My vision of sexual equality

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 June, 2006, 12:00am

History was made again last month, when the second International Day Against Homophobia Hong Kong Parade was held. I was involved with the committee that put it together. My fellow volunteer at Women Coalition of Hong Kong, Connie Chan Man-wai, kept in tune with news from the International Day Against Homophobia (Idaho) committee in France, and in February we decided to go ahead and organise another march this year with other groups friendly to sexual minorities.

What encouraged me the most were the new faces I saw this year. We were much better organised than last year, and we announced the concepts of the programme early on. People were attracted by our ideas, such as spiritual blessings and a one-minute silent tribute to victims of homophobia: they signed up to join the committee and working groups.

Some of these new volunteers were very young - even less than 20 years old and still going to school. Some of them have been overseas and seen similar events, and they were excited to see one in Hong Kong.

They had so much enthusiasm and energy, and seeing that propelled me to put in the hours. I had a day job, so much of the work was done at night, including meetings and updating the website. I didn't sleep for many days.

Last year, quite a few people wore masks because they were afraid of being photographed by the media, and having their family find out about them. Many of built up courage after last year, and came again this time. We even encouraged them to go further and chant: 'I am a tongzhi [sexual minority]!'

Idaho, as the day is known, falls officially on May 17, because it was on that day in 1990 that the World Health Organisation formally removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. It is rather an amazing achievement, the effort of one French university professor, Louis-Georges Tin. The first one was held in 2005.

This year, the International Day Against Homophobia was observed in some 50 regions and countries. The European Parliament recently endorsed Idaho, passing a resolution condemning homophobia.

Most sexual minority groups are underfunded and undermanned but, despite all that, we have done a good job in bringing sexual rights to society's consciousness. We also submit papers to the United Nations. It has put enough pressure on our indifferent government that the Home Affairs Bureau established a Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Unit last year, as a formal contact point between officials and sexual minorities.

Deputy Secretary of Home Affairs Stephen Fisher turned down our invitation to attend the event, saying that as a government official he wanted to remain neutral.

However, his desire to be impartial was apparently not shared by Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun. She accepted an invitation from the notably anti-gay Society for Truth and Light to the opening of the group's 'life and ethics resource centre' last year.

The ball is rolling, though. So many young people came out to join the parade. I hope they will pick up the ball in the future. It will not be easy, because every year we start all over again with zero funding. But it can be done, as we showed this year.

It would have been great if the weather had been better and more people had come. I say you can rain on my parade, but you cannot rain on my determination to see the day when discrimination is rooted out.

Wei Siu-lik is a member of Women Coalition of Hong Kong, a group that promotes the rights of women who love women.