There couldn’t be a Pink Season Special Edition without an introduction to the Pink Alliance, the official organisers of Asia’s largest LGBTI festival and so much more. Pink Alliance’s main objective is to tirelessly promote equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people through lobbying, education and campaigns. They run an annual calendar of events, which includes Pink Season and Pink Dot, and aims to facilitate unity and cooperation in the LGBTI community of Hong Kong and Macau by linking those that are supportive of the cause. So if you read ‘Pink Alliance’ and imagined a posse of pink caped crusaders running around the city fighting evil, you weren’t too far off.
We spoke with Reggie Ho, the Public Relations Officer for Pink Alliance, about his experience and what exciting things are on the horizon.
How long have you been a part of Pink Alliance?
I have been involved since the very beginning. The seed was sown in 2000, when active volunteers of various LGBT groups decided that it would be a good idea to establish an alliance to give Hong Kong’s LGBT community a united front. So we launched it by organising the city’s first LGBT festival called Tongzhi Fortnight. We released a calendar of activities held by different organisations. We timed the event around the Dragon Boat Festival, suggesting that Qu Yuan, the scholarly official celebrated on that day, killed himself by jumping into the river not only because the emperor had become corrupt, but also because he had fallen for the ruler he served. That, as we expected and hoped, stirred up a lot of debate. We were featured in the newspapers and even got invited to speak on a very popular TV show. It was rare in those days to see openly LGBT people on TV, and it was also when people still actually watched TV!
So Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM) was born, and we met every two months and collaborated on campaigns for many years, including a protest against the banning of the movie poster of ‘Better Than Chocolate’ by the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority. There was a general consensus not to register TCJM as an organisation because a majority of members felt that the group should remain flexible and free of bureaucracy. The lack of a structure, however, also meant that there was not a system to hand over leadership when active members moved on for one reason or another.
Eventually, TCJM went dormant around 2005. Around 2008, I met Nigel Collett when he invited me to be a panel speaker for a session he moderated for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. I spoke to him about TCJM and we decided to “reactivate” it. We called as many of the former TCJMers together, as well as newbies who were interested, to discuss it. Eventually an eclectic group was formed for the reincarnation of TCJM. I served as the chairman before stepping down in 2012 as I felt it was time for new leadership and new energy. But I’ve always remained involved.
All Present: Pink Alliance holds regular meetings to report on activity and plan campaigns.
“One of my goals as Chairperson is to accommodate more diverse voices from LGBTI community. I also want to help increase understanding of the LGBTI community to eliminate stigmas and discrimination and have more productive communication with the government, businesses and anti-gay groups. And of course we are still campaigning for equal rights through the Gender Recognition Ordinance, Anti-discrimination Ordinance, civil partnership and gender-neutral marriage.”Joanne Leung, Chairperson
In 2010, having agreed that the name TCJM was too difficult for people to remember, we re-branded the organisation as Pink Alliance. In the Core Committee election this year, I decided to run for the post of PR Officer, to draw on my experience as a media person to help Pink Alliance raise its public profile.
How have you seen the Pink Alliance grow/improve? How would you like to see the Pink Alliance continue to grow?
Because many Pink Alliance volunteers have great personal connections, the organization has quickly grown and it has a wide reach in the LGBT community and beyond. As a result, it has been able to launch and implement many great initiatives. On the other hand, there has always been an imbalance in participation between locals and expats. The latter group has brought to Pink Alliance very valuable experience from overseas, but on the other hand, the prominent use of English as the language to conduct business has made it difficult for many locals to get involved or take leadership roles. It is an issue that we are working to resolve. In the same vein, Pink Alliance needs more exposure in Chinese media, which is also one of the reasons why I ran for the post of PR Officer. I hope that, being bilingual, I can help raise Pink Alliance’s profile in both the Chinese and English speaking segments of the LGBT community.
What do you consider to be the Pink Alliance’s most important duties?
The primary duty of Pink Alliance has always been and, shall remain, the bridge to bring people together, both among the LGBT community and between LGBT groups and allies. We have always been very careful not to get caught up in politics, and always thrived to be pragmatic and proactive. At a time when issues such as the need for anti-discrimination legislation on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as marriage equality are being hotly discussed, we want to do everything we can to advance them. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to see a world where sexual minorities can live life to the fullest and reach their full potential without being hampered by discrimination and prejudice.
Think Pink! There is a busy calendar of annual events organized by the Pink Alliance.
What are some of the challenges of sustaining the Pink Alliance?
Money! Pink Alliance, as a non-profit organisation, has always been very fiscally responsible and we really try to make the best out of every dollar we raise. But Hong Kong is not a cheap place to run campaigns and initiatives so we are constantly working our poor fundraising manager very hard. Currently, all of us are volunteers, but we hope to one day be able to afford a small staff in order to run things more efficiently and take the burden off some of us. And when you have a group that is run by only volunteers, you will always have to be aware of reality that commitment levels between people vary. Talkers always outnumber the doers, and in leadership roles, you have to learn how to spot more of the latter and avoid the former! It is also important to know how to inspire newcomers to take on responsibilities, enjoy their experiences and achieve personal growth from what they are doing.
This is the Adventure Issue, what adventurous endeavors is the Pink Alliance involved in currently?
There is never a dull moment with Pink Alliance! We will continue with many of the great initiatives we have, such as Pink Dot and Pink Season, while developing new ideas. We also want to venture out of Hong Kong. Our chairperson Joanne Leung has been very active in both Mainland China and Taipei, and we have also recently been joined by a new member from Macau, Rainbow of Macau. In addition, we have also been sending representatives to Geneva for important UN meetings, to exert more pressure on the government to honour their commitments to the International Covenants on Human Rights. Our volunteers don’t mind long layovers and sharing small hotel rooms with others, but still it is going to cost money. Hopefully, more people will come to appreciate the value of what we do and support us whatever way they can!