SmartShanghai: Hey hi! Who are you guys, and what's Qmmunity?
Evander Wan: I’m Evander Wan, from Hunan. I was relocated to Shanghai last July. Apart from organizing galas, I join other Qmmunity events. And Dragon Boat racing!
Gabby: I grew up in Cleveland, and moved to Shanghai from Boston in 2012. My full-time job is split between Qmmunity and Gab China, a digital agency that the Qmmunity team started.
Evander: Qmmunity a social enterprise based in Shanghai, founded in 2014, that is actively working to advance the Chinese LGBT community. We work through diversity and inclusion trainings, consulting and grassroots community organizing, events and social programming, workshops, film screenings, storytelling, Taco Tuesdays… Qmmunity also provides professional consulting services to corporations intended to enhance diversity and inclusion cultures internally. We have an app!
SmSh: What's IDAHOT, and why's it on May 17?
Evander: IDAHOT is short for The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It was started in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. The date was chosen to commemorate the WHO's decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.
Gabby: Also, I started Qmmunity in May 2014, so it's a chance to celebrate our five-year anniversary, too.
SmSh: Galas are good for that! I hear the US Consul General is involved?
Gabby: Galas are great for that! Denise Minnfield will be singing at the reception, and, yes, there's a keynote from US Consul General Stein. We wanted an ally to be our speaker, someone notable that can make a statement that, hey, homophobia/transphobia/biphobia isn’t cool, and that you don’t need to be gay to celebrate diversity.
There'll also be short speeches from the head of PFLAG Shanghai and a leader of an LGBTQ Group in Guangzhou who is traveling up for the occasion. Plus, three-course meal, free-flow cocktails all night, dancing…
SmSh: In your opinion, what's the biggest challenge facing LGBTQ in China?
Evander: Government and general opinion towards the LGBTQ community varies from city to city – generally speaking, the LGBTQ community enjoys a relatively freer atmosphere in cities like Shanghai and Beijing, compared to smaller ones. However, the government is vague about LGBTQ rights – their general attitude is "no approval, no disapproval and no promotion."
Gabby: I’d say one of the biggest challenges in China is the limited access to LGBTQ information. Will a person be able to self-identify? After they have identified themselves as part of the community, who will they be able to tell? Most of the challenges in coming out in China isn’t about policy, it’s about family.
Societal pressure to get married and have children is the rule, so anyone who strays from that – be it single heterosexual women or LGBTQ – are going to have kickback from those closest to them. At our discussions, the first question an expat often has after they self-identify is “what does this mean for me?” whereas a Chinese person often asks “what does this mean for my family?"
SmSh: How are we doing, in Shanghai specifically? Are we good? Is it better? Worse than before?
Gabby: I’d say Shanghai is much better than it used to be, and on a global scale, not bad at all. There are more LGBTQ events and activities happening in the city than ever before, not just by Qmmunity, but by other organizations and venues. One of the great things about China is the lack of violent crime, so in many ways if there is homophobia, people aren’t (normally) going to be as forthright in their aggression. That being said, the difficulties are still with family and societal pressures.
SmSh: What's a good way to support the community (besides, say, pressuring our corporate overlords into sponsoring a gala)?
Gabby: An easy one: don’t assume people’s sexuality. That’s an easy one people can do, just by simply adding that there could be another option besides being heterosexual, is always a good way to help raise awareness and provide a comfortable foundation for someone coming out.
Evander: On an individual level, any small gesture makes a difference, from attending and promoting LGBTQ events to even just following LGBTQ communities on social media.
SmSh: Quick, shout-outs to LGBTQ-friendly venues, go! Or dump on some shitty ones...
Gabby: Qmmunity (obviously!). But also places like Roxie, Lucca, Happiness 42, Into, Ladygogo, and health oriented venues like More Health, Shanghai CSW & MSM Center.
There have been a couple venues and MNCs that aren't so eager to seem LGBTQ friendly. When we were passing out our rainbow stickers last year, about 1/3 of the venues said yes to being labeled as LGBTQ friendly. 1/3 didn't get back to us. 1/3 just said no. That sucks. Particularly corporations who do diversity initiatives in the US and then don’t replicate them in China.
The IDAHOT Gala is happening 7-11pm on May 17 at Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel. Tickets are 988rmb per person, available on their channel, WeChat ID: Qmmunity.