Monday, June 15, 2009

View from your Pride: Shanghai, China

Over the weekend Shanghai, China held it's first ever Pride Event:

New York Times reports:
SHANGHAI — It was shortly after the “hot body” contest and just before a painted procession of Chinese opera singers took the stage that the police threatened to shut down China’s first gay pride festival. The authorities had already forced the cancellation of a play, a film screening and a social mixer, so when an irritated plainclothes officer arrived at the Saturday afternoon gala and flashed his badge, organizers feared the worst.

After some fraught negotiations, Hannah Miller, an American teacher who helped put together the weeklong festival, agreed to limit the crowds, keep the noise down and, most important, “not let anything happen that might embarrass the government,” she explained after returning from the impromptu sidewalk meeting. “That was a close call,” she said.

Crisis averted, the party continued.

And so it went for Shanghai Pride week, a delicately orchestrated series of private events that revealed how far China’s gay community had come, and how much further it had to go. In the 12 years since homosexuality was decriminalized in China, there has been an unmistakable blossoming of gay life, even if largely underground. Most big cities have gay bars, and social networking sites ease the isolation of those living in China’s rural hinterland. Antigay violence is virtually unheard of.

But official tolerance has its limits. Gay publications and plays are banned, gay Web sites are occasionally blocked and those who try to advocate for greater legal protections for lesbians and gay men sometimes face harassment from the police. For years, movie buffs in Beijing have tried, and failed, to get permission for a gay film festival.

This month, public security officials forced Wan Yanhai, a prominent advocate on gay issues, including AIDS, to leave Beijing for a week because they feared he might cause trouble during the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

“Sometimes I feel like we are playing a complicated game with the government,” Mr. Wan said. “No one knows where the line is, but we just keep pushing.”

We've certainly got our battles here in The States but we're still further along than some many people and so many places. This should not be taken for granted.

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