Just when you think things are getting better for gay people around the world, someone or something seems to pop up who think that the world will come to an end if attitudes change.
I was really saddened to hear about the problems in China for the organizers and contestants of the first Mr Gay China contest. Tickets for the event were sold out, but Chinese authorities shut it down just one hour before, stating that the organizers didn’t have the proper paperwork, even though they apparently did complete all the necessary forms.
Obviously someone somewhere got cold feet and in a country that has is so conservative (ironic really for a former communist country) they must have thought this was a step too far. This is a real shame though it would never have got so far under the ‘old order’ that’s for sure. There are an estimated 30 million gay people in China, admittedly many of them still not having come out, mainly because attitudes are still slow to change there. Until 1997 homosexuality was still classed as criminal and it was seen as a mental illness until 2001. China had begun to make small advances for gay rights in the country and last month a state backed gay bar opened, there has been a Gay Pride event in Beijing and even a gay wedding has been reported despite it still being illegal. Things are changing so let’s all hope that next year the ruling elite will not be so timid about letting their people be free to express themselves with a fun competition.
When the first gay pageants were launched in this country it was on the back of a very hard fought gay rights battle. Gay people were angry at the way they had been treated in the past and were now demanding rights that had been denied them. A Mr Gay UK competition was, to many, a symbol of that struggle even if the contestants had little more to do than strut around in their underwear. When we took over the running of Mr Gay UK we just wanted people to have fun. We wanted every club in the UK to be able to have someone to represent them, and their customers, in a national fun event. Over the years literally hundreds and hundreds of nervous young guys have taken to the stage in heats and finals in an effort to win the title. In this country we now take for granted things that only a few short years ago we were not allowed to do or be, I can’t imagine being faced with such difficulties as in China when I run the Mr Gay UK contest. Having to always look over your shoulder must be really worrying for contestants and organisers, plus having the financial pressures of refunding tickets etc.
Although I do think it would make me more determined to change attitudes and break down the barriers.