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On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Hong Kong lags behind the world in LGBT+ equality

By Jerome Yau

Customers of a New York gay bar, Stonewall Inn, made history 50 years ago when they fought back against a police raid and heralded the modern LGBT+ rights movement.

Over the past five decades, the world has seen great strides in LGBT+ equality. For example, 27 jurisdictions have legalized same-sex marriage. And the World Health Organization has recently removed gender identity disorder from its diagnostic manual, effectively declaring that transgender is no longer seen as a mental or behavioural disorder.

lgbt gay pride

File photo: GovHK.

The fight for acceptance, however, isn’t over. In fact, violence and prejudice against LGBT+ persons hasn’t abated, and the road to full equality remains bumpy and perilous in many parts of the world.

Hong Kong, which proclaims itself as “Asia’s World City”, really lags behind in protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination. Save for the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1991 and some other minor concessions, our government has implemented no concert measures to advance LGBT+ equal rights.

The long-awaited sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination ordinance has languished on the legislative agenda for over two decades. Moreover, the government has opposed fiercely in every single court case that involved LGBT+ equality.

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We renew our call to the government to stop appeasing bigots. It should outlaw sexuality and gender identity discrimination without further delay. Education alone is not enough to combat discrimination; there have to be legal sanctions to denounce and punish hatred and prejudice.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan and the Court of Final Appeal decision in the Angus Leung case are signals that our government cannot ignore the issue of the recognition of same-sex relationships much longer. It should start examining how to implement marriage equality in Hong Kong.

Angus Leung leave granted

Scott Adams and Angus Leung. File photo: Citizen News.

The sky hasn’t fallen in places where same-sex marriage is legal. After all, marriage equality is about love, devotion, harmony and fidelity, and evidence suggests that it makes the institution of marriage stronger.

The current policy dealing with transgender people is outdated and inhumane. The recent change made by the WHO reinforces our call for a modern gender recognition framework where sex-reassignment surgery and other medical interventions should no longer be made mandatory for individuals who want to live a life that conforms to their gender identity.

Hong Kong gay pride

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Our understanding of human sexuality and gender identity has evolved, and it informs us that Victorian morality belongs in the history books – the sooner it goes away the better.

We are ready to work with the authorities to make Hong Kong the next place in Asia that shines bright in support of equality and inclusion. The ball is now in the government’s court.

Jerome Yau is director of policy at Pink Alliance, a local charitable organisation that advances dignity, acceptance and equal rights for LGBT+ people in Hong Kong.


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On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Hong Kong lags behind the world in LGBT+ equality