Hundreds of people from various walks of life turn up for the 8th IDAHOT rally in Hong Kong today, reflecting the gradual progress the city has seen over the years.
Using the theme of ‘What To Fear?!’, organizers of the annual local rally for the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia have included ‘transphobia’ to the event’s name for the first time. More transgenders have shown up to share their experiences at this yearly gathering, unafraid of another police disruption.
Reggie Ho, rally co-organizer and Pink Alliance chairman, says he is happy about the turnout, saying it would be ‘a shock’ to have 50 individuals at any LGBT demonstration when he started advocating for sexual rights 15 years ago.
He said the first LGBT parade in 1992 saw only three attendants, all of them organizers. ‘They were all dressed up with nowhere to go.’
But today three pan-democratic legislators speak at the rally, one from the pro-establishment camp sends a recorded message, while singer Anthony Wong has even become a quasi-spokesman.
Among people who share their experiences of ‘fear’, transwoman Joanne Leung and transman Siu Keung say their biological sexes turned them into ‘transphobes’. For Siu Keung, having to wear dresses was a frightening experience that made him feel like a ‘cross-dresser’.
Unlike Joanne who used to feel lost not having any breasts, Siu Keung would intentionally bend his back. ‘When my breasts don’t appear flat underneath my clothes, I feel being naked,’ he said.
Transphobes can shun or bully them out of fear, but Joanne and Siu Keung says they had only themselves to turn to while tackling their own fear. ‘If we had to live in those confining bodies, it would be our biggest fear,’ Joanne said.
Gay radio programme host Brain Leung, meanwhile, share a completely different kind of fear. Long out of the closet, Leung said it was frightening to start the programme ‘We Are Family’ on public broadcaster RTHK six years ago.
To run a gay programme openly and honestly on RTHK, as he puts it, felt like ‘talking about sex on the altar during a Sunday mass.’
‘It’s almost like Mission Impossible,’ he chuckled.
Having celebrated the programme’s sixth anniversary last week, Leung says he has not turned RTHK into ‘RTHGay’ – a tongue-in-cheek term the local media coined and talking about sexuality on air is no longer a taboo.
‘Homophobia is one of the strangest creatures,’ he said. ‘I always think that what a homophobe fears most is one day they’ll find out that we might be no different from they are and we can be one of them. I think that is the biggest fear’
He believes confronting homophobia and looking it in the eye is the most effective way to rid it of its power.
‘When you have nothing to hide,’ he said, ‘there’s nothing to fear.’
Citing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he told the crowd: ‘The time has come.’
The fight for gay rights is the last of all civil rights movements and LGBTs will definitely win, as ‘we have history on our side,’ he concluded.