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A walk for the right to love in Hong Kong

by Antón Castellanos Usigli, December 2, 2014

When I asked Ah Shan, a 60 year old volunteer from PFLAG (Parents, friends and family of Lesbians and Gays) living in Guangzhou, about his experience during last year´s Gay Pride parade in Hong Kong, he told me he had an exhilarating time: “You can laugh, you can shout, you can show your face.” Hong Kong is the only part of China where there is an annual gay parade; in mainland China it is impossible. “Although our Constitution states that people have the right to protest on the streets, in practice this is not respected by the Government”, explained me Ah Shan, while eating local Cantonese food before arriving to Victoria Park, the starting point of Hong Kong´s Pride 2014.

In Victoria Park we joined a group of mothers wearing purple shirts showing the logo of PFLAG and statements about how much they loved their LGBT sons. They all greeted me happily and we took a couple of pictures. The day was very cloudy and it eventually started to rain. An important group of foreigners was also present at the Park; most of them were very young. I also saw a couple of drag queens wearing fantastic garments, and even a grandmother on a wheelchair with her grandson. She was carrying a sign that said: “Grandma for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgenders too!”. His grandson had a shirt that said: “Sorry girls, I´m gay”.

The Grandma for LGBT people!!

The Grandma for LGBT people!!

After standing in Victoria Park for almost an hour, the Pride walk began. In general, the people were serious and contained. Maybe it was the bad weather, but fortunately this mood faded as the walk advanced and the crowd gained more energy. Some of the mottos that I heard during the parade were: “1, 2, 3, love is free!” and “Gay rights are human rights!”.

During the walk I bumped with an 18-year old student from Namibia living in Hong Kong. She told me that she was straight, but as a strong believer in human rights, she was there to support the cause. She was wearing both Namibia´s and Norway´s flags because she wanted to show support to a Norwegian friend of hers who is gay.

I continued walking and passed next to some people belonging to the Occupy Central movement. One of them was weaving a gay flag to the crowd and had a sign that said: “Live free or die”.

One particular group caught my attention while walking. It was the “Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network”. It is the first group of gay lawyers in Hong Kong. I talked with Mike and Diana, two Members of this group. They explained me how they had recently started and about the goals that they have, such as mentoring and supporting LGBT law students, and working with LGBT clients and organizations.

During the walk I also had the chance of talking with one member from the “Blued group”. Blued is the equivalent of Grindr in China and they currently have over 25 million users.

Pink Alliance was another organization I met. They include several LGBT groups in Hong Kong, including one that organizes outdoor activities for gay people. The last organization I spotted during the walk was the Transgender Resource Center.

After almost two hours of walking, we arrived to Tamar Park, which is surrounded by buildings of the Hong Kong Government. People were queuing to get bags and gifts from different companies which sponsored the Pride. There was art, a bubble making machine, music, and a lot of cheerful energy. Quite a contrast to the beginning of the Pride. Laughing and shouting with people that believe in the right to love and in the right to freedom of expression, definitely empowers and can turn a cloudy day into a more bright scenario. The question for the future is when are we going to openly laugh and shout across mainland China.

Cheerful faces!

Cheerful faces!