“We are Queer, We are Fabulous” The First Migrant Pride Parade in Hong Kong
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“We are here, we are queer, we are fabulous and we know it!”
Last Sunday (November 8) afternoon, hundreds of migrant domestic workers marched around the City Hall and Chater Road in Central to call for a stop to discrimination against sexual minorities. The demonstration was initiated by several Filipino migrant worker organizations, including GABRIELA HK, FILGUYS Association – Gabriela HK and Filipino Lesibans Organization. Ian, vice chairperson for campaign of GABRIELA HK, said she has been participating in the Pride Parade hold by some Hong Kong organizations in the past 3 years, but many migrants who support sexual minorities were not able to join since they only have holidays on Sunday. (The Hong Kong Pride Parades have been taking place on Saturday.) Therefore, they arranged this Sunday Migrant Pride this year.
(the march team call for people to stop discrimination)
Gabriela is an organization of Filipino grassroot women. In 1984, over 10 thousand women marched in Philippines to fight against dictatorship. Thereafter, activists established Gabriela, the name of which was a salute to Gabriela Silang, a female activist leader who resisted Spain's colonization of Philippines.
Sheila, the chairperson of Gabriela HK, explained that there has been Filipino migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong since a much earlier time, and many of them were members of Gabriela. In 2004, Gabriela HK started to crystallize since Filipino migrant workers brought out movements to deal with the lack of suffrage of migrant workers. In 2007, in order to support the electoral campaign of GABRIELA Women Partylist in the Congress, the Gabriela HK was established. They recruited new members and encouraged them to vote. Eventually they won 3 seats in the council, so they are able to speak for local and overseas women in the council.
(before the march, people dance one billion rising)
(before the march, people dance one billion rising)
Now there are 5 member organizations in Gabriela, including Gabriela HK Bank , FILWOM ( Filipino Migrant Women organization ), WOPIC Antique (Women from Philippines Independent Church), FILO HK ( Filipino Lesbians Organization HK), and FILGUYS Association. The last two are LGBT organizations.
Homosexuality is still a taboo in migrant worker community. When asked whether non-LGBT organizations in Gabriela can stay with the two LGBT organizations in harmony, Sheila said the other 3 organizations also accept LGBT, since they think that LGBTs and other women both experience discrimination, and have common issues.
(different organizations come and join the parade)
The parade's theme was to oppose all harms to sexual minorities, and Gabriela does not only concern about women and homosexuality. In October 2014, a Filipino transsexual named Jennifer Laude was murdered. Gabriela mourned her death by holding an anniversary of the incident. As Sheila pointed out, although some progressive organizations would call for justice for Jennifer, people in Philippines are still rejecting transsexuals. Some even condemned Jennifer for her feminine dressing and equated that with lying, and thought of her death as deserved.
Discrimination is a difficulty homosexual migrants would face when they go back to their home country. In Hong Kong, due to the lack of family fetters, they have relatively more freedom to come out and stay with their same-sex partner. Yet, they would immediately face pressure from their families once they go back to Philippines. As Ian recalled, a member of FILGUYS was forced to marry and give birth to 3 children. When she went to Hong Kong to work, she could finally come out and could luckily fall in love with a same-sex partner. However, when she told the truth to her family in Philippines, her family failed to accept it and abandoned her.
As Ian mentioned, when she got in touch with other lesbian migrants, some of them thought that it is already enough to be accepted by their own selves, so they refused to join the movement. Some Filipino families would even force the homosexual migrant workers to be heterosexual by harming their bodies. Ian holds that homosexuality is not just a personal problem, so that migrants should not only be self-accepted, but also socially accepted, otherwise they would not be able to maintain themselves when they go home.
Hong Kong is freer to migrant workers only because it is far from their home country, not because Hong Kong people are more LGBT-friendly. Employers often refuse to hire those who look like homosexuals. Ian pointed out that some migrants would keep their long hair unwillingly in order to obtain a work-contract. Due to her short hair, Ian had also been rejected by Hong Kong employer. “This is totally unacceptable for me.” However, she doesn't want to hide her sexual orientation. “I would state clearly that I am lesbian, I have same-sex partner.” Luckily she met her open-minded employers. They support her sexual orientation and participation in the organization , and encouraged her to join the Hong Kong Pride Parade on November 7 after knowing of its existence. “If they were not busy, they would also join today's event.”
(Ian shows their message)
Some Hong Kong people also joined last Sunday's parade. Grassroot Queer Concern Group, a local organization, joined the event and gave a speech supporting it. As the group mentioned, they talked with migrants from different places in the past few months, and discovered that while some employers did not mind migrant's sexual orientation, some would fire homosexual migrants once they discovered their sexual orientation, since they were scared that their daughters would become homosexuals. The group thought that when the daughters “see the sister working at their home dating with a girl, falling in love with girls, in fact they are given precious opportunities to broaden their horizon, to know that there are so many more people of different kinds. It is good to let little girls learn how to respect different people.”
(grassroot queer concern group gives speech to supprot)
(banner made by local people)
other news about migrant domestic workers:
Writing in the bathroom Interview with Migrant Zine writers
Liberal Party held "Smart tips in employing domestic workers"
Elis died of slave-like life in agency center
Modern Slavery--The Hardship of Hong Kong Domestic Workers