Jennifer Chang and Lisa Dazols are a couple from San Francisco who embarked on a year-long world tour in June in search of gay people who are creating change for the LGBTQ community. Their project, Out and Around: Stories of a Not-So-Straight Journey, is a collection of their conversations with these “Supergays” around the world. Their trip will cover 15 countries across Asia, Africa, and South America, chosen because those are places where the LGBTQ movement is just starting to take shape, and they want to tell the stories of the people there who are leading the charge. Fridae will republish selected interviews on a regular basis. Readers can follow their journey on www.outandaround.com.
There are no rainbow flags on the streets. There are no decorated floats or banner-raising marches. There are no glossy billboards or commercial sponsorships. In fact, there wasn’t even a set date for this year’s Shanghai PRIDE, China’s one and only LGBT festival, until about a month ago.
Not publicizing dates and locations until a few weeks (and sometimes days) prior to events is part of the organizing strategy since portions of the first festival in 2009 were closed down by the government. Finding venues willing to take the risk of participating is also a problem, and PRIDE organizers are always wary of last-minute cancellations.
With these limitations, how are these organizers managing to pull off a weeklong festival for a city of 25 million people featuring three parties, nightly film screenings, a speakers panel, a sports day, a pub crawl and a pink picnic? Only with Supergay powers!
Malaysia-born Charlene Liu, China-born Dylan Chen (pictured above), and Singapore-born Kenneth Tan (pictured with Jenni below) were members of a yahoo list-serve made up primarily of ex-pat Shanghai residents who came together in 2009 to organize the first Shanghai PRIDE event. Since then they’ve volunteered countless hours and stretched a shoe-string budget to pull off what other international cities have a year-round full-time staff to do. Charlene says, “When we’re not at our day jobs or sleeping, we’re organizing.”
During our visit in Shanghai, we got a taste of a day in the life of a PRIDE organizer when we followed Charlene around town one evening. She ran over to Dylan’s house to go through her task list, made phone calls to recruit volunteers, and ensured that the press coverage best reflected the festival. She then swung by one of the gay bars to personally ensure their participation for the pub crawl. Getting home around 1am on a work night, we were in awe of this multilingual motivated team of Supergays.
While the first festival was created by ex-pats and primarily attended by the ex-pat community, Charlene, Dylan and Kenneth have ensured that going forward, ownership of PRIDE will shift to the local LGBT community. Charlene explains that in the first few years, locals were quite hesitant of participating for fear of repercussions from the government, “but in the last two years we’ve seen everybody participate.” In fact, several local LGBT groups will be hosting their own events for PRIDE this year.
The yearly festival draws about 3000 participants but reaches many more in both national and international press. Dylan says, “Shanghai Pride tells Chinese people that whether they are in Shanghai or a small town, it is ok to be gay.” The China Daily agreed and called Shanghai PRIDE “an event of profound significance for the country and the world” and “a source of great encouragement to the tens of millions of comrades”.
Kenneth says, “When we first put together Shanghai Pride, we were aware of the restrictions we would have to work within. We knew that it wasn’t possible to put together a march or protest for instance. We had to be very clear from day one that this is not a demonstration.” Still organizers knew the importance of a Pride event in China. Kenneth says, “China is home to 40-50 million gays and lesbians, home to the world’s largest gay population. We’re only at the start of something very important.”
Kenneth loves this rapidly changing city where he’s lived for eleven years. He says, “I feel fortunate to be a part of this change. There has been a growing consciousness within the gay and lesbian movement. Now various social media channels have developed that make it easier for us to get the word out about what we do. We have several equivalents of facebook and twitter here. Without channels like these it would be very difficult to put together Shanghai pride.”
The festival now aims to be as inclusive as possible to both the LGBT community and straight allies to celebrate. Dylan says, “Shanghai PRIDE helps us to tell straight people that we exist. It’s an opportunity to show them who we are. In China, the biggest issue are dealing with your parents. It’s the small moments that warm my heart. The first year I had a friend who brought his mom to our Pride event. She was willing to come to learn. The second year we had a panel discussion and a lot of parents came as well. I hope one day my mom can support me like that.”
Why is there this need to have a parade like they do in the USA or the west ??
This is Asia and we ought to have our own way to express and not follow some cliche and shameless parades that usually end in some sex orgy.
