games; and most recently, a ruling allowing legally married same-sex couples the right to apply for public housing. 

A 2019 study published by the Sexualities Research Programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which surveyed 1,058 people, found that 60 per cent were in support of LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong, a significant jump from 2018. Although the city still has some distance to go before members of the LGBTQ community are treated as true equals, things seem to be moving in the right direction.

Here, prominent members of the Tatler network share their thoughts on being part of the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong and explain the importance of their allies.

See also: Standing Proud: How Patrick Sun Is Building A Brighter Future For The LGBTQ Community

Tino Chan, LGBTQ Campaigner for the Faith in Love foundation

Tino and Tim

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

It’s my twin brother Tim. We both quit our jobs last year and went on a six-month backpacking trip to South America. We camped and hiked, enjoyed beautiful scenery, went to dance classes, and took an overnight bus trip. We took care of each other. I had my best life experience last year and I am glad that I shared this part of my life with my dearest brother. My brother gets along well with my boyfriend. My brother works in the banking industry and has more knowledge about insurance than me. When my boyfriend needs help with buying insurance, my brother gives him advice.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I did have a hard time accepting my identity, and struggled over whether to let my family and friends know about my sexual orientation. I was not sure how accepting people would be when it came to this topic. The first few years after realising my sexual orientation, I did not dare make friends with [other] gay people in Hong Kong for fear of disclosing my identity to someone I knew. I had to avoid talking about love and relationships with my friends and family, and even tried to act straight. This was a sad time for me. 

It all changed when I came out to my mum. I then had support from the whole family and they gave me the power to embrace myself. I started to come out to my friends and it turned out they were very supportive. I began to get more involved in the gay community in Hong Kong by going to gay bars, volunteering for LGBTQ NGOs and making friends within the community. My life is happier now that I can be my true self and I gain a sense of belonging from our community.

I think people are getting to know more about the LGBTQ community and are more accepting of this topic. However, more has to be done to educate the general public on gender diversity and sexual orientation for Hong Kong to be a more inclusive and diversified place. I look forward to the day when people are more capable of and eager to talk about gender and sexual orientation, and everyone being treated equally in Hong Kong.

The Faith in Love foundation has recently launched the mobile app VoiceOut! to promote inclusivity and diversity in Hong Kong. The app allows the public to report incidents of discrimination directly on the platform and works with legal partners, social workers and mediators to pursue further action if needed.

Kenneth Cheung, a councillor for the Tuen Mun district and the first openly-gay candidate for the district council

Kenneth and Ah Chi
Kenneth and Ah Chi

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

His name is Ah Chi and he is a voter in my electoral district. He knew from the internet that I was running for the election. He took the initiative to volunteer for the election campaign, donated money to support my election expenses and even worked as a driver to help us carry supplies. After I was elected, he continued to work as a volunteer and set up a promotional booth at a bus stop with me in the morning. He also helped put materials in the mailboxes of residents and assisted residents in group buying activities. He has a football coach license and will help us organise a youth football training class after the pandemic. After I was elected, he revealed that when he first came to help me, he had already searched my background. He didn’t have a problem at all with my identity. During the election, he gave me a lot of encouragement and helped reduce my stress.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I feel Hong Kong’s civil society has improved a lot in terms of LGBTQ issues. In the past, there was a general feeling of homophobia in society. People from older generations see nothing wrong with using slurs to describe gay or transgender people. Looking at the current generation, most of the people who accept homosexuality and other sexual minorities realise that everyone is the same despite different sexual orientations.

While the social environment has improved, the policy is lagging. How the government deals with same-sex marriage reflects the root of the problem. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)’s current anti-discrimination laws include sex, disability, family status and race discrimination, but they do not cover sexual minorities. In 2015, a member of staff at the immigration department voiced his frustration at  the civil service bureau's refusal to allow him and his male partner to receive staff benefits, so he applied for a judicial review. He won the case but it took years. Same-sex marriage should not only be about a marriage certificate for both parties, but also include the same legal status and social care that heterosexual couples are entitled too.

