Gay, lesbian community's pride of place

16:20, June 21, 2010      

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Drag queens dotted the sidewalks of Solana on Saturday as members of the gay and straight community descended on Langtung Thai Bar to celebrate their "Jing Pride".

Organized by volunteers from Beijing's gay community, Jing Pride is one of the first gay pride charity events to take place in Beijing, said Maggie Lo, one of the event's three organizers.

"This event shows that more people are accepting us and that Beijing is actually opening up to the community," she said. "It's something to be happy about."

Drag queens, performances by gay and lesbian singers and the raffling of risqu prizes attracted a colorful crowd of people wanting to show their support.

The event was sponsored by more than 15 Beijing businesses. Money from donations and raffle ticket sales were donated to the Chi Heng foundation, an NGO supporting HIV/AIDS impacted orphans, and the Beijing LGBT Center, Beijing's gay and lesbian support center.

Lo said they had hoped to raise more than 10,000 yuan.

Though several of the participants at Jing Pride were LGBT, the event was not targeted specifically toward LGBT people, said Lo.

"It's not just for the gay and lesbian community, but for the people in the straight community who have gay friends as well," she said.

Bradley Chowles, a south Africa-native, was one of several men at the event dressed in drag and selling raffle tickets. He had just heard of the event the night before and, though he is not gay, had to back such a good cause, he said.

"If it was a cause that I didn't think had much value, I wouldn't be here to begin with," he said.

He said he also wanted a chance to try something new, which, in this case, was to shave his legs and dress like a woman.

"People say you don't see a person's true colors until you give them a mask - this is something like that," he said, adding that he was also a guitarist for the "death metal" band Concrete Nothing.

The Chaoyang Center for Disease Control and Prevention also attended the event, handing out condoms and offering onsite five-minute HIV/AIDS tests to the event-goers.

Kevin Yao, a clerk for the Chaoyang CDC, said they were using the opportunity to get in touch with Beijing's gay community.

"Everyone is at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, but this was a chance for us to target specifically LGBT people," Yao said.

The event took one month to plan, but had been on the organizers' minds for more than a year.

"We wanted to do something this year because Shanghai had a Shanghai Pride Event last year and it was about time for Beijing to do the same," Grace Su, another of the event's organizers, said.

Lo said they were cautious about advertising the event too much for fear that it might be shut down, referencing an instance last January where a gay beauty pageant was shut down by police claiming they didn't have proper licensing, minutes before the show started.

"We didn't get much media involved and we didn't do much advertising," she said. "Mainly, it was just word of mouth."

Agu Anumumu, a member of Beijing's gay community, said the event was a perfect display of how Beijing is moving forward in its attitude toward homosexuality.

"Just the fact Beijing is holding events shows that they're progressive," said Anumumu.

Source: China Daily(By Todd Balazovic and William Axford)


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