Rise up Asia and not ape the West and they ways !
you are expressing yourself as you wish, nobody stopping you, so why take offence when none is directed at you?
Anybody holding a gun to your forcing you into a ''shameless parade'' that ends up in a ''sex orgy''? I don't think so.
What people choose to do in their free time, provided it's consensual and doesn't cause you any harm really isn't any of your business.
Evidently what you assume is far from the truth, clearly you've never been to any pride events at all, obviously your perspective would change if you went to one.
Our minds are like parachutes- they only work when they are open.
Or maybe we could take the example of Iran, a country which claims to have no homosexuals- those that get discovered are silenced or executed.
Comment: I am really appalled/sickened by the "racist" comments often now posted on Fridae, such as in number one comment, last sentence.
"Rise up Asia and not ape the West and they ways !"
do we really need to add "inter gay-lesbian" racism now to the world wide struggle for civil rights and equality?
Or in other comments, do we want Fridae to censor articles too?
I agree with you, the last sentence in comment 1 reveals that it was expressed without thinking, merely projecting self hatred, denial, and lack of self acceptance onto others, somewhat irresponsible, quite sad.
No Hell more agonising than an undisciplined mind, no Heaven more pure or serene than a disciplined mind.
Call it racism, homophobia, heterophobia, sexism, misogyny, misanthropy, all comes from the same source- IGNORANCE.
Unnecessary to ''fight fire with fire'', as an eye for an eye will leave the world blind.
Always better to investigate further, go beyond our assumptions, the discoveries we make can only be described as liberating as well as Enlightening, my work is teaching, so I try my best to inspire this in my students, fills me with joy to see the ''light switched on'' instead of them bemoaning the darkness.
Don't be frightened- GET ENLIGHTENED!
May everyone be free from all suffering and its causes - IGNORANCE
May everyone have Happiness and its causes- WISDOM
And get real with all the "isms" ...solve the problems in your own countries.
Iran ...the latest buzz words from the " international community " ..I suppose you all want to bomb it ...and make it like " democratic" Iraq !
Stop preaching your values and your ways ...solve your own problems in your own country .Asia know what it's own destiny without pride marches....
As if Bangkok need pride marches !!!...more likely it's by self serving organizers at the behest and instigation of western do gooders
Leave your own values at home
u r just feared and afraid been told by others that u r gay, and i suppose u r a homo-phobic gay, that all.
besides, what is wrong about admitting urself?
u have no guts and no proud to tell the people around u that "i am gay", the only thing u can do is to hide under ur thick cocoon, and once a while reach out ur tiny tentacle through the internet, hoping to find someone or many "ones".
Yes, YOU r GAY. Please ADMIT it. Tkx.
Never been ashamed or otherwise but I don't need to parade myself for anyone !
Read my post carefully ...I am not anti gay ...I just don't like the western approach to it and the way they want to impose their values !
And if your precious "ways" are so wonderfull...why does the government crack down on gays so much that you are afraid to post a picture so people can identify you?
I think it's a good idea for those who can afford it to take a year off once every few years to do things they love which incorporates LGBT activism. It may be traveling rtw like what Jen & Lisa are doing while interviewing gay activists, taking up a sponsored residency to do creative writing that relates to LGBT issues, or studying a qualification that enables one to carry out LGBT activism more effectively. Beside Continuous Activists (CA) like those serving Oogachaga & PT Foundation and Recurrent Activists (RA) like those serving Pinkdot, contributions by Occasional Activists (OA) like Jen & Lisa should be encouraged.
If we allocate a part of our regular savings to a "Year Off Fund" (YOF) for this purpose, it should be achievable for many who work in developed Asian jurisdictions like HK, S'pore & Taiwan, and prosperous Asian cities like Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, to take a year off. Given the geographical vastness of many Asian countries like India, China, Malaysia and Thailand, an OA there may not even need to travel overseas to serve optimally during his Year Off. It is perhaps more affordable & convenient, and less intimidating, for him to travel to a less developed part of his country where LGBT support & activism are lacking. He wouldn't need to get a VISA or communicate in a foreign language if he travels within his country.
