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Cultural differences
Foreign politically active gays & local silent gays

By Dick Lee

Gayness has always been taboo.

When people talk about gays, nasty bars, sissy behaviour and casual sex in public toilets often come to mind.

The Society for Truth and Light is one of the groups that publicly condemn gay lifestyles.

The general secretary of the group, Mr. Choi Chi Sum, said, “The lifestyle of gay men is quite unhealthy and unethical.”

He said that in some countries, promiscuous sex, taking drugs, and being infected with Aids are much more prevalent among gays than among heterosexual men.

Said he: “This situation can partly be applied to Hong Kong. The lifestyle of gay men is always related to negative things.

“The Hong Kong community should condemn gayness.”

Mr. Albert Luk, senior executive of The Satsanga, a local gay care group, strongly disagreed with Mr. Choi’s viewpoint.

He said there is a fallacious understanding of gay men’s lifestyles.

Said he: “People often associate gay men with unsafe sex and decadent lives.

“In fact, not every gay man has such a lifestyle. Different people have different attitudes and needs.

“Unsafe sex, unfaithful husbands, nasty night clubs and one night stands all exist in  non-gay circles. Can you say that the lifestyles of all heterosexual men are unethical?”

Travis Kong is an assistant lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Science at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Mr. Kong conducted research on gay lifestyles and self-identity.

He found that instead of having gay movements and parades regularly like their foreign counterparts, local gay men keep a low profile but have a highly consumerist lifestyle.

Said he: “They may present their identities by wearing accessories like earrings or by wearing clothes designed by gay artists.

“They talk to one another using jargon.”

Examples of gay jargon include “member” which means “gay man”; “1 or 0”, which means “take care of others or being taken care by a boyfriend”; and “go fishing”, which means “go hunting for partners”.

He said political activism is not on the agenda.

Mr. Chung To, a local gay rights activist, agrees.

“The highly consumer-oriented culture of gay men has led to increased  choices in entertainment for them,” said he.

Yet Mr. Chung said that gay men someday will be bored of these superficial things.

“This culture inhibits gay men from engaging in meaningful activities like gay-rights protests.

“Instead of entertainment, they should put more effort into external affairs by increasing communication with the non-gay circle,” said Mr. Kong.

He proposed setting up alternative gay organisations like a gay teachers’ union and a gay reading society.

Though gay groups have flourished, some gay men are frustrated with the public’s perception of them.

Mr. Eric Tang, a 21-year-old gay university student, is one of them.

He refuses to join gay-rights groups because he does not want to expose his identity. 

Said he: “I am afraid that my friends will look at me in a strange way after knowing my sexual orientation.”

Mr. Tang exemplifies the pressure and grievances of many local gay men.

Nevertheless, some local gay men do find ways to enjoy their lives and have adopted a positive lifestyle.

Mr. Echo Kwong is one of them.

He is the partner of Mr. Edward Spodick, the webmaster of the website Gay and Lesbian Hong Kong.

He said gay men should accept their identities first before they encourage others’ acceptance.

Mr. Tang further attributed discrimination against gayness to public ignorance.

Said he: “The public does not know much about the lifestyle of gay men.”

However, regardless of public discrimination, gay organisations continually being developed.

In 1991, homosexuality was decriminalised. Since then, gay organisations have flourished because they can register as legal societies.

Local gay organisations like The Satsanga regularly organise actvities to enrich gay life and to promote optimism in the gay community.

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Courtesy of Horizons