Where are we now?

Asia in colourThe following is the draft of an op-ed piece which was published in the first issue of Element magazine. To read the full article, as well as a feature story on 3 HIV-positive gay men, download the first issue of Element magazine here.

It is an exciting time to be queer in Asia.

If you live in Hong Kong, you might have been partly responsible for voting in the territory’s first openly gay lawmaker, even as singers are finally coming out of their Canto-pop closets. No, it’s not another TVB drama, it’s real life.

Taiwan, the hallmark of a progressive Asian nation and also the country that gave us the patron deity of gays (the Rabbit God), celebrated its 10th year of LGBT pride and had its first same-sex Buddhist wedding in 2012.

In Japan, gay couples can now have their wedding ceremonies in Tokyo Disneyland, so don’t be too surprised to see Minnie-san and Daisy-san finally leaving their respective rodent and feathered “boyfriends” to marry each other. In 2009, the government proposed plans to allow Japanese nationals to marry same-sex partners in countries where it is legal to do so. India finally decriminalised consensual sex between men when they repealed section 377 of the Penal Code 3 years ago. The late Queen Victoria, Empress of India, would certainly not have been amused!

Quite surprisingly, Myanmar held its first openly gay pride celebrations, and governments in both Vietnam and Thailand are even looking into reviewing current legislation with the possibility of introducing same-sex civil partnerships. Looks like the rest of ASEAN really needs to catch up with our hot neighbours!

Singapore showed the rest of the region how to have an outdoor party with a difference, when more than 10,000 people gathered with LED torches to form the largest ever Pink Dot at night, marking the freedom to love regardless of one’s sexual orientation.

Leow Yangfa is editor of “I Will Survive: Personal gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender stories in Singapore.” When he’s not sleeping, he’s trying to be a social worker and a fabulous uncle to his 5 nieces.