If you’re not an expat with access to an obliging consulate, you can’t marry your same-sex partner in Asia. No country will yet allow you to. Taiwan continues to consider the idea of marriage; Nepal intends to introduce it, one day when it gets around to writing its new constitution; Thailand is thinking of civil partnerships. Otherwise, if you’re gay or lesbian, you have to fly off to somewhere a long way away like New Zealand or Canada to tie the knot with the one you love. Which is what Hong Kongers Guy Ho and Henry Lam Kwok-Yin (JiaJia) decided to do last year, choosing Vancouver to do the deed.
Guy Ho and Henry Lam (right)
Like many others, they wanted a video of the day, only on this occasion things got a bit out of hand. They asked friend Chi-Man Yung to make the film, but as Guy and Henry explained to me, “it all started off as a short film just to capture our wedding event, to give us something to share with family and friends. But once Director Yung got on board, he had other ideas and saw the potential to send a message to a much wider audience.” So the film Different Path, Same Way (異路同途) was born and Guy, Henry and Chi-man Yung founded Primaco Productions to make it.
Both Guy and Henry are natives of Hong Kong, but Guy had been in Canada to study and work so marrying there was a natural for the couple. Henry has been well known in Hong Kong’s LGBT activist circles for many years. As ‘Reporter A’, he was one of the founders and co-producers of Gayradio.hk, the online radio station for LGBT audiences which flourished up until 2011, but then had to close due to funding problems.
One of his greatest successes during his time with Gayradio.hk was in 2009, when he created the first Hong Kong gay video drama, 99 Days, so he had enough experience of filming to take on the role of producer. Henry is also a novelist, author of two gay novels, one already published in Chinese in Taipei, Shoes and Running Track, the story of a schoolboy love affair that came out in 2005. Its sequel Cross Tracks, has yet to hit the press (it will be on sale later this year), and will examine the separate lives of intimate friends.
Different Path, Same Way is a remarkably brave venture in a place still as socially conservative as Hong Kong. The idea of two men marrying is alone enough to create waves here, and making a film to explore the whole topic of gay marriage and the importance of the support a Chinese gay couple gets from the bonding of their families takes things to a new level. The message the film brings to the screen is a timely one, for the issue is at last in the air here.
Recent moves in Hong Kong to introduce legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity have provoked opposition from the usual sources, which maintains, one line among many, that such a bill would be a first step to same-sex marriage. So the cat is to some degree out of the bag, and many would see the need to address the issue now as a long-term goal and hide from it no longer.
Guy Ho and Henry Lam (right)
More images at gailywed.wordpress.com
Guy and Henry certainly do. I asked them why they thought same-sex unions important and what form they should take. They replied: “We think same-sex marriage should be legalised everywhere, not just in Hong Kong, simply because there are gays everywhere. Of course, we now live here in Hong Kong and we want us to have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. So as long as we can be granted the same legal rights as a married couple, we don’t really care how the union is labeled.”
Their film was completed in September last year and was almost immediately selected for screening by the Chinese Documentary Festival 2012, for which it was first screened on 3 November. It got its first major public screening, though, on 19 December before a partially invited audience at the Hong Kong Science Museum. There were some influential VIPs that night in the audience, some of whom spoke at the discussion session after the showing. These included W.K. Lam, Executive Councillor and Chairman of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission; the Reverend Silas Wong, Pastor of the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship; Dr. Petula Ho Sik-ying, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Hong Kong University; and the Honourable Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, the first and only openly gay Member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
I asked Guy and Henry what reaction they had received so far.
“Those who came to see the film found it touching and were very supportive,” they replied. “We were also told that we are very brave!”
I repeated that praise, and asked how their families had taken to being so publicly ‘outed’ with their sons on the screen (many of them feature in the film). “Some were so touched that they cried watching the film and were very happy for us,” they answered.
The movie, being an independent venture, will be largely distributed through film festivals, but the pair plans to arrange occasional screenings for specific events. The film has been nominated to be shown in the ‘Hong Kong Short Film: New Action Express’, a scheme launched by the Hong Kong Arts Centre to promote excellent Hong Kong short films and videos locally and abroad. Chi-man Yung has himself funded an entry to the Taiwan South Film Festival in early December. The team is also working to get some more screening opportunities in Hong Kong. I think that it is likely to feature in the campaigns over anti-discrimination here over the next few years. Guy and Henry summed up their hopes for their screen venture: “Through the film, we hope to educate the general public that we homosexuals are just the normal human beings who also have the desire to build a family.”