We all know Hong Kong isn’t exactly known for its championing of LGBTI rights. While our legislation is no longer as restrictive as some of our Asian neighbours (hi, Singapore!), our gay community’s culture has historically been swept under the rug (we can probably thank our colonial forefathers for that). But where there are streets, there’s history too, so tour group Walk in Hong Kong’s decision to shine a light on our SAR’s long LGBTI history with its new walking tour series, LGBT in the City, is a welcome move.
The first of its kind in Hong Kong, the three-hour walk, which is to be held on scattered Fridays throughout the year, is inspired by similar successful operations in gay hubs like Sydney and San Francisco. And with events like this, on top of larger-scale ones like the upcoming LGBTI film festival and September’s Pink Season, as well as our bid to host the 2022 Gay Games, Hong Kong is now establishing itself as a diverse Asian gay-friendly destination with an increasingly global appeal.
The tour isn’t just for visitors though. LGBT in the City proves an enlightening stroll for Hongkongers, too. For tour researcher and leader Benita Chick – also a co-chairperson of the Hong Kong Gay Games bidding team – the tour is all about showing off a diverse Hong Kong to ‘straight and gays, locals and visitors alike’. The nine stops around Central and Sheung Wan include spots of historical and cultural significance, both on and off the well-trodden track. For Chick, these locatons ‘showcase a diversity of LGBT life in Hong Kong that goes beyond what you see in movies and celebrity life, to show how ‘real’ LGBT citizens live their lives’ in Hong Kong. The tour begins with a neo-classical bent at the site of the former Supreme Court (recently restored as the Final Court of Appeal), with an introduction to Hong Kong’s history of LGBTI legislation and rights. Other highlights include a pitstop in a Lan Kwai Fong sex shop before pilgrimages to nearby but sadly closed institutions Club 97 and Propaganda to hear stories about our buzzing LGBTI nightlife scene.
The hidden Central sanctuary of Pak Tsz Lane Park is a particularly enlightening pitstop. It’s the location of a fascinating insight into the lay of the LGBTI land in ancient China as well as a spot to learn about sexual potency-enhancing traditional medicines. The tour wraps up at one of the city’s most iconic gay bars, which, by the time you arrive close to midnight on a Friday night, should be in full swing. You even get a free drink upon arrival, well earned by this point.
In researching the tour, Chick, who has experienced an international range of gay and pride events after several years living abroad, says there is both a demand and a need for this type of experience, particularly in Asia. “There have not been such tours in the Asia region at all,” she says. “There are many gay parties and pride events, but such a format has yet to exist in the region.” The tour is an engaging and authentic look at a community that might still be small in numbers but has a growing voice, while also enhancing the city’s credentials as an LGBTI destination – not to mention representative of an increasing local awareness of the value of the pink tourist dollar. It seems like there’s never been a better excuse to take a gay ol’ stroll.
The next LGBT in the City walking tour takes place on Fri Jul 29, 2016 at 9pm. Tickets: $380 (inc one free drink).