The executive director of Chinese Lala Alliance, a lesbian leadership group in China. Ms. Zhang is also on the International Lesbian and Gay Association board, a worldwide network of LGBT groups.
In China, things are different between LGBTI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Inclusive] people in big cities and those in small cities. In big cities, it’s easier for LGBTI people to be accepted by friends and colleagues, so more and more LGBTI young people leave their hometown and live in big cities to [live] their lifestyle.
But it’s still hard for most LGBTI people to come out to their families no matter where they are, since we have a close connection with our parents and have to deal with huge marriage pressure. That’s why more and more fake marriages between lesbians and gays appear.
In Hong Kong, the whole society has been deeply influenced by conservative Christian [values] and all public LGBTI issues were attacked by religious groups. Although several famous LGBTI people came out in the past two years and spoke for LGBTI communities, the anti-LGBTI groups grew very quickly. This May, the religious groups held a parade, hoping to fight for the traditional value of marriage.
Most LGBTI people choose to stay in the closet since they are not sure if they can be accepted.
Our government never supports LGBTI issues in public or in any regulations or laws. LGBTI communities are not mentioned in most existing laws or regulations. There are only two regulations that mention LGBTI issues: One is that LGBTI issues are forbidden [to appear] in mainstream media, and the other says that gays are not allowed to donate blood.
Canada always gives people, especially those in Chinese-speaking society, an impression about its open attitudes towards LGBTI issues. So I think Canada is suitable to host a WorldPride.
St. Lucia: Kenita Placide
The co-executive director of St. Lucia’s United and Strong Inc. and the Eastern Caribbean co-ordinator at CariFLAGS, the Caribbean Forum for Liberation and Acceptance of Genders and Sexualities.
Although [The Caribbean] tends to be one of the more homophobic regions, I think a lot of advancements have been made. We have been very instrumental in changing societal attitudes and norms, and I think there is an increasing tolerance. Coming into WorldPride in Toronto, it gives us an opportunity to share some of our work.
As we know, stigma and discrimination is still everywhere, and there is still a lot of work to be done, but I think apart from looking at the negative situations that have taken place in the Caribbean, we can do a contrast with the positive and see how we can get more [positivity].
The government has not played any role. The government has been pretty much silent. We have a very active media advocacy program that has also launched so we are constantly in the media, writing in the media, talking with the media about the situation LBGT people are facing in [St. Lucia] and around the Caribbean.
You have to know that there is the religious backlash, but still I found that there is an increasing amount of people who understand what we are doing and who are supporting us.
Canada has been, for a lot of countries, a place for refuge, a place of rest.
Brazil: Lucas Paoli Itaborahy
Mr. Paoli Itaborahy is a Brazilian activist on poverty and LGBT issues.
Brazil is known as being a very open country full of sexual diversity and liberation … we’ve organized one of the biggest gay parades in the world, but it’s a big country and it still has lots of problems. Religious opposition is increasing over time, and so is our workload because we just have to deal with a lot of discrimination in certain spaces, especially if you go to smaller towns. But in the big cities like Rio and Sao Paulo, things are of course very different and easier as well.
Nowadays, there are government agencies that deal exclusively with LGBTI issues. That’s something that we now have to increase [awareness] about and to use these places. We have really been able to increase the number of government agencies tackling sexual orientation [issues].