Reggie Ho: The loneliness of long distance activism

Published: March 24, 2010

Reggie Ho: The loneliness of long distance activism

Fridae.com’s Hong Kong correspondent Nigel Collett meets Reggie Ho, Chairman of Hong Kong’s Gay Helpline Service, HORIZONS – one of the oldest LGBT organisations in the territory.

A decade is a long time in the relentless and seemingly never-ending struggle for gay rights. Frustration, fatigue, distress and burn out are all too common amongst both LGBT organisations and the volunteers that run them. Why should this be? Hong Kong is an open society with a free press enjoying the liberties enshrined within the Common Law and its own Basic Law. You can register almost any kind of society here, and, if you want to, take it onto the streets to protest. All the mechanisms of a functioning democracy are in place. What these mechanisms are not connected to, of course, is power; the cogs whir but fail to drive the machinery, and activist effort can often feel like wading through treacle. Huge effort is needed to make just tiny advances. Add to that the still conservative nature of Hong Kong’s society, which keeps most tongzhi firmly behind their closet doors and so away from the volunteer organisations that need the help of large numbers to function and be financially viable. No money means no full time workers, so the load falls onto the shoulders of the volunteer few. After years of struggle, many activists retire bruised and frustrated, often, too, sadly unnoticed and un-thanked. It’s no wonder that when you look around at the brave few who are leading LGBT groups in Hong Kong today, you will find few who have survived through the long term.

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