"If the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969 signified a formal beginning of the LGBT movement in the US, the MacLennan Incident in Hong Kong in 1980 shared the same significance in paving the way for the tongzhi movement in Hong Kong" – Travis S. K. Kong, Sky H. L. Lau, and Eva C. Y. Li. “The Fourth Wave? A Critical Reflection on the Tongzhi Movement in Hong Kong"
At the risk of seeming reductionist, myriad parallels may be drawn between minoritized sexual politics across time and place. As stated in my last post, the phallocentric treatment of lesbianism in the West (in the past and present, in everyday life and the historiography) is reminiscent of the Qing state’s primary sexual precept – “the impenetrability of all ‘decent’ people" (Vitiello, 128). Lucetta Yip Lo Kam also discusses the rarity of female
"Let Me Queer My Throat: Queer Rhetorics of Negotiation:
Marriage Equality and Homonormativity." Harlot.
Accessed March 27, 2017. http://harlotofthearts.org/
Though political efforts centered around sexual civics were nothing new by the time of the Stonewall Uprising, the historic event did usher in gay liberation (what one might classify as the third wave of Western queer activisms). The "LGBT" political culture of the seventies was a stark contrast to the century of respectability politics that preceded it. Yet the AIDS epidemic soon became a grim reminder of the importance of legal protections and institutionalized identity (thus, ushering in a fourth wave). In Tiantian Zheng's Tongzhi Living: Men Attracted to Men in Postsocialist China, the author asks a group of men in a cruising park within a major city center about gay marriage:
"[E]veryone looks startled and responds, 'Of course not!' The man sitting next to us says, 'No, this kind of thing cannot be brought into the daylight!' (zhengda guangming). Another man says, 'I haven't even thought [of marriage]. Two men together are just for play. It's different from the marriage between a male and a female. [The relationship] between two men is temporary and cannot be permanent." Tan adds, 'If you get married, you'll be the focus of the world's attention as one of the few gay married couples – of course no one wants that! How shameful it would be!' (duibu duiren a)." (2)
As is implied by this post's opening quote, however, Hong Kong's public debates about homosexuality were being brought to the fore in the eighties (characterizing Hong Kong's own first wave of tongzhi politics, as identified by the authors above). Like Stonewall, the MacLennan Incident's prominence was, in part, reliant upon shock factor and media coverage. Unlike Stonewall, the "Incident" was sparked by a single individual – a Scottish police inspector charged with gross indecency, who was either killed in a police cover-up or committed suicide (192). One event was characterized by collective triumph, the other, individual tragedy.
Kam herself notes a shift from the "social/collective to the private/individual" when it comes to sexuality in China (25) – a kind of de-institutionalization of "heteronormativity" and "family values" that belies expectations for China to "progress," "evolve," or "develop" in any manner similar to that of "the West." Compare, in Hong Kong, what Kong et al. refer to as "utilitarianistic familism" – a product of British laissez-faire economics that encouraged "productive" competition between Chinese family units – and "family biopolitics" – a kind of regulated, heterocentrist, biologically deterministic mechanism that "shifted the site of governance from the state to the family" (191). Politics, economics, gender and sexuality are clearly very bound up in one another. How has the West co-opted traditional Chinese values and conceptions of family to serve its economic and political gains? How will Hong Kong contend with present-day Chinese manifestations of "pink capitalism" (and its obvious issues), given these preexisting colonial influences?