Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mobilisation Against the Hong Kong Police Action Over 2011 IDAHO

Nigel Collett,
reporting.  Photo
taken in Hong
Kong, July
21, 2010, by
Steve Parelli
From: Nigel Collett
Sent: Mon, May 16, 2011 11:10:39 PM
Mobilisation Against the Hong Kong Police Action Over 2011 IDAHO

Dear all at the BBC,

You may, by now, be aware of the HK (Hong Kong) Police interference with HK's celebration of IDAHO on Sunday. Various elements of the IDAHO Organizing Committee will be taking up protests (eg Amnesty International) and the TCJM, which was the Organizing Committee's leading group, will take a lead here.

Attached [below] is a letter from the TCJM Chairman, Reggie Ho, to ask you to consider helping us with action.

Please consider how you can help with the protest, either by writing to the Government (the Security Department), Legco Members or the media. Please also give this the widest circulation for others to action.

The legal advice we have obtained is that the Police have exceeded their authority and that there are good grounds for an official complaint, which we intend to make. HK legal precedent is clear that social and political events that include some form of musical or dance performance are not to be prohibited for routine reasons like 'obstruction' and that the right to assemble must be maintained. All previous LGBT events have included some form of performance and none has ever been prohibited before. No straight event has been prohibited at all. It is vital that the Police are not allowed to create a precedent by this action.

I will keep you informed as matters develop. If you do take action, which we hope you will, please keep us cc'd.

For some detail of the issue, see Raymond Ko's article on Fridae.com at:


Yours ever


Nigel Collett
Joint English Secretary
Mobile: (852) 6977 2798
Website: www.tcjm.org  


Dear Tongzhi,

By now, you may have heard that the Hong Kong Police interfered in last Sunday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) rally in Causeway Bay, organised by Amnesty International, Gay Harmony, Rainbow of Hong Kong, Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting and Transgender Resource Center.

Some twenty policemen turned up with a video camera, demanding a dancing segment of the event to stop immediately because it had not obtained a license for public entertainment. They also started filming the crowd, stone-faced. Not wanting the incident to escalate and compromise the rest of the programme, a decision was made to stop the dance performance as requested. After more videotaping, the troop of policemen left.

The police action was wrong on many fronts:

1. As legislator James To has been quoted in Ming Pao saying, the police was misguided in using Chapter 172, the law regulating entertainment in public places, as the cause for action because an organision expressing opinions with dance is not entertainment.

2. In a recent Court of Final Appeal case of Yueng May-Wan v HKSAR (2004), which was an appeal against a criminal conviction for obstruction of a public place, the CFA judges said that freedoms of opinion, expression and assembly are fundamental rights enshrined in the Basic Law, which supersedes common law. In the same vein, the police should have viewed the performance in the context of it being part of a peaceful demonstration, a right protected by under Art 27 of the Basic Law. In failing to do so, they acted in excess of their powers and thereby acted unlawfully even though a license may have been required in ordinary circumstances.
3. Many rallies with music and dance before took place without an entertainment license, including an Amnesty International Hong Kong event that was happening in Kowloon at the same time of the IDAHO rally. But the police only cracked down on the latter. Apple Daily has also pointed out that the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival, which includes a lot of activities that can be construed as entertainment under this law, has never been asked to obtain such a license. The police was singling out IDAHO, for reasons unknown. 
4. Besides acting on a shaky legal ground, the Hong Kong Police had also displayed a blatant lack of sensitivity towards sexual minorities. It is a well-known fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are tabooed subjects and people of different sexual orientations or/and gender identities often fear that exposure of their sexual identities would invite discrimination. It took many attendees of the rally a lot of courage to come to turn up. For the police to film them with such a disdainful attitude was uncalled for and insensitive.

Sexual minorities have long been oppressed and their rights infringed. We are not going to let the Hong Kong Police, whose job is supposed to be protecting our rights and not violating them, to take away our freedoms of expression. We must voice out our concerns on this incident and seek justice.

I call for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, as well as all supporters of human rights, to act.
o If you were present at the IDAHO rally when the police cracked down on it, you may file a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Council for the officers’ filming of you being at the rally when you had not broken any law. These complaints need to be made by the person directly affected by the police misconduct. See http://www.ipcc.gov.hk/en/complaint_channels.html.

o Write James To (jkstolegco@gmail.com), chairman of the Security Panel at the Legislative Council. With complaints from us, he can then take the issue to the chamber and demand the government to investigate and respond.

o Voice out your thoughts by writing Apple Daily (Chinese) at forum@appledaily.com, South China Morning Post (English) at letters@scmp.com or any media outlet of your choice. A Chinese letter can be anything from 200 characters to 800, while an English letter is best kept under 500 words.
Speak up, let the Hong Kong Police and society know that you will not be victimized. This is our chance to show unity and get our point across.

