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28 May 2012

A new name in Hong Kong activism: Pink Alliance

Hong Kong’s Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM for short) has decided to adopt a working name called Pink Alliance for its activities whilst keeping the TCJM name for its legally established and registered non-profit NGO. Fridae's Hong Kong Correspondent Nigel Collett has more on the group's history and new developments.

The Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM for short) has for many years had an honoured place in the world of LGBT activism in Hong Kong. Its second incarnation appeared in 2008 (the first having gone into abeyance some years before) and it’s been steadily expanding its activities ever since.

The name harks back to the ‘90s, when activists picked up the word ‘tongzhi’, the mainland Chinese term for ‘comrade’, and applied it to the LGB world. It was handy, it was Chinese, it had style and was about as queer an appropriation of a straight term as you could get. It also neatly got round the need for the ever-increasing set of initials the rest of the world is face with, by which I mean LGBTIQ etc etc. Tongzhi conferences were held in Hong Kong and when the local activist groups got together to form a Hong Kong-wide body, they adopted the word for the first incarnation of the TCJM. 

There are problems, though. It’s a name that needs continual explanation for those not in the know, and that includes not only non-Chinese speakers but a lot of Chinese people as well. In its unabbreviated form, the TCJM’s name doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, and in its abbreviated form activists and fundraisers have found themselves always needing to waste time better spent on their real message by having to explain it. Tongzhi tended, sadly, to get a bit in the way. 

It became apparent that there was another, more political problem, with the word. The LGB parts of the community were happy enough with ‘tongzhi’ as a term, but the T parts weren’t at all, seeing it as a badge of orientation rather than gender. Some T folk refused to countenance being part of a movement that had the word ‘tongzhi’ in its name. 

Something needed to be done, and at the end of 2011, the TCJM decided to adopt a working name for its activities whilst keeping the TCJM name for its legally established and registered non-profit NGO. So was born the Pink Alliance, a name unanimously and quickly adopted and now the name under which the Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting conducts its work.

TJCM at the International Human Rights Day 2010. Photo: tcjm.org

There’s been a shift in structure to match. The TCJM remains an alliance of Hong Kong’s LGBT groups, so although it has some individuals appointed for specific tasks, like its IT Officer or Treasurer, it is not a club or an association with members, and has not sought until now to be such. However, the Pink Alliance, being a new-broomed action arm, has no such issues and needs volunteers for its many tasks. So a Volunteer Coordinator has been appointed to create a group of volunteer members to help out when needed (see details at the foot of this article as to how you can become one). The Coordinator is the sophisticated and supremely charming American Darrick Sampson, who joined the TCJM last year as Fund Raiser from a long career in gay activism in New York.

The Pink Alliance has taken on some of the big tasks in Hong Kong’s LGBT calendar, including the annual management of the IDAHOT commemoration. This year’s had taken place in Chater Gardens on Sunday 12 May. The Pink Alliance has pushed the envelope by adding a local T for Transphobia to the international IDAHO name, so no, this is not s typo.

As one of its continuous and most important projects, the Alliance is supporting the campaign against homo/transphobic bullying in Hong Kong’s schools, which is being spearheaded by C.Y. Chau and the Boys and Girls Clubs Association and Mr Gay Hong Kong. In particular here it has taken up the cudgels of negotiating with the Education Bureau both an anti-bullying policy in this area and the implementation of an LGBT element in Hong Kong’s secondary syllabus.

The Pink Alliance has already drafted three lesson plans and submitted them to the Bureau. Linked with this is the Alliance’s most recent project, a series entitled ‘I Am Me’, which is a completely shameless copy of the ‘It Gets Better’ series, but this one to be made in Cantonese and aimed at Hong Kong’s school kids. Led by for the Alliance by local playwright Pak Li, the project is now signing up local celebrities to appear in its shorts, and aims to have the first out on Youtube by the end of the summer.

Looming large in the autumn is the Pink Season, which the Pink Alliance will sponsor, man and support for its second year. This time, it is hoped, this will be with the full blessing of the Hong Kong Tourist Board, which had a good chance to see the potential of the Season when it was launched in 2011. The current coordinator, Anshuman Das (AD), is already getting this year’s programme of events together. Whilst this goes on, and well in the background, the Pink Alliance will continue the TCJM’s usual work of preparing the ground with politicians and political parties for a bill against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The aim this year is to persuade at least one political party to adopt an LGBT platform in its manifesto. Two have already done so: the new Labour Party at its formation in November 2011, and, more recently, Regina Ip’s New People’s Party in February this year. The political log jam is starting to break, and the Alliance aims to put its shoulder to the task of bursting it.

Looming large in the autumn is the Pink Season, which the Pink Alliance will sponsor, man and support for its second year. This time, it is hoped, this will be with the full blessing of the Hong Kong Tourist Board, which had a good chance to see the potential of the Season when it was launched in 2011.
Transgender issues are much in the news in Hong Kong at the moment, and the Pink Alliance has a hand in them too. Its legal adviser, Michael Vidler, is now in the final stage of fighting the Ms W case; it’ll reach the Court of Final Appeal soon. Things for the transgender community have strangely worsened since the case began. Not only has the Government fought hard, and so far successfully, to prevent transgender people marrying in their altered gender, but it has now administratively tightened the rules managed by the Immigration Department for the transfer of gender on a Hong Kong ID card.

Until the end of 2011, certificates were being issued entitling a change of gender without surgery. Under the new rules, the Government is saying that a full set of operations has to be completed before the gender on an ID card can be changed. This means, for instance in the case of a transman, that the uterus must be removed along with at least one of the ovaries, and that some form of penis must be constructed. This runs counter to modern medical and administrative practice in saner jurisdictions and of course will now lead to a fight, which the Pink Alliance will join.

All this activity, though not vastly expensive as it is all still conducted by volunteers (the Pink Alliance as yet can afford no staff), costs cash. So the most recent appearance of the Pink Alliance was at April’s Fruits in Suits (FinS) networking event in Veto Bar in Central. From April to August 2012, FinS will be hosted by the Pink Alliance. All of the income from entry and bar takings will finance much of the Alliance’s work for the year. Darrick Sampson and Tay Her Lim are supported by a team of volunteers.

So the Pink Alliance hit the ground running and is now part of the Hong Kong LGBT scene. Its work will no doubt figure much in Fridae’s columns in coming years.

Nigel Collett is the Joint English secretary of Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting (TCJM) and Pink Alliance.

Hong Kong

Reader's Comments

1. 2012-05-28 23:11  
They sound very well organised.

I wonder why the HK government is so anti transgenders getting married, and changing their ID card? is it fear of gays wanting to get married by the religious right? One of those mysterious "slippery slopes" that don't really exist?

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