Neil Chen, Pastry Chef at the Grand Hyatt hotel

Natalie and Neil
Natalie and Neil

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

She is my cousin Natalie. Although we did not grow up together, she has been a very important part of my life over the past six years I have been living in Hong Kong. Around her, I can be 100 per cent myself. I grew up in a relatively traditional family and my relatives have a negative attitude towards homosexuality. During family gatherings, I have encountered embarrassing moments at times. Natalie is witty and I rely on her more and more in family situations. After coming out to her, our relationship did not change: we still have fun together. And now we just chat about handsome guys. I am lucky to have her.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I think there is less support for the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong than other countries. In the 21st century, it’s hard to believe that there’s still so much discrimination and stereotyping towards LGBTQ people. They’re just normal people who deserve every human right like everyone else. Taiwan passed law condoning marriage of homosexual couples. I hope it will happen in Hong Kong soon. I have quite a lot of friends in the LGBTQ community and I see no difference among them. They’re sweet, thoughtful and smart. 

Kayla Wong, founder of Basics for Basics

Kayla Wong (fourth from left) and family
Kayla Wong (fourth from left) and family

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

My whole family has been my best ally from day one. Janet Ma, Michael Wong, Irisa Wong and Kadin Wong have always been my rocks and we have always had open communication. That is important when it comes to gaining acceptance from family members. I had to come out in the media due to the paparazzi, and my parents gave great advice on how to deal with the situation and they were so supportive that any news reported after that was all positive and encouraging for other young folks. For that I will always be grateful.


What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I think how I am as an individual as part of the LGBTQ community is heavily influenced by my time in Los Angeles. When I came back to Hong Kong after college I definitely felt a lack of diversity and sense of community in this city. My first thought was to try and put a group together as a support system but it was hard because the culture here is relatively shy. So I am still trying to find ways to encourage others to share whatever challenges they may face with me. I hope my social media platform can be a safe space for anyone to share their questions or struggles, that there can be more representation in Hong Kong media, and that we can normalise same-sex relationships. 

Wong Cheuk-wun, budding restaurateur

Wong Cheuk Wun and Vicky
Wong Cheuk Wun and Vicky

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

Vicky was my ex-colleague before becoming a friend of mine. We started our friendship when l got very depressed after a presentation in a conference. She found me crying in a corner. That’s how we started our first conversation. She is like my mentor and I always get inspiration and encouragement from her. Vicky and l joined some activities organised by an LGBTQ group called Sweatitude. Life is definitely more interesting with friends who share the same values as you.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

We need to think from a perspective of total diversity and inclusion. It seems like Hong Kong has been much more open to talking about LGBTQ, as seen at big events like Pride and Pink Dot. However, there is still no policy around L and G, let alone BTQ. It’s still difficult for some people to come out.

Bobbie Huthart, Family Office Advisor and President of the Huthart Charity Foundation

Bobbie Huthart (top) and her allies
Bobbie Huthart (top) and her allies

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

My generation has seen dramatic changes in Hong Kong society around LGBTQ acceptance. As a eurasian person growing up in Hong Kong, I remember the gay rights struggles in Hong Kong in the 1970s focused on and their confrontations intolerant colonial laws around homosexuality. We have come a long way in more than 50 years of struggle for recognition to be treated equally in our laws and workplace, and to be accepted and not just tolerated by society. My brother Gordon, one of the first [Hong Kong men] to come out as gay, opened Disco Disco, the Lan Kwai Fong nightclub which became the most popular nightclub for the gay community. He has been my single greatest inspiration to come out and be who I am. My brother’s struggles with society, the colonial government and the police have been well documented. He was brave enough to confront the police and society, and even served time in prison for his stance. His generation and I still remember Richard Da Silva, Chris Mallick and Danny Chan, to name just a few [activists] who dared to be who they were at a difficult time in Hong Kong, and I salute them all.

