Late June has for long been celebrated as the gay pride week across quite a few cities to mark the famous Stonewall Riots that took place on June 28, 1969, in a bar in Greenwich Village of New York City.
It was the first instance of violent protests by gays and lesbians in the US against unlawful treatment by the police.
The weeklong New York City Pride 2010 culminated on Sunday with a grand parade of bands, floats and throngs of cheerful people marching down Fifth Avenue towards Stonewall Inn, as well as a dance party and fireworks display staged along the Hudson River.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Governor David Paterson were also seen marching along with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community on Sunday afternoon.
Both Bloomberg and Paterson support legalizing same-sex marriages although New York is not among the six US states or districts to have recognized gay marriages.
The pride weeks in New York and other cities are festive, but they really mark the old days when the LGBT community was largely shunned by the public. The pride is part of continuing efforts to fight for equal rights and awareness for the group as a whole.
Making my first trip to the Stonewall Inn last Friday and observing some of the events during the past week, I could not help thinking of the first Shanghai Pride Week I covered a year ago.
It was a significant event despite some interference from local government departments. I penned a column and even an editorial for the paper about that milestone, praising the growing tolerance in Chinese society for the LGBT community and calling for more acceptance and respect.
However, news reports about this year’s Shanghai pride week have been quite disappointing. Organizers have postponed the celebrations from June to between October and November this year. The reason: Police have cited security concerns over such a big public gathering at the same time as the ongoing Shanghai Expo.
This is totally absurd. It reminds people of the unpleasant intervention by police last year that forced the cancellation of gay movie screenings at local bars and restaurants.
Would a gay pride party or parade pose more security risks than the Shanghai Expo, which receives 300,000 or more people a day? If the Shanghai police are incapable of ensuring security for a small pride parade, how can they guard other bigger events, such as the long procession during the Shanghai Tourism Festival?
In New York, extra policemen were on duty this past weekend to make sure that the parades could go on smoothly. Talking about security, the NYPD could find better excuses than their Shanghai counterparts, especially after the failed Times Square bombing two months back.
True, Chinese society has shown more acceptance and tolerance towards gays and lesbians in recent years, but that is true only in some big cities. The country as a whole still has a long way to go to catch up with the world.
Shanghai, which touts its open-minded culture, has just failed to take the lead in this regard.
The second Shanghai Pride Week would have been a great time to show off the city’s charm as a rising international city to tens of millions of visitors to the six-month Expo.
The messages of acceptance, tolerance, respect, love, diversity and harmony reflected in the pride week would have made people associate Shanghai with other great international cities. The impact would have been much greater than the sight of a giant pavilion.
Like New York and other global cities, the Gay Pride Week would have brought more pride to the Chinese metropolis, and any bid to limit such a festival only invites shame.