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“One shark fin soup, please,” he said, avoiding my glare and grinning back at my two brothers, too young to know any better.
I’ve protested, debated, and shared article after article with my dad about the consequences of shark finning, but Chinese tradition won out. The pride I have for my culture curdles at its resistance to modern morality. I love the grounded, tenacious, spirit that my heritage bears: nothing, my dad hammered into me, can be achieved without sweat on my brow. Yet at that moment, all I felt was a mixture of disappointment, exasperation, and anger. There is little culinary value in a bowl of shark fin; it only represents a segment of Chinese values we’ve clung on to in spite of the damages it creates.
I’m immersed in an environment where technology and the economy zoom ahead but societal norms prefer to stay rooted. What I see as critical ethical issues are treated as violations of the values we’re so proud of. This extends to topics beyond shark fin. In a Polytechnic University survey, more than half of the participants disagreed with teaching students that “both homosexual and heterosexual love is beautiful” – explaining why such a modern city like Hong Kong has yet to recognise same sex marriage.
“Why would they show something like this on TV?” My dad banged his cup down on the dinner table. A man proudly waves a rainbow flag as a young woman and her girlfriend embrace in the background. My brothers soaked up every jeering comment my dad made, joking and giggling with each other.
My heart sunk further. Was it a surprise that their reaction mirrored my dad’s attitude? It was all they’d ever known. Even at my own high school, I witness the same narrow perspective echo amongst my peers. My choice to consume a wider range of media has exposed me to issues and information about LGBT+ which is rarely mentioned in Hong Kong’s channels. Mainstream discussion of LGBT+ is largely condescending or comedic; otherwise, it is awkward and avoided. This has made it frustrating to explain why I found some of my friends and family’s comments inappropriate.
There was a need for a safe, constructive, educational platform for LGBT+ topics to be discussed. I wished for my brothers to be exposed to more than my dad’s antiquated attitudes. I wanted my peers to gain a broader perspective of LGBT+.
Hence, I teamed up with a few like-minded students to form Diversify. We approached our school’s administration to create a Year 12 pastoral session for LGBT+ education within the curriculum. We hoped to foster a more understanding, open and welcome environment through education and more constructive discussion.
We realised there were two levels to this. First, to inform: dispelling misconceptions and examining relevant issues of today. Second, to share: engaging in discussion and hopefully, reflection. It was also essential to talk to LGBT+ students for their perspective to ensure our lesson plan’s portrayal of of LGBT+ issues was appropriate and fair. No matter what people thought afterwards, I saw it as a success if they reflected on the fundamental reasoning of their views and ended up with a more informed opinion.
As excited as I was, I was nervous to see the feedback. What would be the worst case scenario? My friends and classmates lashing out against the session, calling it a waste of time and distasteful. Or apathy? Our preparation and research ignored. I could see how easy it is to turn a blind eye to such issues which rarely get attention in this city.
But then, Orlando.
After weeks of planning, the significance of the session suddenly settled in. The deeply disturbing event had sparked a serious conversation worldwide, including the cold classrooms of 145 Hong Kong students.
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