I have received so much support from family and friends and I am grateful for their contribution to my new life. I have chosen to take a picture with two transgender sisters who have helped me make the transition to being a trans-woman (from right): Siriranya Chulalakkul, a designer, actress, TV presenter, makeup artist and beauty queen, and Natta Jansiricharoen, a stylist and photographer on Thai TV, Ms. Nicharee Thongman; TV presenter and model, and winner of Miss Transgender Australia, beauty pageant, The photographer and stylist for this photograph was Ms Dhebdhiva D.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

My journey was very different. I knew I was not gay and at that time we knew very little about being transgender so I accepted myself as just a man with quirky thoughts. I became an “alpha-male” by achieving great success in what I thought were male values. Success with beautiful women, in business, in sport, and fulfilling my duty as the eldest child and giving my parents four grandchildren.

When I finally accepted I was transgender, it was late in my life, but I knew it was my time to change. I remember in making this decision that I just could not accept being on my deathbed not having fulfilled my life. I had fulfilled my Chinese duties to my family and it was my time to live my life as who I should have been.

If the clubs that were very much a part of my social life did not accept my change, I was prepared to challenge them legally. I believe that the greatest challenge facing the LGBTQ community is acceptance by society. We can change the laws but we must win the heart of the people. Changes of this magnitude that challenges society’s morals take a long time. Laws can force action on society but they cannot win over society. My generation has passed the baton of this struggle to the new generation, and I hope they combine their passion for equality and acceptance to win hearts. 

Ray Yeung, Filmmaker

Stanley Kwan, Tai Bo and Ray Yeung
Stanley Kwan, Tai Bo and Ray Yeung

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

In 1998, I moved back to Hong Kong from London and discovered that the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (HKLGFF) had ceased to operate. I decided to restart the film festival with my friend Wouter Barendrecht. We knew we needed someone established in the film industry to endorse our festival so we approached Stanley Kwan. At that time Stanley had already directed the award winning Rouge (1987) with Anita Mui and Center Stage (1992) with Maggie Cheung, but more significantly he was the first ‘out’ film director from Hong Kong. Stanley agreed to help us. With his endorsement, we had credibility and were able to approach businesses and organisations for sponsorship. The festival was re-launched in 2000 and the rest is history as the HKLGFF is currently the longest running LGBTQ film festival in Asia.

I did not have any contact with Stanley until autumn 2017 when I approached him regarding my screenplay for Suk Suk. Stanley agreed to read my script right away. He called me the next day and told me he loved the story and immediately offered to help. In the next few months he contacted film investors he knew to pitch the project for me. He never asked for anything in return, he simply wanted to help me realise the project because he felt Suk Suk was a story that needed to be told. Although we were not able to raise money from these potential investors due to the subject matter of my script, I really appreciated Stanley’s generous help.

In 2019 during the post-production of Suk Suk, I approached Stanley again. This time for him to watch an edit of the film and see if he had any suggestions. On the day of the test screening Stanley asked if he could bring a friend. I said yes, and the friend turned out to be William Chang, the legendary editor and production designer from Wong Kar-wai’s movies. I was more than nervous to have William watch my film. After the screening William and Stanley asked me to go for coffee. We discussed the edit and how the film could be improved. Unexpectedly, William offered to help to finish the edit. So with the support of these two great filmmakers, Suk Suk became the success it is today. I am forever indebted to them and so grateful for their gracious help.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community? 

Compared to many countries in Asia, I feel Hong Kong is one of the more accepting cities. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991. There has been a long history of different kinds of gay establishments in Hong Kong such as social groups like the 10% Club, LGBTQ friendly dance clubs like Disco Disco, and health-related organisations like Aids Concern. Our LGBTQ film festival is one of the oldest in Asia. So in many ways, being LGBTQ in Hong Kong has not been as difficult as in many other parts of the world. 

However, we are still far from being treated equally. The government seldom proposes any changes to prevent discrimination towards the LGBTQ community. It is usually up to the individual to fight for equality. Gay marriage is still very far away and many acts of discrimination still happen daily. The LGBTQ community should have equal rights like heterosexual couples: simple things like bringing their spouse to live and work in Hong Kong. At the end of the day, marriage is a celebration of love and union, so why should some people have the right to love more than others?

