International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)
Co-organized by Pink Alliance, Amnesty International, and Transgender Resource Centre
Speech by Dr York CHOW, Chairperson, Equal Opportunities Commission
Good evening. Thank you to the organizers – Pink Alliance, Transgender Resource Centre, and Amnesty International – for inviting me. I am very happy and proud to be here to support this very important fight against homophobia and transphobia. This event is particularly timely as we have heard lots of unfounded, prejudicial views recently during the discussion on marriage rights for transsexual persons.
Many of you are familiar with the Equal Opportunities Commission and our work to promote an inclusive and pluralistic society. I feel very strongly that in an international city such as Hong Kong, there is no place for discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
That is why we have been outspoken in pushing for legislation, both to protect against discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to take a holistic and progressive view to gender recognition – that is, without a pre-requisite for full gender reassignment surgery – in order to ensure that the transgender community can equally access their rights.
We believe that legislation serves not only as a deterrent for those who are unlikely to shed their discriminatory ways, but also as an effective and persuasive means to educating the public. Legal protection would help to create a safe space for those who wish to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a first and necessary step to eradicating homophobia and transphobia from our city.
Over the last year since I became the Chairperson of the EOC, I have been repeatedly struck by the amount of misinformation and stereotypes which are held up to justify prejudicial behavior. While some may be willfully ignorant, many others appear to be ill-informed about the LGBTI community and the injustices you are facing.
People often fear what they do not know. Some may have had little chance to interact with members of the LGBTI community, either as a friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, or fellow parent.
There is much to do. We need open and honest dialogue founded upon mutual respect. We need accurate information and the end to generalizations. We need vocal role models and allies who would speak up in the face of inequality. We need legislation that ensures equal protection. We need to embrace and encourage the diversity among us. We need, above all, to support each other.
So I applaud all of you here today, whether you are here to stand up for yourself or to be an ally to the community. I am aware that for some of you, coming out, being open, and being here took an act of courage, perhaps at considerable personal cost. Your presence, your commitment to stand up for freedom from fear, is inspiring – not only to me, but I am sure to the many others who might be struggling for the courage to also come out. Geena is, of course, a great example of this – of how one’s personal story and journey can touch and encourage countless others.
I had many opportunities to talk with young people in the past year. For them and many of their generation, there is no question that people should not be deprived of equal rights, opportunities and respect because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Indeed, as I look at young people’s expectation of diversity and inclusion, which comes almost as a second nature, I am thankfully reminded of the progress so far and this gives me hope for the future. But we cannot be complacent. History of civil rights around the world has shown that changes are made possible only by each individual’s refusal to be a bystander to discrimination. So, together, let’s keep the momentum going.
Thank you for being here, and for inviting me to be here with you. The EOC looks forward to working with you for a Hong Kong society that is free from homophobia and transphobia.