Taking a month or fortnight off each year may be more achievable for most, though. Month-Off or Fortnight-Off OAs can play very important roles in developing Asia. For example, in Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur (KL), support centers and events for the LGBT community are rare. The PT Foundation only has a branch in KL, even though the majority of the Malaysian LGBT community live elsewhere. Perhaps, the PT Foundation could mobilise a group of KL-trained RA's and OA’s to conduct anonymous HIV screening & collect donation across the country every December to commemorate the World AIDS Day? Such programmes could be month-long or fortnight-long, and occasional or recurrent, depending on the level of commitment that Malaysian RA's and OA’s can offer. For example, to take a fortnight off for this purpose, a Malaysian OA or RA would need to clear ten days of his Annual Leave in a row.
OAs' and RA's are particularly valuable to the LGBT community in countries like Malaysia, China, India, Thailand, etc. where LGBT services are generally geographically concentrated in the big cities (e.g. KL, Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok) due to financial constraints. To deliver services like HIV screening and workshops to the mass, RA's and OA’s residing in the cities where volunteer-training is most accessible can be mobilized to station in the small towns over a period of 2 to 4 weeks (e.g. starting from 01 Dec, the World AIDS Day). Similarly, activists who wish to start or run support centers in small towns could take a fortnight or month off to attend training in the big cities.
Once again, I thank Jen and Lisa for your activism and wish you an enjoyable year off.
And don't go on and on with the government crackdown cliche ...either
I don't post my picture ?? And you immediately assume That ? Maybe just maybe I am not as stunningly gorgeous as you ? How's that ?
Stop imposing , solve the problems at your home first !
Am really excited about the Supergay project, especially because it will be featuring "places where the LGBTQ movement is just starting to take shape, and they want to tell the stories of the people there who are leading the charge."
Re: madeasia's comments,
While I empathise with the need for local manifestations of LGBT organisation, I don't see how your criticism is relevant in the context either of Shanghai Pride, or of Chang and Dazol's "Supergay" project.
According to this article anyway, Shanghai Pride is being organised by local Shanghainese LGBT organisations. It's also pretty patronising to assume that PRIDE is strictly "Western" just because it may have originated in the "West." That's like saying Buddhism is strictly Indian, or Christianity is strictly Middle-Eastern (or Greek), or that wearing blue jeans is American. We live in an era where information travel between industrialised countries means that no one concept or project can be strictly tied down to its originator cultures. Shanghai PRIDE would be an adaptation, for sure, but it makes it no less Shanghainese.
That said, I disagree with MichaelAsia's #4 suggestion that madeasia is being "racist" by expressing his wariness of adopting so-called "Western" models of activism within Asia. The reality is that many "Western" nation states continue to be culturally dominant in exporting civil rights / human rights ideologies around the world, while often maintaining levels of nauseating hypocrisy in response to their own internal human rights issues. Thus, any parochial Asian reactions to this, such as madeasia's responses, no matter how misguided, can hardly be called 'racist' before we fully understand the why there may be discontent to begin with. The playing field is NOT level.
I reiterate that I disagree with madeasia's views about pride events in Asia being culturally inappropriate. I very much support people's right to self-determination, and to organise LGBT events in ways that we feel may best suit our local cultural temperaments. PRIDE may be one legitimate outcome of this... and frankly, I doubt that it is the only one anyway!
The local and the global need not be in conflict... Information flow, mass inter-national migration, shared ideas, etc... "Asian" and "Western" are fast becoming outmoded terms.
So happy that this work is going on around Shanghai!
Where have all the cool, good looking guys gone? No one cool is here anymore, and Fridae is like fake profile central. So fucking down in the dumps and pathetic, I guess its all the bad creepy karma from managing shitty gay saunas coming back to haunt this web site and looking for the other 99.9 missing meth.
The party last week at Avalon was great fun and its good gay culture is being reivigorated instead of having to listen to weak, whiny creatures on Fridae. Being gay is great and joyous!
Shanghai can do whatever the fuck they want and I am glad they take their own path and explore what works for them. No advice is needed cause people in Shanghai smile at Craft and D2 cool clubs much more than in Singapore gay bars. Even Kenneth Tan looks happier in Shanghai. Thank God for fun at Avalon, cause Singaporeans are so tired of getting ripped off by the pirate gay activists taking our money and blah blah blan politics. Hurray Shanghai!