In solidarity,

Reggie Ho
Tongzhi Community Joint Meeting

Friday, May 6, 2011

Meeting gay and gay-friendly people on the Carnival Victory Caribbean cruise, April 17 - 24, 2011

View from our Carnival Victory balcony,
late Sunday, April 17, 2011, just before
commencing voyage from San Juan, PR
By Rev. Steve Parelli,
May 6, 2011
Bronx, NY
Photos by Steve Parelli

Part I - A positive experience with all on-baord the Carnival Victory Caribbean cruise

Our six-day, seven-night Carnival Victory Caribbean cruise (April 2011), originating out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was a gay-friendly, over-all straight, family-focused cruise.  Daily programs were run for children and teens alike.  For the adults, there was an adult-only deck area with fantastic views (from port and starboard sides), two whirl pools, open air showers, lounging chairs and hammocks. 

In port at Bridgetown, Barbados, April 20, 2011
Our interaction with other people included speaking with a couple teens and children (generally when they were with their guardians), but mostly with other adults as well as a few crew members (who were always friendly, polite, and service-focused). 

evening meal
We took in two evening shows (live entertainment), arriving late and leaving early. That was all.  I preferred using my late evening hours by being on deck, hitting the exercise area, visiting with others, and retiring early in order to see the rising sun and our arrival into the next port.  Early mornings you had the ship to yourself.  People tended to party late into the night.  I've always preferred my mornings!

Jose Ortiz on Carnival Victory Caribbean
Cruise, late Monday, April 18, 2011
Part II - "Friends of Dorothy" and Our meeting with a real fine and interesting gay man

Carnival publishes, in its daily newsletter (delivered to each room), a "friends of Dorothy" evening time and designated place where LGBT people on the cruise can meet if they choose to.  Twice, Jose and I went to the "friends of Dorothy" meeting area.  On one occasion no one else showed. 

Jose Ortiz
On the other occasion we met a wonderful, retired, professional/corporate leader, world-travelled, gay gentlemen who joined us on two separate evenings for diner.  He was a wealth of information and a great conversationalist.  We exchanged contact information and planed to keep in touch.  We discussed many things, including Other Sheep. He was interested in the book The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships (now available on Kindle for half the price of the paperback)  and upon returning home to the Bronx I mailed him a complimentary copy.

Left to right:  Jose Ortiz, Jonathan
Chavez  and Steve Parelli
Part III - Other gay men we met on the cruise

But that was just the beginning of meeting gays.  Our built in "gay-dar" (for "radar') was our most resourceful means for finding other LGBT people. (Not to overlook the fact that as an obvious gay couple we are a magnet for those who are LGBT interested.)

Let me see what I can remember for gay encounters:  We met an inter-racial, inter-generational American gay couple on deck 9 (the older spouse was confined to a wheelchair).  Several gay men we met were from Puerto Rico and Jose was, with his Spanish (and good looks), an immediate tie-in.
We met Jonathan Chavez and his gay friend (both Puerto Rican) on our St. Lucia/Pitons cruise; we met a Puerto Rican gay couple travelling with a gay friend in the sauna in the men's locker room who introduced us to another Puerto Rican couple (travelling with their family) who are both active in their welcoming and affirming Presbyterian church in Puerto Rican. 

Jose Ortiz and Steve Parelli, Brighton Beach, Barbados,
April 20, 2011.
On Brighton Beach (Barbados) we met an elderly gay Mexican from the cruise who had with him on the beach his adopted son, his daughter-in-law (the son's wife) and grandson (or son of the couple).  On the lobby deck, while viewing the distant island of Martinique, I met another gay couple, and later that afternoon on the same deck Jose and I met yet another single gay Puerto Rican. 

View of the Pitons, St. Lucia
from our stateroom on
Carnival Victory, early
morning, April 21, 2011
Often we exchanged room numbers to keep in touch and on at least three occasions we had other gay couples or individuals join us on our balcony.  It was a great time. 

Part IV - Gay-friednly people we met -- including some nurses from Jamaica who enthusiastically tagged their country as LGBT affirming (we polited offered our commentary)

Jose Ortiz on the
excursion to the
Pitons, St. Luica,
April 21, 2011
As for gay-friendly people . . . well, as far as we could tell, the whole ship of  fellow-tourists was gay-friendly.  We didn't find a single person on the cruise who appeared to be uncomfortable with our presence.  And with whomever we spoke, they were always polite and often became engaged in conversation with us, some telling us of their pro-LGBT views, their long-standing gay friends and gay family members, or their religious backgrounds which either turned them on with inclusion and affirmation of LGBT people or turned them off with judgmental, condemning attitudes towards LGBT people.

