Follow the journey of Pride through its key moments in Hong Kong and around the world
Saturday, June 28, 1969.
Police raids were common at gay bars in New York City in the 60s, but this particular Saturday in June would prove different. Usually, a bar’s customers would comply with the raid and the bar would shut down for a night, or even just a few hours. Instead, in the early hours of June 28, 1969, 200 patrons that had gathered at the Stonewall Inn, known for welcoming in the most marginalised groups of people, refused to back down. The riot that resulted is a bittersweet milestone in LGBT history that is remembered for the rioters unwavering defiance in the face of discrimination and the unsuppressable desire to be recognised and respected.
Saturday, June 27, 1970.
This day marks the birth of what would eventually become the modern-day pride parade. To memorialise what happened one year before at the Stonewall Inn, large cities around the United States organised marches, with the largest ones being held in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Some of the first pride marches had to disguise themselves under pseudonyms, like the “Christopher Street West Group” or face being shut down. In these early days, pride parades were more of a protest march demanding for equal rights and freedoms, increasing in numbers and necessity during the AIDS epidemic. Most modern-day pride celebrations still have an element of activism, especially in less accepting places.
Sunday, June 25, 1978.
Gilbert Baker first presents his iconic symbol for the gay community- a rainbow flag. With several inspirations being cited, including Judy Garland’s song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, Baker unknowingly created a symbol of pride that the community would embrace for decades to come. Although the rainbow is primarily seen as a positive and happy symbol, it wasn’t until the late 1990’s that pride parades took on a more celebratory tone, with many current prides resembling Mardi Gras more than a protest march. This shift from a purely radical activist approach also marked a shift in public thinking and in a sense of general acceptance, ushering in an era for pride parades to be “a celebration of queer life and sexuality in addition to a political and social demonstration.”
As a British colony, Hong Kong’s laws reflected British criminal laws that made any male homosexual acts illegal, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Despite the fact that the United Kingdom had decriminalised the acts in 1967, public debate about whether or not to reform these laws dragged out through the 1970s and 80s without any clear declaration to change the laws in favor of human rights principles. It wasn’t until 1991 that the Legislative Council agreed to decriminalise “private, adult, non-commercial and consensual homosexual relations.” This ruling, however delayed, eventually triggered a movement in Hong Kong where individuals and groups felt more protected to be open about their own sexuality and sense of pride in being LGBTQ.
Saturday, December 12, 2008.
Although there were some unofficial pride events in the years leading up to 2008 that set the groundwork, the first formal Hong Kong Pride Parade was held in 2008 and organised by a coalition of local volunteer groups. One of the first pride parade themes was “Turn Fear into Love”, calling for acceptance for gender and sexual minorities in a diverse and friendly society- an apt reminder of why pride started so many years ago at the Stonewall Inn. By now an established annual event with numbers increasing each year, Hong Kong Pride 2016 saw more than 6,000 participants. Hong Kong now hosts the second most popular Asian pride parade behind Taipei according to attendance records.
Sunday, 18 June, 2017.
Sao Paolo, Brazil breaks records in 2017 by hosting the most-attended pride parade in history. Official records put the number of participants at more than a whopping 3 million. Other cities that host some of the largest pride parades include Madrid, which is consistently ranked in the top for numbers and hosted Worldpride 2017; San Francisco and Toronto. However, countries like Uganda, Russia and even China struggle to have their rights and freedoms respected to hold peaceful pride parades, often coming up against government-sanctioned discrimination and violence. These communities are a good reminder of how important it is to take advantage of the opportunity and safety we have to express ourselves and show support for marginalised groups.
Saturday, 25 November, 2017.
Hong Kong will host the annual pride parade on Saturday, 25 November- the 12th pride parade in 13 years. For the first and only time ever, the pride parade was suspended in 2010 due to limited funding. Since then, it has returned with even more dedication and commitment to uniting the community to show the people and government of Hong Kong our sense of pride. This year’s theme is ‘‘Turn the tide; walk with pride. Discrimination says goodbye.” They have chosen the Blue Robin as this year’s mascot because of it’s courage and relentless determination to protect its nest, an appropriate symbol for our fiercely protective and brave community. This year’s color of choice is free-style blue. See you there!