Guest post by Dallas Sanders
“Mr. Sanders, he is gay,” said the 10 year old pointing to his classmate. I froze. A million thoughts came rushing through my mind such as does the boy know what it means? Is he joking? Is he repeating something on TV to get a reaction from me? I was trying to think of a response. I turned to him and said “If he is then that is good. If he isn’t that is good too. It really does not matter as long as he is happy.” The kid looked at me confused and I am not sure if it was because of what I said or if he didn’t understand.
Being a teacher is easy since I love it but being a gay teacher in Hong Kong is hard. If I had turned to the student and told him I was gay too then my school may not renew my contract. The kid could have complained to his mom or dad and I could have lost my job because Hong Kong does not have any discrimination laws to protect me.
The government has policies guarding against discrimination but they are voluntary with no punishments for those who violate them. They are not laws. Hong Kong needs discrimination laws not only to protect the LGBT community but also for anyone who may be judged by who they are rather than what they can do.
I am a good teacher with over 13 years of experience teaching English As A Second Language. I know how to motivate, help and support young learners. When I first got to my current school most of the kids couldn’t hold a conversation. Now half the school can talk to me and I don’t speak Chinese. Being a good teacher doesn’t make my job secure. If I know you and you know I am gay; I won’t tell you the name of my school or where it is. I am not alone with these fears because the repercussions are real.
Mike Morrill taught in Hong Kong and tried to make his home better. He worked with various non-profit organizations like micro-finance fundraising charity Wokai as well as many other organizations helping asylum seekers and raising awareness of HIV and AIDS. He is openly gay and with his HIV+ status. He won the Mr. Gay Hong Kong competition a year ago and his co-workers learned more about him. Morrill told Time Out Hong Kong last September a colleague said his HIV status is like having SARS. “Working there became a nightmare” they feared he would “contaminate the kids.” He quit the job and tried to open his own learning centre but investors were worried his HIV status hurting the potential business. He tried finding other jobs but he said it was hard because of his status. Finally he moved back to America since finding a job here became increasingly difficult.
The issue came to light again last year when the International Christian School in Sha Tin imposed a moral contract on all current and future teachers. It included firing and refusing to hire anyone who is LGBT; who support same-sex relationships; as well as anyone who are living together and are not married. The school is free to have these discriminatory hiring practices because there are no laws preventing them from doing it.
The Equal Opportunities Commission has been having consultations and will suggest anti-discrimination laws to help protect workers from all forms of discrimination. It will still be up to the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council to pass them. Hong Kong needs these laws not just for me, but for everyone who is different.
Dallas Sanders is a teacher in the New Territories and a Master of Journalism student at the University of Hong Kong. Follow Dallas on Twitter.