Some 500 to 600 of us celebrated IDAHOT in Hong Kong at Chater Garden last Saturday, but today, 17 May, is the day fixed in the calendar every year for the commemoration worldwide. Today, some of us will go to the China Club to listen to the results of NGO Community Business’s survey of Hong Kong’s views on diversity in the workplace. This is a first, a survey we hope will give us ammunition to bring change to benefit many at work, as well to speed up political change. For if the business community awakes to the benefits of inclusiviity, it will find itself willy-nilly leaning on the government to bring about change.
This is also, sadly, a day when radical LGBT activists will hold a meeting to decry the inclusion in Saturday’s IDAHOT programme of a video made by Regina Ip, centre-right Hong Kong politician, whose New People’s Party came out with a pro-LGBT platform last February. These activists accuse the IDAHOT organisers of betraying the movement by including the right wing. Instead of persuading conservative elements of Hong Kong society of the justice of our cause, we should, it seems, be excluding them. Such lack of inclusivity damages the whole Hong Kong LGBT movement, but it is a timely reminder of what is wrong with that movement now.
So all of this gives us much ground upon which to reflect today. What does the LGBT movement need to do in Hong Kong to further its cause?
First, I think, we need to be clear about what we are fighting for. In the first stage, we aim for a bill to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. If we can pass this, much will follow, including better diversity policies at work, policies to deal with bullying at schools, sensible behaviour by government departments, better treatment of LGBT people and issues in the media, legally binding aid for victims of discrimination from the Equal Opportunities Commission. In sum, freedom from discrimination for us all. To get this we need poliitcal help, and we shall need the votes of the majority, not just the left wing.
Secondly, in the longer run, there is the struggle for recognition of same-sex relationships. Maybe this will start with recognition of foreign partnerships; maybe later there’ll be some form of civil partnership; eventually, there’ll be marriage. This may look like pie in the sky now, and it’ll take many years, but we need to be clear that that is the way we are heading. This will need a lot of education and persuasion, and this means reaching out to the conservative majority in Hong Kong, not excluding them.
What follows from this? Simply, that we need to reach out to all politiicians and political parties not just our friends. And that we need to get out to as many places as we can to get our message across. We’ll have to come out and stand up if we want our friends to support us and if we want the rest to respect us. We will not make headway here by hiding in the closet.
The second point we need to understand is that the LGBT activists involved in the struggle need to avoid wasting energy by fighting each other and to avoid losing respect by quarrelling in public. We may not agree with each other all the time, but every time any of us makes some form of public pronouncement aimed at another LGBT group, our overall credibility diminishes, both within the LGBT community and amongst the wider public.
Best, then, that we work together, keeping each other informed and working towards the same aims. But if this is not possible, at the very least we should work in parallel and not attack each other in public.
The radical groups of 4MyColors have achieved so much already in HK and are absoluetly necessary to the struggle. Only they will hit the streets to protest. The moderate groups in the Pink Alliance are better at the slower, steadier work of committees, education, lobbying. They have access to funds. Both groups have strengths which are complementary. Both could work together or in parallel to the benefit of the cause.
It is a cause which cries out for tolerance and collaboration. For it is at root based on a very simple proposition: that our forms of love are as valid as those of the majority. To show the majority that this is so, we need to love one another, too. On the IDAHOT day of 2012, it is good to reflect on the love that seems to be missing now and how we might find it and show it again.
Let us work together in the year ahead. One cause, many loves.