Dennis Philipse, Founder and Co-Chair of the Gay Games

Dennis Philipse (second from left) with his Gay Games team
Dennis Philipse (second from left) with his Gay Games team

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

I came out to my parents as being gay when I was 15 years old. That didn’t go so well; life was different at that time and there weren’t many visible role models. It took a while, but my parents slowly started to accept and support me. Later, my sister came out as lesbian, married her wife and had beautiful twins, so we are a real rainbow family now. In 2017, I had to go to Paris for the final presentation for Hong Kong to become the host city of the Gay Games. I am so happy that my mum and sister both attended this special moment in my life to support me and meet the amazing team that have put so much amazing work into this wonderful event. My mum now even sends me WhatsApp messages with rainbows in them!

In the Summer of 2011, I met Karen Gotthelf through a mutual connection. We instantly connected with similar interests in the talent and HR industry, as well as hiking and socialising. Since then, we have supported each other through the positive and more challenging times in our lives. I remember that I messaged her back in 2014 with an idea to invite a few LGBTQ contacts to organise a hike. Little did I know then that this would grow into the OUT in HK community group which now has more than 6,500 Facebook members. When I have a new idea or need an opinion about something, she’s always someone I can rely on for honest feedback and challenge me with new insight. Having trust, support and being open-minded are so important in any relationship.


What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

The Gay Games took place in Amsterdam in 1998, which was really a great and inclusive event. It gave me the idea to bring the Gay Games to Asia, an event that had never been hosted in this part of the world. We joined the bidding process where we were up against 17 other cities all hoping to host the 2022 edition. In 2017 Hong Kong was announced the winner as host city. Earlier this year I left my full-time paid job to focus all my energy on being a volunteer for it. The LGBTQ community will have the chance to take part in sport in a safe, supportive and queer-affirming environment. In Hong Kong, I can walk safely together with my boyfriend hand-in-hand on the street but unfortunately, he can’t bring me to his parents as they still have issues with him being gay. However, they know I exist and call me “the friend”. By organising the first Gay Games in Asia, I hope it will help educate people and normalise being LGBTQ through the power of sport. And hopefully this will help my boyfriend’s parents and many others to understand the value of true love.

Peter Sargant, Chief Executive Officer, Community Business

Peter Sargant and his father
Peter Sargant and his father

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

Without a doubt, my father was one of my staunchest allies. He supported me as I grew up and was finding my feet in the world, through puberty, into adulthood and as I evolved into the proud gay man that I am today. It is no coincidence that he was the first in my family that I told I was gay: at that time, he was most accessible and the most open to the conversation that I was bursting to have. If anything, his nonchalant response to my dramatic news was a solid form of approval and pride, which only much later did I fully understand and appreciate. 

Sadly, my father passed away just five days after I returned to Hong Kong to take up the role of CEO at Community Business. I had spent the previous two years travelling and using my parents’ home as a European base so between trips, I was with them pretty much every three weeks over these last two years. We were friends and we loved spending time together. I know exactly how much he loved me and my sister and just how proud he was of us both. He regularly reaffirmed his support for us and never once questioned the choices and decisions we made. He was unquestionably proud of his family, with all our unique differences and passions. 

Towards the end of 2002, when he visited Hong Kong for the first time and I was just finding my voice as an advocate for gay rights and a supporter for many other underrepresented minority communities, he pulled me aside and told me how very proud he was of me. When I told him about the work I was doing with HIV and AIDS, the work I was doing to support young boys who’d been victims of human trafficking and most recently, when I told him that I was coming back to Hong Kong to work with and support diversity and inclusion issues through Community Business, he was genuinely excited for me and the challenges I was taking on. I will miss him terribly, including our heated discussions and challenging debates, but I am grateful for his trust, encouragement and utmost support in every part of my journey.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s, it was a very different place. I found myself out of my depth, immersed in a culture I hardly understood and one in which being gay was so much harder than it had been elsewhere. While the LGBTQ community was welcoming and supportive, for me, much like many other LGBTQ people at that time, being out in the workplace just wasn’t a choice. Unfortunately, I found myself going back into the closet at work. This, unsurprisingly, was a short-lived and ineffective solution. I still found myself complaining about being excluded and overlooked, until one day I realised that if things were to improve, I needed to bring my whole self to work and become part of the community working to improve things for myself and for others. That’s when I started to develop my advocacy voice and recognise the power that comes from being brave and having difficult conversations. 

