Lawyer Michael Vidler is savouring victory in a ruling on transsexual marriage. The battle was just one of his many fights for human rights
After solicitor Michael Vidler skimmed through the top court’s landmark ruling affirming the right of his client, a transsexual woman known as “W”, to marry her fiancé, he summed up how the victory felt. It was, he said, like “taking a through-train to justice”.
It was one of the high points in Vidler’s professional life in Hong Kong – a career stretching back to the early 1990s. But he very nearly decided to give the city a miss when he arrived.
After a brief stint in London, the young British law graduate embarked on a journey east, with a plan to eventually head north and take the Trans-Siberian Railway back west towards home.
Hong Kong was “grey, wet, humid, frankly miserable”.
But its charms soon won him over and, scrapping his itinerary, Vidler decided to stay, and he was admitted as a solicitor in 1992.
Vidler has since emerged as a human rights defender. His devotion to protecting the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) community stems from an early, formative experience, he says.
“When I was in university, I shared a flat with a gay man … I saw the way he was treated when we were going out,” Vidler says.
Outgoing EOC chairman wants to combine all four of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances to pave a smoother path for new ones in future
The Equal Opportunities Commission will complete by this year the drafting of a consultation document to review the four anti-discrimination laws, so that a public consultation into the matter can be launched next year.
Commission chairman Lam Woon-kwong made the announcement after his last – and coincidentally 100th – meeting with members of the commission yesterday.
Former health secretary Dr York Chow Yat-ngor will take over his role next month.
Lam said the four ordinances had been drafted 18 years ago based on those in Britain and Australia. But while these two countries had improved on them over the past two decades, Hong Kong has lagged behind by at least 10 years, he said.
“The aim of the review is to modernise the existing four ordinances,” Lam said, referring to the sex, disability, family status and race discrimination ordinances.
“If we combine the four ordinances into one main ordinance … this will be more flexible.”
Doing so would make it easier and faster to introduce new anti-discrimination laws, as all that would be required then would be an amendment to the main ordinance instead of having to put forward a new and separate law, Lam explained.
“In the past, the government always said that the amendments we suggested were too trivial and so they could not be presented to the Legislative Council,” he said, adding that the amendments presented in Legco had to go through a priority-based selection process.
“So now we are hoping to make the changes all together. The government cannot say the changes are trivial any more.”
Lam hopes the commission will be able to submit a proposal to the government within two years, after listening to public opinion.
When asked whether the proposal would discuss introducing the controversial anti-sexual orientation discrimination law, he said the review would focus on improving the four existing laws.
He believed the public would voice their opinions on sexual orientation discrimination during the public consultation.
But whether such views would eventually be included in the commission’s proposal to the government was out of his control as he would no longer be chairman then, he said.
Lam praised his successor Chow as being highly experienced in the public service sector. He also applauded Chow for supporting the underprivileged on many occasions.
Lam called his work at the commission the happiest and most meaningful time of his 40 years in the public service sector.
Pink Alliance is delighted to announce that popular local historian and writer, Jason Wordie, is generously donating his time to lead three guided walks in Hong Kong. Jason’s walks are packed with historical information all delivered in a lively and anecdotal way. You can visit Jason’s website for more information.
The fundraising historical walk is HK$400 per person per walk. All monies raised will used to support our programs to advocate LGBT rights in Hong Kong.
We have three choices of the historical walks for you:
Date: 9 March 2013 (Sat)
Whole tour: 1.45pm to 5.00/5.30pm
On this walk you will hear about Central’s development from the early 1840s to the present day, both as an initially European business district and as an administrative centre. Street names, the gradual process of large-scale land reclamation from the 1880s onwards, development of civic open spaces and the process of urban evolution, transformation and associated social change will all be covered in this walk. Among the places we will visit are Statue Square and environs, the exteriors of the old Supreme Court (now the Legislative Council), Government House, the French Mission Building (now the Court of Final Appeal), St. John’s Cathedral and its leafy precinct, the Zoological and Botanical Gardens and the Jamia Mosque on Shelley Street….
Details of the Central Walk: http://www.jasonwordie.com/index.php/left-sidebar/walks/hong-kong-walks/central/
2) Wan Chai
Date: 23 March 2013 (Sat)
Whole tour: 1.45pm to 5.00/5.30pm
Famous for it’s bars, nightclubs and Suzy Wong, “The Wanch”, as it is popularly referred to by some residents, was little more than a hamlet in pre-British times, grouped around the location of the present Tai Wong Temple on Queen’s Road East. Modern Wanchai began in the 1840s with the intention of creating a high-class residential and commercial centre. Major foreign firms owned substantial buildings, godowns and wharves facing the sea. On this walk, among many things, you will see where the tramway opened in 1904; roads that were built on reclamation and hear about the rattan industry that flourished here…
Details of the Wan Chai Walk: http://www.jasonwordie.com/index.php/left-sidebar/walks/hong-kong-walks/wan-chai/
3) Tsim Sha Tsui
Date: 6 April 2013 (Sat)
Whole tour: 1.45pm to 5.00/5.30pm
There are numerous reminders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries all waiting to be explored in Tsim Sha Tsui. From the former Marine Police Headquarters on the Kowloon waterfront to Signal Hill, with its preserved tower, the old Central British School on Nathan Road and the nearby St. Andrew’s Church. Near Jordan Road there are a number of surviving pre-war buildings which will be discussed. Despite extensive redevelopment a surprising amount remains to be seen…
Details of the Tsimshatsui Walk: http://www.jasonwordie.com/index.php/left-sidebar/walks/hong-kong-walks/kowloon-tsim-sha-tsui/
Terms and Conditions: Important – before you make the booking, please read carefully as follows: http://www.jasonwordie.com/index.php/terms-and-conditions
Booking by e-mail :
Please include the following in your e-mail for booking:
- Mobile number:
- Selected walk:
- Number of participants:
Contact person: Barry Lee
- A booking form must be completed for each person attending a walk.
