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A marcher at Hong Kong Pride Parade in November 2012, which was organised around the theme “Dare To Love”. A number of court rulings in recent months have brought the issue of LGBT rights into focus. Photo: Nora Tam

How gay pride in Hong Kong struggles against a Chinese culture of prejudice fed by religion

An intolerant or negative attitude towards sexual minorities has been a long-standing global concern, with such prejudice having been prevalent around the world at some time or other.
Sexual minorities, or LGBT groups, have long been a taboo subject, too sensitive to be discussed openly by many socially conservative Hongkongers under the city’s dominant heteronormative culture of intimacy. Even now, sexual prejudice and heteronormativity continue to dominate our understanding of sexuality.

Homosexuals are frequently viewed as both a challenge and a threat to the established norms within both a Chinese family and a Chinese society that rests on the supremacy of male roles, continuation of the family line and a strong sense of filial piety under the influence of Confucianism.

Parents or grandparents pass on these cultural values to the next generation through the process of socialisation. Sexual minorities who do not conform to these parental expectations or family values are simply perceived as being morally wrong and bringing shame to their families.

Meanwhile, in the eyes of many mainstream religions, same-sex attractions are constantly treated as unwanted, and sexual minorities are encouraged to restore their sexual wholeness and appreciate the gender identity granted to them by God.

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A salient detrimental result of heterosexism also arises when sexual minorities share the majority’s belief that non-heterosexual orientations are abnormal. Internalising and rationalising the negative ideology on sexual minorities has a detrimental impact on mental well-being, leading to depression and anxiety, substance abuse and thoughts of – and even attempts at – self-harm.
Although there is now evidence of a progressive shift in public attitudes towards sexual minorities (“ Support for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong grows as new study shows attitudes to LGBT community are changing in city”, July 3), formal recognition of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation are yet to be confirmed.

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The government always justifies its refusal to enact the relevant law by claiming that the city is severely divided over the issue of homosexuality and that equal opportunities for sexual minorities can always be promoted by other channels, for example, through ongoing education and promotion efforts.
With Hong Kong chosen to host the Gay Games in 2022, LGBT rights can be expected to be an even more controversial topic in the coming years. Notwithstanding the breakthroughs globally, it is still uncommon for gay and lesbian people in Hong Kong to come out proudly without any worries.

Adrian M.H. Lam, Tai Koo

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Gay pride in city struggles against Chinese culture of prejudice fed by religion