My name is Charlene Liu. I was born in Malaysia and have lived in the US and Singapore before moving to Shanghai. In my professional life, I spent almost 20 years working in the semiconductor and electronics industries. That’s what brought me to Shanghai (…that and a messy breakup). Now, I work at a global consulting firm.
When I arrived in Shanghai in 2005, I wanted to stay low key, but that didn’t happen. That’s because I love to hang out and party, and met many friends along the way. Some of them happened to be LGBTQ. This was the time where there weren’t so many restaurants, bars, etc. So we’d meet almost the same people everywhere. Imagine, this was before social media such as WeChat and Weibo, so we used email and SMS to keep in touch. Along the way, some of us decided to create a networking platform on Yahoo Groups called ShanghaiLGBT to keep each other updated about upcoming gatherings through a mailing list.
Very soon we became a welcoming committee for those visiting from out of town. Then in 2009, some friends were leaving Shanghai and we decided to throw a big party, that was how ShangaiPRIDE was created. It was just for one time, but we had many people come up to tell us that they found the event meaningful, they found a support group, or they found their partners through ShanghaiPRIDE – this is exactly my journey as well. Today, ShanghaiPRIDE has become an annual festival and this June, we will be hosting the tenth edition.
My most favorite thing about Shanghai is how everything that is so different can exist together. We have the new high rises next to old lane houses. We have fancy restaurants and roadside stalls. We have the expensive and the cheap. We have people from all over the world. It’s simply colorful! My least favorite aspect… avoiding spit and dog poop while walking on the streets.
A perfect F&B day would include champagne brunch at Kitchen Studios at Andaz Xintiandi, followed by a visit to my own café – The Hub Café for a piccolo latte and a whiskey. Then we would proceed to dinner at Lychee for their beef tartar with red wine. Finally, to wrap up the day, we’ll party at Lucca for a very strong vodka soda.
Whenever I have time or when friends visit, I like to go to the Shanghai History Museum at People’s Square. There is so much history in there. The porcelain section is my all-time favorite. That and walking on The Bund at dusk. The Bund gives me energy and encouragement. I could just go to The Bund, soak in the lights, the history, and landscape and would feel so inspired.
At the moment, I think I’ll live here for a long time. We can’t really say forever and ever, because who knows what God has planned for us. My wife is from here, I love my job, and I love my community work here. Shanghai is my home! I’m really proud that I overcame my limited knowledge of the Chinese language to live here for more than a decade and that we’ve managed to build ShanghaiPRIDE to become a community platform run entirely by volunteers. We have almost 400 volunteers signed up this year.
I'm most looking forward to getting this Pride over and done with…No, but seriously, I'm most looking forward to the Pride10 anniversary gallery opening, which is this evening, 7PM, at the Polar Bear Gallery. We will be displaying all the memorabilia collected since 2009, we searched our archives, hard-drives and boxes, and found all the merchandise we've made since 2009, all the posters and key visuals we have ever produced, and all the photos and videos we have ever taken. It's dedicated to everyone who has every participated in organizing, sponsoring, or even just attending any of the events. In the past few months, we've also collected quotes from past and present volunteers, sponsors, and participants.
This is a true testament of how people from various walks of life come together to support a community. It hasn’t been an easy ride, and we still have a long way to go in creating awareness and promoting diversity and inclusion, but for now we are proud we have come so far.