Hong Kong Inaugurates Asia’s First Gay Games, Advocating for Broader LGBTQ+ Acceptance

by Michael Nguyen
fokus keyword: LGBTQ+ Acceptance in Hong Kong

Gina Benjamin, an ardent football admirer, is gearing up not only for triumph at the imminent Gay Games in Hong Kong but is also committed to championing legal reformations supporting same-sex marriage.

Upon her relocation to Hong Kong from Britain in 2016, 33-year-old Benjamin encountered her life partner in the southern Chinese enclave. However, due to existing regulations that only validate heterosexual unions, the duo had to journey to the British Embassy in Vietnam to solemnize their wedding in August. The constraints that prevented them from marrying in their city of romance deeply dismayed Benjamin.

This forthcoming weekend will see Benjamin, a drama instructor, alongside a diverse assemblage of men, women, and transgender athletes, venturing onto the field with a profound objective. Benjamin aspires that their participation will illustrate the community’s resolute advocacy for equitable rights for same-sex pairs to the city’s administration.

“Our objective extends beyond the game; it’s about instigating legislative transformations,” Benjamin remarked.

Launching this Friday, Asia’s inaugural Gay Games is kindling aspirations for a more encompassing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community within the region’s financial epicenter. This sentiment is emboldened by recent judicial successes endorsing equality rights for same-sex partners and transgender individuals.

Following a postponement attributed to the pandemic, this nine-day festivity anticipates welcoming approximately 2,400 contenders hailing from about 40 regions. The athletes will engage in an array of sports and culturally immersive activities, encompassing tennis, swimming, dragon boat racing, and mahjong.

Lisa Lam, the Gay Games’ co-chair, emphasized that LGBTQ+ endorsement in Asia lags compared to global standards, and highlighted the essence of amplifying the visibility of sexual minorities within the societal sphere.

Lam stated, “Prejudices often stem from misconceptions or stereotyping. By uniting diverse individuals, we can dismantle these stereotypes.”

Yet, since securing the rights in 2017 to organize the games, the coordinators have confronted multiple hindrances. The potential to elevate Hong Kong’s global image as an all-embracing financial nexus garnered scant support from official quarters. Some legislators even disparaged the event, with insinuations linking it to potential national security concerns.

Aimed aspirations from 2016 to draw 15,000 participants and contribute 1 billion Hong Kong dollars (approximately US$128 million) to the fiscal system were not met. The prevailing pandemic chiefly precipitated this curtailment. Amid the unpredictability concerning the relaxation of stringent travel quarantine regulations, Guadalajara in Mexico emerged as a joint host.

This alternate closer destination prompted numerous prospective European and American attendees to bypass the extended trip to Hong Kong, as expressed by Lam. Escalated expenses post-pandemic associated with transcontinental flights and accommodations further discouraged potential participants.

Additional reservations stem from the risks associated with the Beijing-enforced national security legislation, which has apprehended and muted numerous advocates post the 2019 pro-democracy rallies. Taiwan, claimed by China as its territory, refrained from dispatching a representation, citing safety apprehensions.

Yet, Jerome Yau, an equality proponent, remains sanguine about the Gay Games’ potential to augment LGBTQ+ discourse. Yau, a co-founder of the non-governmental entity Hong Kong Marriage Equality, believes that the event’s impact might be more deeply acknowledged with time.

Recent positive strides include judicial decrees eliminating the necessity for complete sex-change operations for transgender individuals wishing to modify their gender on official IDs. Additionally, there’s acknowledgment of housing and inheritance rights for overseas wedded same-sex couples. Current momentum indicates a potential framework in Hong Kong recognizing same-sex unions, emanating from a groundbreaking verdict in September.

Nevertheless, Suen Yiu-tung, a gender studies academic at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, opines that while some progress is evident, it remains disparate. Suen accentuates lingering discrimination in the private domain based on sexual orientation and the delayed release of a 2017 report on legal gender acknowledgment.

Despite potential long-term shifts in government policy towards comprehensive rights, numerous LGBTQ+ community members are proactively harnessing every occasion to instigate incremental reforms. The Gay Games witnessed the collaborative efforts of hundreds of volunteers.

One such contributor, Emery Fung, aged 29 and founder of an inclusivity consultancy, contributed by initiating all-gender restrooms and organizing contests that enable diverse gender participants to compete collectively, a departure from standard sports events’ normative practices.

Fung articulated his aspirations, “I envision a future where our identities don’t necessitate explicit declarations, and we coexist harmoniously.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: LGBTQ+ Acceptance in Hong Kong

What is the main purpose of Gina Benjamin’s participation in the Gay Games in Hong Kong?

Gina Benjamin is participating in the Gay Games not only to compete but also to champion legal reformations supporting same-sex marriage in Hong Kong.

When did the first Gay Games in Asia take place?

The inaugural Gay Games in Asia were set to begin in Hong Kong on a Friday, following a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

How many participants were expected at the Gay Games, and from how many regions?

Approximately 2,400 contenders were anticipated, originating from around 40 regions.

What are some of the sports and activities included in the Gay Games?

Participants will engage in various sports and culturally immersive activities, including tennis, swimming, dragon boat racing, and mahjong.

What was the stance of the Hong Kong government regarding the Gay Games?

The potential of the Gay Games to elevate Hong Kong’s global image as an inclusive financial nexus garnered limited support from the official quarters. Some legislators even criticized the event, linking it to potential national security concerns.

Why was Guadalajara in Mexico named as a co-host for the Gay Games?

Amid the unpredictability concerning the relaxation of Hong Kong’s stringent travel quarantine regulations due to the pandemic, Guadalajara in Mexico was chosen as a joint host for the games.

What recent positive strides have been made for the LGBTQ+ community in Hong Kong?

Recent judicial rulings in Hong Kong have eliminated the necessity for full sex-change surgeries for transgender individuals wishing to modify their gender on official IDs. Additionally, the city’s courts have acknowledged housing and inheritance rights for overseas wedded same-sex couples. Hong Kong is also moving towards potentially recognizing same-sex unions following a landmark verdict in September.

What challenges remain for the LGBTQ+ community in Hong Kong?

While there has been positive progress, challenges like discrimination in the private domain based on sexual orientation persist. Moreover, a report from a 2017 public consultation on legal gender acknowledgment is yet to be released.

More about fokus keyword: LGBTQ+ Acceptance in Hong Kong

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Mike D. November 2, 2023 - 9:43 am

I’ve been following the gay games for years and it’s really great to see them happening in Asia for the first time. big move for inclusion, you know.

Anna K November 2, 2023 - 4:57 pm

the part about Guadalajara co-hosting is interesting. Wonder how many participants they got compared to HK?

Sarah L November 2, 2023 - 5:41 pm

Gina’s story is touching. Imagine having to travel to another country just to marry the one you love. it’s high time HK and other places make changes.

Tommy G. November 2, 2023 - 7:46 pm

Just read about the security law in another article. Scary stuff. stay safe folks.

Jay P. November 3, 2023 - 12:32 am

Didn’t realize how much Hong Kong is struggling with these rights issues. Thought they were more forward thinking than this, tbh.

Liz H November 3, 2023 - 1:04 am

why’s the government not supporting this? Sounds like a missed opportunity for boosting their international rep.

Ron S. November 3, 2023 - 4:27 am

Always baffles me that in this day and age, people still face these kind of barriers. Hope the games bring some positive change for the community in HK.


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