Today, I am pleased to see that the narrative has shifted to much more nuanced, intersectional territory. The work that Community Business does to promote diversity and inclusion in all its forms: gender equality, disability rights, race, ethnicity and inclusion of other marginalised or underrepresented communities allows me to advocate for true inclusion, not just for the LGBTQ community. My new role has encouraged me to question how I can be a better ally to others and reflect how effective our inclusion efforts are if we are not hearing underrepresented voices in our discussions. I am constantly working to harness my privilege in a meaningful way, while ensuring I make space for new and previously unheard perspectives to take the platform. 

Adrienne Davis, Programme Manager, LGBTQ, Pronouns: They/She, Community Business

Adrienne and her allies
Adrienne and her allies

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

One of my greatest allies was a community, not only one person. When I was in university, I was lucky that I fell into a group of supportive people that also happened to be mainly LGBTQ. We met because my university had two formative programmes. The first was an LGBTQ-specific housing community which was great for meeting people. It gave me space to explore my sexual orientation, gender presentation and orientation in ways that I hadn’t known were possible before. Importantly, because we were among friends, we were all able to call each other out on any major mistakes or if we said something unintentionally offensive. The second was a campus club which was focused on LGBTQ issues, from legal aspects to different parts of the acronym. This group was fundamental to my understanding of a wider community who did not look like me and gave me insights into what my ongoing, post-university activism might look like. 

In these instances, community allyship and support were as powerful as individual allyship because we had access to so many different experiences and backgrounds to inform our outlook. If one member of that community needed something, we knew there would be someone who had their back to support and offer insights. When I moved to Hong Kong, I was [advised] to keep my queer identity discreet and, not being confident in my new surroundings and workplace, I agreed. It was this same group that I leaned on throughout that time and especially as I developed a new circle across the globe. Without this group of allied community members, I certainly would not be who I am today and would not be empowered to be as vocal as I am.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I would describe my experience as a member of the LGBTQ community “shifting.” When I first realised that I wasn’t straight, I thought I was bisexual, then I thought I was pansexual, then lesbian and now queer and lesbian interchangeably. Then I shifted from identifying as a woman to identifying as non-binary almost a decade after I knew I was attracted to women. My gender presentation has also gone through stages, from feminine or androgynous as a young child and now more traditionally feminine but still with an androgynous twist. In the future, I hope young people are able to create bonds with other queer community members as they grow and explore themselves. Even better would be a community where older, more experienced LGBTQ people are able to give help and guidance to the youth, to lessen the burden that they face and create a collective resources that generations to come can tap into when they face difficulties. Even if there are struggles, I hope that we can ease them and offer support to those in need as much as we can.

Henry Li, litigation associate at Daly & Associates

Henry Li (top left) with his mother Penny
Henry Li (top left) with his mother Penny

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

My mom, Penny Lau, is my biggest ally. When I first came out to her and at the same time told her I was getting married to Edgar (sorry mom!), time seemed to become still for a moment at the Chinese Tea House in Sham Shui Po. She re-processed all the years of confusion and unexplainable distance between us, which in a split second translated into a mixture of recognition and relief on her face. Then she proceeded to simply say to both Edgar and me, “Sons, you two have to take good care of each other, just like Dad and me. Be happy!” 