Meanwhile, let's hope that the Shanghai Pride will be successfully launched. It's good to test the water so as to get an idea of the out of bounds (OB) markers in China. Asian activists should adapt to the local socio-legal environment, carrying out activism at an appropriate pace, and through legally and politically tolerable activities.
An appropriate theme is vital to a pride's success. Parading in the streets, dressed up in strange attire, and displaying recalcitrant slogans, etc. may not work in most parts of Asia where such behaviour could be easily dismissed as antisociality and dogmatized as Western ills. While the intended message (i.e. diversity tolerance) of prides in the West is noble, their externality may obscure the mission. In an earlier Fridae report (http://www.fridae.asia/newsfeatures/printable.php?articleid=2217), a prominent Thai gay activist had slammed a pride in Chiang Mai which he thought could encourage youngsters to become transgenders. Although I disagree with some of his points, I do opine that, in Asia, we could adopt a different externality which fits better into our own cultural and socio-legal environment.
One good example of Asia-fitting externality is Pinkdot. The event is a non-political, orderly gathering of LGBT people and our family and friends in a park. The core theme is to promote the Freedom to LOVE, a universally celebrated virtue. There is no mention of ideas like gay circuit parties, sex change, protest, gay marriage, censorship of religious teachings and the abstract concept of “gay rights”, that are threatening to the conservative majority or the government of the day, whether the underlying motivation is justified. Such socially acceptable externality and theme are a creative middle ground that befits the socio-legal environment in Singapore, unlike, for example, more controversial events like gay circuit parties and above-described parades.
With this, I wish the Shanghai Pride's organizers every success in finding a creative middle ground like Pinkdot's did, and that you will persevere and overcome every obstacle in your challenging environment.
I teach Kindergarteners- even they can figure this much out by themselves without anyone having to teach them.
I pity you.
Written by madeasia on his IPAD 2.
No minority, anywhere, asia or otherwise, ever gets anything except the heel of the boot by being supplicant.
As for madeasia's suggestion to have Pink Dot in Shanghai, I think that would be an 'imposition' unless the locals decide they want to have one themselves in which case, they can choose to have any kind of pride festival they want.
I said, "socially ACCEPTABLE externality and theme are a creative MIDDLE GROUND that befits the socio-legal environment in Singapore".
The dictionary's definitions of:
1) "ACCEPTABLE" => 'capable of being endured; tolerable; bearable'
2) " MIDDLE GROUND" => 'an intermediate position, area, or recourse between two opposites or EXTREMES'.
By "middle ground" I meant an intermediate position between extreme obedience and extreme disobedience. And, by "acceptable", I meant what is (e.g. some extent of disobedience) tolerable in Singapore (i.e. within the OB markers). Note that I didn't say "socially CONFORMING" or "SERVILITY" (extreme obedience). In short, I did mean to acknowledge that some form of disobedience, as long as it's in an intermediate position, and within the tolerable range, should be attempted. The key is, don't attempt anything that is beyond the OB markers, which do change over time.
Having explained "acceptable" and "middle ground", I guess it should be quite clear that Pinkdot:
a) had an externality and a theme that were socially Acceptable (i.e. been tolerated by the society);
b) was in the Middle Ground (i.e. between the extremes of servility and rebellion).
At least according to the fidae article at the time. I wasnt there, just read about it
I am curious about Shanghai Pride being labeled as 'China’s one and only LGBT festival' because I am aware that Beijing already has 'Pride month' in June every year for the last couple of years now, with lots of events. There are also other festivals that precede Shanghai Pride. Am I missing something? e.g different interpretations of 'pride' or 'festival' or other?
I feel encouraged by the last paragraph, where parents were invited to come to discussions; I don't know how many parents took that up, or what they came away with, but it sounds positive, nonetheless.
madeasia has a point, each culture should portray its own celebration of homosexuality. It does seem most cultures seem like making a lot of noise, dressing up, eating and drinking, not sure about the orgy at the end, I seem to keep missing that somehow ;)
I really love the concept of the picnic in the park, I have been to similar events in the UK and Germany, it is a good way to meet new people and to show straight people that we're not two headed freaks, obsessed with sex.
#23(sunthenmoon) You can write Jenni and Lisa on their website and ask to be on their mailing list. They also posted videos of their interviews.
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