ShanghaiPRIDE 2010: It's not just for gays
In a country where the majority of gay men and women still marry members of the opposite sex due to social pressure, many people in China know very little about what it means to be gay. This month's ShanghaiPRIDE festival, starting this weekend, hopes to change that.
After its (admittedly bumpy) inaugural festival last year, ShanghaiPRIDE is back for a second round, with a simple goal: be bigger and better than before.
ShanghaiPRIDE: Same, but different
This year’ ShanghaiPRIDE is a festival to celebrate Shanghai’s LGBT community and its supporters. But instead of one massive parade (can you really imagine a West Village-style parade down the Bund?), ShanghaiPRIDE is capitalizing on the city’s diverse community, throwing a series of small indoor events, activities and parties, including panel discussions, film screenings, art exhibitions and sport events.
“ShanghaiPRIDE 2010 will be similar to last year's festival in most ways,” says Kenneth Tan, one of the main organizers of the festival. “The biggest difference is the events will be spread over three weeks this year instead of one.”
Limiting the impact if a single event runs into trouble, as was true last year.
Holding a gay festival in Shanghai is far from an easy task. However, the organizers admit the biggest challenge for them is the lack of time.
“Coordinating the efforts of a diverse group of individuals is a great challenge,” says Tan, “especially when everyone in Shanghai is so busy with their own projects.”
As a non-profit festival event, all the core organizers of ShanghaiPRIDE contribute their time and effort voluntarily.
And with the festival running for three weeks instead of the originally planned two, this year events will be more spread out, rather than on a daily basis.
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By Chinese for Chinese
While the program is designed similar to last year's week-long event, this year's film screening will be curated by the Beijing based filmmaker Fan Popo, who is the brains behind Beijing's Queer Film Festival.
Pride shouldn't just be about the LGBT community issuing a plea for acceptance to society in large. It's also an opportunity for people to tell the LGBT community and the world 'We accept you for who you are.'— Kenneth Tan, ShanghaiPRIDE organizer
According to Tan, some of China's top experts in gay issues will attend this year's panel discussions, although the list of speakers has not yet been released.
Note: Make sure to keep the night of Oct. 22 open. Trust us.
“One more new thing about this year's Pride is more involvement of local Chinese gay communities,” points out Dylan Chen, 27, another organizer from Changchun. “While last year's event looked like festival held by foreigners living in Shanghai, ShanghaiPRIDE is not only for foreigners.”
“In contrast to last year's situation, all but two of our group of core coordinators are Chinese nationals,” adds the 32-year-old Tan, a Singaporean now based in Shanghai. “This year's Pride is by Chinese and for Chinese.”
According to Chen, the local Chinese gay and lesbian groups will contribute their specialties to the festival. Two local gay and lesbian communities that are active online will stage a karaoke contest, and another online community will hold the “Gay Games.”
“The festival is not all about parties,” explains Chen. “There is something for everyone.”
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Diversity, unity and harmony
Different from the way gay prides are traditionally run, ShanghaiPRIDE has “no parades, no processions and no protests,” says Tan. “It will be a gay pride with Chinese characteristics.”
Is it possible to have gay pride within all the restrictions that are imposed? “Yes, absolutely,” Tan says resolutely. “You see starting October 16 that it is possible.”
With "Diversity, unity and harmony” as the theme for the festival, ShanghaiPRIDE 2010 aims to not only celebrate the subcultures within the LGBT community, but also to reach out to people who are not gay.
“Pride shouldn't just be about the LGBT community issuing a plea for acceptance to society in large,” says Tan. “It's also an opportunity for families, friends and co-workers of the LGBT people to tell the world 'We accept you for who you are.'"
“Many of us face problems of being forced to get married, or not being accepted by our families,” says Leesan, organizer of Shanghai's active gay badminton group. “An event like this is a step forward, and it is every one of our responsibility to take actions to support it for the happiness of the next generation's LGBT people in Shanghai and in China as a whole.”
Chen also finds a personal connection with the festival.
“For me, the ShanghaiPRIDE festival taking place here is a way to say, 'It’s okay to be gay',” says Chen. “When I was growing up, homosexuality was always portrayed in a negative image and was always related to AIDS. Making this festival happen means I can help give a positive and healthy image of gay people in Shanghai, and deliver a message to the young people today that it is okay to be different here.”