- Bookings are only considered confirmed when written confirmation to the attendee has been issued by us, and confirmation of receipt has been confirmed by the attendee, for the walk on the date specified.
- To make a booking please send an e-mail, once payment has been made the booking will be confirmed.
- Please note that the walks are not suitable for children under 15 years of age.
We will send you e-mail as Booking Confirmation. Then, please proceed the payment as follows:
1) Please deposit a cheque or make money transfer to the following bank details:
- Name of the Bank: HSBC
- Account Number: 112-194386-001
- Name of the account: Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting
2) Please send the copy of your bank-in slip or transfer record to Barry Lee e-mail: email@example.com. Please mention your name, selected walks and number of participants on the e-mail.
- Once your booking and payment have been received, a final confirmation will be sent, including where to meet information and contact details, to you. Other general information can also be found on the website.
- More than 48 hours prior to the event – 100% refund
- Cancellation within 48 hours of the event – 50% refund
- Cancellation within 24 hours of the event – No Refund
- Cancellations made by the attendee, on behalf of any attendee, must be made in writing. A confirmation of cancellation will issued once it is accepted.
Cancellations Due To Weather:
- Walks will be automatically cancelled in the event of a Typhoon Signal No. 8 or a Black Rainstorm.
- Participants must be aware that walks are, by definition, a weather-dependent outdoor event. Given the vagaries of weather conditions in Hong Kong, localised weather circumstances may change quickly, regardless of forecast weather conditions on the day.
- In the case of unsuitable weather conditions attendees will be contacted prior to event, in general no later than 07:00 on the morning of the scheduled event. Notification will be by email, SMS and – where possible – by personal follow-up telephone call.
- The final decision whether or not to go ahead with the scheduled walk remains at our sole discretion.
- In general, a re-schedule date will be arranged, and those registered for the cancelled event will have priority for re-registration.
- The attendee will be refunded in full.
After her openly gay son was beaten in April 1972 for protesting news coverage of the gay rights movement, Jeanne Manford, an elementary school teacher in Flushing, Queens, did not tell him to stop embarrassing the family. She wrote a letter to The New York Post criticizing the police for not protecting him.
Two months later, she walked alongside him in a gay liberation march, carrying a sign: “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children.” These turned out to be the first steps in the founding ofParents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, now a national organization, which announced that Mrs. Manford died on Tuesday, in Daly City, Calif. She was 92.
“They were every gay person’s parents,” said Daniel Dromm, a member of the New York City Council from Queens, recalling that Mrs. Manford would comfort bereft young lesbians and gay men — estranged from their own families — who made their way to her three-story home in Flushing. (The Manfords were in the phone book.) While there, they might also get their teeth looked after by her husband, Dr. Jules Manford, a dentist.
Their son Morty had been a gay-rights advocate since his college days at Columbia University in the late 1960s.
In 1973, the Manfords and about 20 other people inaugurated Parents of Gays, a support program at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manhattan, which ministers to a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregation. Given the vacuum of publicly identified gay allies in the early 1970s, the Manfords almost could not help taking on a national role. They spoke out for their cause through television, newspaper and radio interviews, according to a short biography of Mrs. Manford that accompanies her papersat the New York Public Library.
“The group sought to give parents a place to ask questions, talk about their issues and begin to better understand their children,” the biography continued.
Representatives of parent support groups that had been springing up around the country met in 1979 to establish an umbrella organization. It took its current name in 1993 but is best known by the acronym Pflag. Its headquarters are in Washington. It has 350 chapters across the country and helps organize similar groups internationally. Mrs. Manford is identified as its founder.
She was born Jeanne Sobelson in Flushing on Dec. 4, 1920, to Charles and Sadie Sobelson and graduated from Queens College in 1964. She taught fifth grade, sixth grade and math at Public School 32 in Queens. Her husband died in 1982. Their son Charles died in 1966. Morty died of complications from AIDS in 1992. Mrs. Manford is survived by her daughter, Suzanne Swan, a granddaughter and three great-granddaughters.
Her activism began after the 1972 Inner Circle dinner in Manhattan, an annual black-tie affair at which journalists and political leaders mingle. Mrs. Manford’s son was among a group of Gay Activist Alliance demonstrators who showed up at the event, at the New York Hilton, to protest news coverage. After a melee erupted inside and outside the hotel ballroom, Morty Manford accused Michael J. Maye, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, of kicking and punching him, an account corroborated by witnesses. Mr. Maye was acquitted of one count of harassment. Outraged by the attack, Mrs. Manford wrote a letter to The Post, then a liberal newspaper.
She later told Eric Marcus for his oral history, “Making Gay History” (2002): “I mentioned in my letter that my son was gay and that the police stood by and watched these young gays being beaten up and did nothing about it, and it was printed. Then Morty called me up and said, ‘You can’t believe how everybody’s talking about your letter!’ I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess it was the first time a mother ever sat down and very publicly said, ‘Yes, I have a homosexual son.’ ”
Mrs. Manford was just as surprised by the impact she had when she appeared at her son’s side during the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day march, a forerunner of the annual gay pride parade. She assumed that the cheers she heard were for Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was directly behind the Manfords in the march. It was not until bystanders began coming up to her with hugs and tears that she understood the cheers were for her.