Hong Kong and Singapore: two dynamic, entrepreneurial, organised, extremely efficient cities on islands in Asia. One located in north Asia, one south.
Hong Kong is, of course, much more than an island with Kowloon and the New Territories to the immediate north of the main Island—and home to almost 7 million people; formerly a British Colony and now a special administrative region of the PRC.
Singapore, with a bustling 5.4 million population from diverse backgrounds, located off the tip of Malaysia, surrounded by Indonesia; often called an Island State, Singapore is also a former British Colony.
“Well, what’s with the geography/history lesson?” you might ask. “We know all this.”
“Be patient, please, I’ll get there soon.” ☺
Large populations crammed into small areas. High-rises everywhere you look. People living very close to, seemingly on top of, each other. High pressure education, working, living… loving.
Although it might sound incredulous to say about two cities with populations greater than in many European or US cities, or even several cities combined – everyone knows each other…or so it seems.
In short, both Hong Kong and Singapore feel just like large villages.
People all seem to go to work in the same areas: Central or TST; or Republic Plaza or Suntec City. They shop or enjoy leisure in the same places, dine and relax in the same facilities and so on: in Causeway Bay, Mongkok or TST East; Orchard Road, Bugis or Raffles City.
In fact, it’s very hard not to meet someone you know when out and out about in Hong Kong or Singapore… or someone who knows someone you know.
People, by and large, read the same newspapers, the same publications and magazines—many of which, unfortunately, seem to thrive upon trivial or gossip type, sensational news.
So, if you are trying to keep a secret, keep some part of your private life under wraps, you have to be very, very careful, ultra discreet, always on the alert.
For the closeted gay man, or lady for that matter, life can therefore be very stressful, very fraught. Keep your head down. Make sure no-one sees you out with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Double check that no-one is unduly watching you (especially in Singapore).
Even now, therefore,14 years into the new millennium, with far greater acceptance of gay people and by and large more liberal attitudes in both cities, it’s still not easy to be gay and out on these islands, never mind be gay and closeted.
The traditionally conservative, Confucian mindsets of the majority of the populations in both Hong Kong and Singapore, coupled with one of the more negative colonial legacies of vociferous, far right religious organisations, all make it that much harder to be gay and proud on either of these ex-colonial Islands. Not that there aren’t individual pioneers and a number of active groups to be admired for their persistent efforts to redress the situation.
Still, it’s a great pity really, as both cities are amongst the best in the world for almost everything else.
We can but hope for continued change.
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