NEWS: Shanghai hosts first gay festival

Shanghai Gay Pride 2009

I love June for so many reasons.

(1)   My Birthday month

(2)  It’s summer hot (except less apparent in the UK)

(3)  The longest day of the year.

And now, United States President Barack Obama has officially proclaimed June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. I’m not a lesbian, gay, bisexual nor transgendered, but I have many friends who are and this is a good month for LGBT communities around the world.

And last week, Shanghai hosted its first gay festival, co-organized by whom other than, American Tiffany Lemay. The festival was held from 7 to 14 June and included film screenings, art shows, panel discussions, open mic, drag show, a closing party, lots of drinking, lots of dancing and of course lots of glitter. People from “Beijing and Hong Kong among other places” attended the festival.  

Although much more low-key than other gay festivals around the world, the mostly private events were not without controversy. Authorities forced the cancellation of a play, a film screening and a social mixer and tried to shut the entire festival on Saturday 14 June, according to the New York Times.

According to China’s leading homosexuality scholar Zhang Beichuan, there are 30 million homosexuals (20 million gays and 10 million lesbians), but the government says there are only between five and 10 million. According to China Daily, China only “removed homosexuality from its list of crimes in 1997 and in 2001 recognzied it as natural phenomenon rather than a mental problem.”

Lemay, who’s been living in Shanghai for six years, said she’s noticed a change in public attitude toward homosexuality, but it still has a long way to go. Homosexuals continue to be discriminated against for education and employment rights.

It’s still a good first step—a good dance step.­­

– JD

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