Hong Kong, Asias progressive world city, right?
Well no, actually. Despite a reputation for progressiveness that equals if not surpasses its Western counterparts, in one field HK is sorely lacking : LGBT rights. Unlike Taiwan, Hong Kong has no provisions for same sex civil partnerships, as a union between same sex partners is still not officially recognised. Add to that the often religiously based conservatism of Hong Kong’s older generation and you have an atmosphere -while not actively anti-gay rights for the most part- that is not the most accommodating to LGBT individuals.
This article comes just hours after British diving star and Olympic gold medallist Tom Daley released a YouTube video acknowledging that he was in a serious and loving relationship with another man. For that Tom Daley, I salute you. Coming out is not easy, and coming out in the public eye is likely even more difficult. It’s a courageous move for a young sportsman, given the largely closeted nature of Britain’s sports scene, and it’s a move that we should all applaud. It’s likely that Daley’s move will inspire a new generation of young people to embrace their sexuality, and accept that love is love, regardless of gender.
It’s a message we could do with propagating in Hong Kong. With many Westerners finding jobs in the education sector, we are in a great position to spread a positive message about gay rights and sexuality discrimination to our students. Perhaps it’s time to reconcile the old world religious values that many in Hong Kong still hold onto, with the new world tolerance promoted elsewhere by confident individuals like Daley. There’s no reason why religious belief and tolerance can’t coexist; elsewhere in the world we hear news of churches spreading pro acceptance messages and adapting their world view to align with the changing nature of the world we live in.
In Hong Kong young people are tentatively taking the first steps in promoting the kind of progressiveness that HK should be embodying through LGBT pride events and organisations. Yet, there is room for improvement in the education system, where it is inferred to students that heterosexual relationships are the only legitimate kind of relationship they can hope to have in later life.
This damaging narrow mindedness is inhibiting our students, especially those approaching puberty and being taught that there is only one right way to be. Shouldn’t we be encouraging our students to be honest to themselves, and promoting the liberal standards that are becoming commonplace in our own cultures? Failure to do so can only lead to a disillusioned and self-critical generation brought up believing that if they don’t fit the mould, they don’t and won’t belong anywhere.
It’s difficult though to attempt to be a positive gay role model when your willingness to come out, to be that inspiration that these young people deserve, is restricted by the environment in which you live and work. Our private lives are our own, one of our last vestiges of secrecy, and we may be unwilling to compromise the security that staying silent affords us. Yet if everyone thought that way, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms that do today. Change starts with individuals taking that brave first step.
That’s why, as a bisexual young woman fairly confident in her own skin, I’m going to be taking a more proactive approach to my sexuality from now on. Maybe it’s time to be honest when asked, and fuck the consequences. If I can inspire young people, the next generation, to be comfortable in their own skins then its a price I’m willing to pay.