Hong Kong: The case of socialite Gigi Chao who grabbed international headlines last month when she published a letter to her multi-billionaire father asserting her sexuality and asking him to accept her spouse, has highlighted the gay rights debate in Hong Kong, reports the BBC.
Her father is property tycoon Cecil Chao, a never-married playboy who has boasted of bedding 10,000 women, who offered more than $100m to any man who could successfully woo and marry his daughter.
This family saga of a wealthy father, his determined daughter and an enormous dowry has attracted interest from around the world, reports the BBC. It has also drawn attention to the lack of legal protection for sexual minorities in Hong Kong, an outwardly modern and cosmopolitan city.
Ms Chao says her money and celebrity have shielded her from the sort of discrimination often experienced by sexual minorities in this deeply conservative society.
Her “coming out” story, while unusually public, is in marked contrast to that of Angel Tsang, a 27 year-old transsexual woman, reports BBC.
Born male, Tsang paid little attention to her gender identity until five years ago, when she happened to see a full-length red and black dress in a store window.
Within a few months, she decided she wanted to live fully as a woman.
When she confessed the plan to her mother, she was given a choice: remain a man and live at home, or become a woman and be cast out. Then 22, she chose the latter.
Tsang says she lost a steady job as an assistant in a hair salon because the boss was uncomfortable with her gender identity.
“My ID didn’t match my appearance, so the bosses wouldn’t hire me,” she says, sitting in a suburban park where she once slept. “To me, this was discrimination, but to them, it wasn’t,” she told the BBC
Eventually, Tsang found help from Rainbow of Hong Kong, a non-profit organisation that helps sexual minorities.
Last September, she had sexual re-assignment surgery. And in December, she finished another round of facial surgery that gave her the chiseled features of a movie star.
“I didn’t have the surgery for myself. I had no problem with the way I used to look. But, for society to accept me, I have to be more feminine than a natural-born woman,” she told BBC.
This week Tsang and her colleagues from Rainbow addressed Hong Kong lawmakers at the Legislative Council.
Tommy Jai, a spokesman for the group, urged them to expand existing anti-discrimination legislation to protect sexual minorities.
During his testimony, he held up a photograph of a young lesbian woman who reportedly killed herself last year because she was tired of being mistreated due to her sexual orientation.
Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is not banned in Hong Kong although homosexuality was de-criminalized in Hong Kong in 1991.
Five years later, the Equal Opportunity Commission was set up to carry out anti-discrimination legislation.
A public consultation in 1996 found strong opposition to laws protecting sexual minorities, so they were not included in the new ordinance.
Under Hong Kong’s current laws, it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender, family status, ethnicity or disability, but not sexual orientation or identity.