From that moment on, my mom has always been by my side when it comes to my LGBTQ community work. We together went on the main stage of PinkDot 2018 to implore the government and the public to support anti-discrimination laws, filmed short videos for Hong Kong Marriage Equality and the Boys' and Girls' Association of Hong Kong LGBTQ Parent Group. Family is extremely important to me—I am forever grateful to her for being the most amazing mom and LGBTQ ally there is.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

Growing up was an isolating experience filled with anxieties as a local gay Chinese boy at public schools. At the time, no one in Hong Kong came out in the entertainment industry or politics, let alone at schools. There were times I felt like I was the only LGBTQ teenager in the community (which of course could not have been true). Therefore, it’s become really important to me that Hong Kong presents its own LGBTQ faces for our younger generations to look up to. I am happy that we now have our first openly gay LegCo member, Raymond Chan Chi-c huen, and a string of landmark court cases on LGBTQ rights. A community only truly exists when we are seen and fully participate in the larger community. By coming out publicly in these various ways, we are telling each other “You are not alone.”

Julien-Loïc Garin, Generation T honouree, founder of Le Cercle Asia and driving force behind Le French May

Julien-Loic (standing) and his allies
Julien-Loic (standing) and his allies

 Tell us a little bit about your ally.

I arrived from France exactly nine years ago—it was my first time living abroad. As a young, single foreigner, it was key for me to meet new people and make Hong Kong my home. I guess this is the best part of the [LBGTQ] community: immediately connecting people, including those new to the city.

This “Hong Kong family” I have built over the years has really shaped my vision of the city. Both locals and foreigners, they helped me to grow, to discover many aspects of the city and the local culture, to feel at home.

They have also helped me to feel accepted, not only in a new and different culture, but also as a gay man. With them, I was not afraid both to embrace my “difference” and to be part of the LGBTQ scene, to meet other members of the community, even to be involved in it, and eventually to meet my fiancé.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I must say, although being LGBTQ may not be so easy for Hong Kong people, overall I don’t perceive it as a major subject here. You won’t be particularly open about it, likely in the working environment, or in family, but around me I don’t see people suffering from being rejected.

It is like two sides of a coin: in a way, I don’t think LGBTQ are bullied or have to worry about violence in Hong Kong, which could be the case in many places, including sometimes in France. On the other hand, the question of equality is barely addressed both politically and in the corporate world. Claiming oneself as gay, or talking about one’s same-sex partner at work or in family is still uncomfortable or difficult, and the rights of the couples, even married abroad, are not locally recognised.

As of the lifestyle, the gay pride is not much a thing, the night scene is far less active than in many other world-class cities and the bars and clubs struggle to survive. The “community” per say is pretty scattered and not so united. And I don’t think education addresses the matter at all.

My hopes for the future is that we soon won’t need for people to come out; that this kind of article won’t be necessary anymore, as being gay will be as of little matter as of being of different sex or different skin colour: equal rights for all, both at work and civically, and full acceptance in family. I have hope and faith in our youth, which already does not seem to make much differentiation between the genders anymore and might sometimes soon consider the question of the sexual preferences of very little importance.

James Yiu, vice president, marketing, communications and eCommerce, Tory Burch Asia-Pacific and China

James Yiu and husband Jonathan Frolich
James Yiu and husband Jonathan Frolich

Tell us a little bit about your ally.

One of my most important allies is my husband, Jonathan Frolich. We actually have Tatler to thank, as the publication was our matchmaker in a way; we met at a Tatler event 13 years ago. Even though I had been out to my friends for a really long time, I only came out to my parents and family about six years ago. In hindsight, I was using my Chinese background as an excuse for being reluctant to come out to my parents. It definitely affected my relationship with them. Also, by always having something to “hide,” I felt that I was almost eroding my soul. It was Jonathan, who gave me the courage to come out to them.

In the end, the process was actually much easier than I thought it would be. I always imagined it would be loaded with pain and tears. Well, there were still tears, but happy ones, and Jonathan is now an important part of the Yiu family.

What is life in Hong Kong like as a member of the LGBTQ community?

I feel lucky to be born in Hong Kong in this day and age. People are generally open-minded and accepting towards the LGBTQ community. I feel there is not as much of a stigma [attached to] being gay in Hong Kong compared to 10 to 15 years ago. However, I hope government policies towards the community can evolve so that one day gay marriage is recognised here.

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People LGBTQ Inclusivity Allies Allyship Tatler Community

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