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Justin Chu
Photograph: Calvin Sit

Sex-ed in stilettos: Justin Chu talks about sex and drag in Hong Kong

Changing the norms of what an academic should look like

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

When thinking about sex education in Hong Kong, awkward presentations in silent classrooms and strongly-worded statements of right and wrong come to mind. What definitely isn’t the first thought is a speaker in crimson red lipstick, strutting in seven-inch heels while talking openly about embracing sexuality – but that’s exactly what Justin Chu does. 

A self-identified community sex educator focusing on sex positivity and gender equality, Chu gives guest lectures at universities and holds workshop sessions all over Hong Kong. Being a natural performer, he always wanted to be involved in Hong Kong’s creative industry and work on student outreach. He never thought he would take this career path. “I had no knowledge of cultural studies and feminism prior to college, and I only learned about drag queens when I first watched RuPaul‘s Drag Race,” he shares. “I first got interested in researching sexuality thanks to an extraordinary lecturer when I was at community college. After that, I studied more, and I wanted to do more, not by traditional activism, but going back to the root by doing outreach in education,” he says.

Teaching in drag lets him subvert the norms of what an academic should look like 

Classically trained as a ‘nan dan’ in Cantonese opera, a man playing female roles, Chu has always embraced his inner drag queen, and it was only a matter of time until he incorporated it in his talks. Teaching in drag lets him subvert the norms of what an academic should look like, and definitely grabs his students’ attention. “It’s a great eyecatcher for those who would rather spend time checking on their phones!” Even after his sessions, much of his audience stays behind to compliment him or ask more questions. His students always wonder why the rare sex education class in schools are never as in-depth as Chu’s talks. He covers topics like sexuality and gender social construction that aren’t covered in the traditional Hong Kong classroom.

“Primary and secondary school sex education is definitely inadequate, and it is extremely hard for positive sex educators to influence the school system,” Chu says. “The guidelines for sex education haven’t changed since 1997, and the world has changed a lot since then.” Indeed, the curriculums taught have remained largely static, and including sex education classes is still up to individual schools to decide. Similarly, the topics of sex and sexuality are still taboo even for adults, but Chu highlights that Sally’s Toy – a sex-positive sex shop – and other online platforms are helping break this silence. Changing the system means running into both various legislative and cultural challenges, and he knows that it will be an uphill battle. Still, he is unperturbed and determined to face the challenge. 

The LGBT+ community in Hong Kong is constantly growing, and while it has made great strides forward, Chu believes there’s still more to be done. He points out that working-class employees still sometimes get fired based on sexual orientation or get harassed in the streets. However, he says many individuals have it much worse, and he’s privileged to get to march for Pride, to have public gay bars, and be part of a welcoming community. 

Working as a sex educator has sparked a passion in Chu to champion diversity and help others accept their identity. “Eventually, I want to be a sex therapist, focusing on the LGBT+ community,” he shares. “At the end of the day, I just want everybody to have fun and to be happy with themselves,” he ends.  

Chu’s workshops and seminars are open to the public. For updates on schedules follow justinchu928 or at HKUCGED (HKU’s Committee on Gender Equality and Diversity) on Facebook. Yu An Su 

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