Gay and transgender rights in Asia are lagging behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to workplace protections, marriage laws, adoption, and more. The situation is no different in Hong Kong, where these basic human rights are still denied to the LGBT community. Lusheen Beaumont, the current Mr. Gay Hong Kong, says it’s time for Hong Kong to step up and lead LGBT policy for the next generation.
Half-Japanese and born in the Philippines, Lusheen Beaumont has spent time all over the world — including England, Dubai, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China — before moving to Hong Kong. Beaumont works in education as a curriculum designer and dabbles in fiction writing. As the current Mr. Gay Hong Kong, he plays an important role in the LGBT community.
1. Hong Kong policy is stuck in the past
I have been in Hong Kong for five years. The rate of change in Hong Kong is glacial when it comes to LGBT rights. One of the root issues is that a lot of the homophobia and anti-gay laws are really a product of the British colonial era. That’s true in a lot of areas that were former British colonies.
It was based on conservative Victorian values. That, coupled with a conservative branch of Evangelical Christianity and conservative values in China – this all coalesced and it’s been hard to shake all that off.
But the British have moved on from that already. I never would have thought 10 years ago that a British Conservative government would pass full legal protections and rights for gay people. But it’s already happened.
2. Social acceptance in Hong Kong is improving
Recently a survey was taken to see how many Hong Kong residents would support greater protections of LGBT rights, and there was majority support — although also strong vocal opposition.
Things have improved in terms of social acceptance, but the socially conservative groups and Christian churches still have a disproportionate amount of influence over the political process,particularly in the arguments in the legislative council. That stalls a lot of progress in Hong Kong.
3. Hong Kong doesn’t extend workplace protections to the LGBT community
A workplace ordinance was passed a few years ago, but without any protection for sexual orientation. The Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance protects LGBT individuals against sexual orientation discrimination, but only in the public sector. There’s no protection in the private sector.
The government ‘recommends’ that the private sector does not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation but it has not taken steps to enact specific legislation. Some of the private sector companies have their own internal legal protections, within the company, but the government leaves it to individual companies rather than extending legal rights meaningfully across Hong Kong.
4. Marriage rights are a long way away
Currently Hong Kong does not recognize any foreign gay marriages, or civil partnerships. When the UK passed marriage equality laws and British consular missions around the world sought permission from host governments to solemnize same sex unions for British citizens, while even Russia agreed, Hong Kong refused.
There is a case right now, the Q case, where a British lesbian couple wants recognition for marriage and a spousal visa. The Hong Kong government is denying her a spousal visa because it doesn’t recognize foreign gay marriages.
5. Education is part of the problem
Even within education, where I work [as a curriculum designer], when I look at job application forms for different schools, a lot of really heavily Catholic Evangelical schools still mention things like “write about what it means to be biblical” or say they are “raising biblical students with a strong Christian tradition.”
A lot of kids go through this type of education and a lot of local LGBT students don’t get the support they need. And when you have entire generations going through that education system it makes it a lot harder to move the ball forward in terms of advancing LGBT rights.
I’m in education so I try to show kids diversity. I want to be a role model for the next generation to show them how to be more open-minded, more inclusive, compassionate, and caring towards other people.
Within the next five to 10 years, I would hope to see some legislation to protect LGBT individuals in the work place. That would be a huge first step, especially because a lot of Hong Kong people who are gay won’t come out because they are afraid of losing their jobs.
A good next step for that would be to recognize foreign marriages. I hope that they rule in favor of Q, and that foreign registered gay marriages are recognized. If that happens, then there’s more grounds to recognize local gay marriages too.
I would like to see more outreach within schools because I think many have conservative evangelical influence. Not to force views on kids, but to show them that there are gay people, straight people, transgender people — all kinds of people in the world — who are here to be part of the community. We are your teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, we are just like everyone else.
The eventual goal surely is to be in a world where there’s no “gay” marriage, but just marriage. To be in a world where it’s so natural to be something other than heteronormative, that it’s not remarked upon.