Hello, My Queer Comrades!
Or perhaps this is more of a disclaimer.
I was in Hong Kong and Macau for a short period of 2 weeks each and I did not take any photographs for this project, feeling at the time that this was a violation and exhibition of strangers’ personal space, though perhaps I should think more deeply about why I make a distinction between writing and pictures or why I do not consider writing about someone to be a form of equally violating personal space. Believe me, these truly are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.
Further, while I recognize that the residents of Hong Kong and Macau do not appreciate being lumped together, my putting them together in this essay is not to say that they are homogenous groups, but simply because the close proximity of the two physical spaces allow for tourists to experience both back-to-back, and tourists most do. The simple fact of being able to use Hong Kong money in Macau (but unfortunately not vice-versa) is telling of how connected these two spaces are in the eyes of travellers.
We were asked to take a "cultural approach" to writing this sort of "travel guide/un-guide book." Keeping in mind that my understanding is limited to my own experiences and the frameworks presented by my formal/informal education, I wanted to provide a brief look into how people in these postcolonial and globalized spaces negotiate their sexual and gender identities. I did some formal research, reading some essays, books, and internet articles I found, but mostly just observed like a traveller would.
Globalization, in really broad terms, deals with movement (people, ideas, objects) across national borders and rejects essentialist notions of nationalism. I think the commonly cited metaphor here is that countries are all becoming "melting pots" or "salad bowls". Similarly, terms and definitions are constantly being defined and re-defined by the queer community -- even the word queer itself is in the process of being "reclaimed". Part of "queerness" is the idea of inclusiveness, which implies a resistance against absolute borders and categorization (and this resistance itself is a tacit recognition some sort of powerful authority to create such borders). In such a well-connected city like Hong Kong, or a rapidly-changing city like Macau, which borders are being blurred and crossed? What new borders are being drawn?
Part of the discourse about "safe" spaces is about separation -- while having these spaces (both physical and virtually over the internet) are important in creating networks and affirming one's identity, it also separates people from "the rest of society" and marks them as different, "other," or "outside." Social justice tends to aim to do the opposite.
My aim with this portion of the un-guide book is not to provide all of the information about all the LGBTQ+ people ever, but instead provide a brief window into Hong Kong and Macau’s diverse communities from a traveller’s perspective.