From Canto-pop to cinema, the city’s LGBTQ+ community has found inspiration in outspoken and flamboyant stars unafraid to speak their mind or be themselves
Although Taiwan has taken the lead in LGBTQ+ affairs in East Asia " legalising same-sex marriage in May last year " Hong Kong has a proud history of LGBTQ+ representation. Some of the city's most popular stars, regardless of their own sexuality, have become darlings of the LGBTQ+ community. Here are five of Hong Kong's most famous LGBTQ+ icons.
Not just Hong Kong's most famous gay actor and singer, but one of the most famous Hongkongers full stop, Leslie Cheung remains an LGBTQ+ icon nearly 17 years after his death.
In his own words, Cheung was bisexual, saying, "It's easy for me to love a woman. It's also easy for me to love a man, too." In 1979, when he was 22, he asked Teresa Mo to marry him (she declined). Years later, in 1997, he revealed he was in a same-sex relationship with his childhood friend Daffy Tong Hok-tak, and a year later he starred in Wong Kar-wai's gay romance drama, Happy Together. His charm, talent and sad suicide mean Cheung is widely revered to this day.
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Anthony Wong Yiu-ming
Another Hong Kong singer who has been public about his sexuality is singer-turned-activist Anthony Wong Yiu-ming. Wong has said he knew he was gay since high school, when his sexuality came into conflict with his school's Christian teachings.
Although references in his songs alluded to his sexuality it wasn't until 2012, following a series of concerts, that Wong openly declared he was gay, telling, the press, "I never talked about this before because I was worried that if I did you wouldn't have anything to talk about (me) in the future."
A year later Wong founded Big Love Alliance to help promote LGBTQ+ equality and liberation in Hong Kong, establishing him as one of the most important voices in the LGBTQ+ community.
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Also known as HOCC, Denise Ho is probably Hong Kong's most prominent LGBTQ+ activist alongside Anthony Wong Yiu-ming. Like him, she revealed she was gay in 2012, in her case at that year's Hong Kong Pride Parade. The announcement made Ho the first openly gay female singer of her stature in Hong Kong.
Ho has since emerged as a prominent activist, for both democracy and LGBTQ+ rights in the city, and it has been suggested that her outspoken views have resulted in cancelled concerts in both Hong Kong and abroad. In a sign of increasing acceptance of same-sex relationships, it's notable that, these days, Ho is more controversial for her pro-democracy views than her sexuality.
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The godfather of Canto-pop may not have been a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself " unmarried, his personal life was a very private affair " but he still inspired many members of that community. The singer's camp and androgynous style opened many people's minds to new perceptions of gender and masculinity.
"Tam transcended being straight or gay, male or female," LGBTQ+ advocate Brian Leung told the South China Morning Post. "When I saw him perform onstage, he was like an alien. He could be everything for everyone."
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A legend of Cantonese opera, Yam Kim-fai became an LGBTQ+ icon in Hong Kong due to her exceptional acting ability and sexual ambiguity. Yam stared in hundreds of movies, often playing the male lead. This led to all sorts of different scenarios, such as 1963's A Perfect Marriage where Yam, a woman, acted as a man pretending to be a woman. Such gender fluidity and a devoted 40-year relationship " considered platonic " with co-star Pak Suet-sin helped endear her to many in the gay community.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations' helplines, see this page.
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