LGBTQIA+ isn’t the issue. Bigotry is.

November 05, 2021 09:36
Photo: Reuters

Early last month, gay widower Henry Li dropped a legal challenge againt the SAR government over its refusal to recognise him as the surviving spouse of his deceased partner.

The case was resolved through the administration’s concession – and implicit acceptance – that individuals such as Henry will be treated, as they should rightfully be, as the spouses of their deceased partners, irrespective of sexual orientation.

These rights – these entitlements, may seem like most trivial of all matters. Indeed, there exists on surface an air of ostensible triviality that underpins much of the debate surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights in Hong Kong – whether it be fighting over recognition of spousal status post-mortem, legislating against explicit discrimination by statutory bodies, or, indeed, the pressing for more egalitarian and open-minded education within schools.

Yet the triviality here – make no mistake – reflects less upon the fact that LGBTQIA+ individuals have scant to complain about, and more upon the fact that we, as a collective, remain tragically behind the years when it comes to LGBTQIA+ empowerment. Granting privileges and rights such as the above to individuals shouldn’t be contentious – it shouldn’t be a matter disputed and challenged, such as the hosting of Gay Games in Hong Kong: basic human decency and respect are non-negotiables.

Let’s be very clear about this. LGBTQIA+ is not the issue. Diversity isn’t the issue. The real issue rests with those who posit that celebrating and accepting the rights of LGBTQIA+ folks, must come necessarily at the expense of social stability and order. The real problem lies with those who substitute arguments with bigotry – explicit, virulent bigotry premised upon false, erroneous claims about LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Now, I do harbour at least a minimal level of respect for those who disagree with equal marriage and recognition of LGBTQIA+ rights on legal grounds – those who argue that we should not legislate to protect such rights, for the law is the erroneous means by which this occurs; to the extent that these are genuine beliefs they hold, I respectfully disagree with them, but I also respect them for their consistency and willingness to stick to their argumentative guns.

The issue lies, however, with those who are seeking to masquerade their bigotry through the language of morality and morals, who seek to legitimise their exclusion of the sexual Other on grounds that are thinner than an A-4 sheet of paper – who equate emancipation of others’ rights with regression in their own. I find such alarmism jarring, anachronistic, and fundamentally unreflective of the underlying currents of the times we live in. Get with the times, folks.

LGBTQIA+ individuals do not kill others merely because they are LGBTQIA+. Nor do they inflict harm upon others – grievous bodily harm and whatnot. Bullying stemming from bigotry directed towards these folks, on the other hand, do kill. Suicide rates amongst LGBTQIA+ teens who face aggressive taunting and harassment by ignorant and malignant peers are persistently higher than those of non-LGBTQIA+ teens, whether it be in Hong Kong or elsewhere. The haranguing of those who deviate from the ostensible sexual norm is morally impermissible – yet tolerated in name of “freedom of speech”. There shouldn’t be any freedom to sprout speech that incites the killing or serious maiming of other individuals.

LGBTQIA+ individuals are not the ones who are holding our community, our society back from economic progress. Diversity has become an increasingly significant agenda item and source of capital (not that that should be the decisive factor here) when it comes to promulgating tourism, improving workplace culture and productivity, as well as grounding cross-cultural exchanges and collaboration. On the other hand, those who prize themselves for steadfastly chastising and ostracising minorities – are the folks who truly have to think twice. Are you not holding up our society from progressing in a direction that is more egalitarian? What is the gatekeeping for, but for concealing your deeply rooted insecurities about a world where folks can actually engage with each other on more equal grounds?

LGBTQIA+ individuals are not the sinners. The real sinners are those who distort and weaponise religious imagery to promulgate self-serving agenda; who manipulate emotions and alleged conventional morality as a stepping stone to the pulpit of no accountability. The impunity of those who are impervious to compassion is something that deserves far more moral outrage, than what two consenting adults do in their private, intimate spheres. We’ve spent so much time panicking about what our world would look like if we legalised gay marriage – perhaps some of such energy would be better spent elsewhere, e.g. tackling issues of housing and land inequality in one of the most unequal leading cities in the world. Just my two cents of worth – what do I know?

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HKEJ contributor