We met a very friendly group of about five or more women from Jamaica traveling together.  Most of them, if not all, were nurses.  You could tell they were all friends.  In the course of our conversation we asked them what the tone was in Jamaica regarding homosexuals (expecting them to report sadly the anti-gay sentiment there).  "Very friendly," they assured us.  "Very accepting."  It was hard to let their comment slide and we gently offered them a different perspective from our point of view as a gay couple and the news, as we've heard it coming out of Jamaica, that Jamaica is a very, very homophobic country with a lot of hostility towards LGBT people. "We're changing," they assured us.  And we continued talking about other things, making light-hearted conversation.

Jose Ortiz at the Pitons, St. Luica, April 21, 2011

Part V - The pro-LGBT attorney from Western New York

Steve Parelli on our
stateroom balcony at sunset,
Carnival Victory Caribbean
cruise, April 2011
A couple people spoke to us about their specific activism  for gay rights and/or awareness.  There was, for example, a female attorney from western New York who worked for gay awareness within her residential community by asking the community board members to involve themselves in an awareness activity about LGBT people.  I think the idea was for board members to gain sympathy or empathy for LGBT people in their community.  At least one member of the board refused to take part because of his or her religious convictions.  The attorney was taken back but viewed it as a learning moment for her on the reality of the strong, divergent views in America on LGBT human rights and equality.

Part VI - A pro-LGBT family from Sacramento:  His dad's gay and so is his wife's brother!

Left to right:  David, Kimberly and Breana (photo
and story used by permission).  Carnival
Victory Caribbean cruise, Pacific Restaurant,
Friday morning, April 22, 2011

Another very interesting meeting occurred Friday morning at breakfast in the Pacific Restaurant on the Carnival ship.  Here we met David and Kimberly (life partners now for five years) and Kimberly's teenage daughter Breana (all pictured here in this blog by permission).  David's father, now deceased, was gay.  Kimberly's brother is gay.

View from Pacific Restaurant, Carnival
Victory ship, in port at St. Kitts.  The
morning we met David, Kimberly
and Breana, April 22, 2011
And Breana, knowing and loving her gay uncle, appreciates her gay friends and is a pro-LGBT activist in her public school.  Upon hearing that Jose and I were married in Sacramento, California,  Kimberly, the wife and mother, told us about her activism against Prop. 8 in Sacramental,California, where they reside.  They had a lot of wonderful stories to share.  It was a remarkable meeting. 

At one point I was close to tears with the overwhelming sense of their like-experiences and their heart-flet support as I explained how my immediately family - parents, three of my four children, one sibling, ex-wife - have totally ostracised me and Jose in the name of religion, i.e., "personal separation  from the unrepented sinner." 

Standing left to right: David, Jose Ortiz, and
Steve Parelli.  Seated: Kimberly (left) and
Breana (photo and story used
by permission). Carnival Victory
Caribbean cruise, Pacific Restaurant,
Friday morning, April 22, 2011
Kimberly told me about her happy involvement in a Bible church for, I think, as many as five years, until an unfortunate conversation occurred between her and her pastor.  Kimberly became distressed after one of her pastor's messages on homosexuality.  She arranged a personal meeting with him in which she told him about her gay brother and how she totally accepts him.  The pastor told her that homosexuals were going to hell and that if she supported them - with ideas of equality, human rights, affirmation - that she, too, would go to hell along with them.  It's not easy to image how that meeting ended.  Kimberly and her daughter left the church. 

We exchanged contact information; have already connected on Facebook; and will at some point introduce them to Jose's cousin and wife  who, like them, live in Sacramento, California, and who stood up for us when Jose and I were married there in city hall in Sacramento in August of 2008.

(In an email following the publishing of this blog, Kimberly Hardie wrote "That's [i.e., the content of the blog] completely fine.  You might want to add that along with my brother, I have three gay nephews and several gay cousins.")
Part VII - How religion turned one straight sibling aginst her gay brother

Carnival ship at end of street,
St. Kitts, April 22, 2011
One individual we met shared how a straight family member, formerly very laissez-faire and very supportive of her gay sibbling had a personal conservative religous conversion experience and subsequentltly, to all the family members, openly declared her change of attitude from affirming LGBT people to condeming them. In particual, she felt she needed to make it known that she could no longer accept her own gay brother, something she felt strongly about in light of her new-found faith.  What a sad story.  The sister's stance redefined, to some degree, the relational dynamics of the family.

In Conclusion  - A trip to remember
Sunset in the
Caribbean Sea
Victory is the perfect name for this Carnival ship.  For us as a gay couple and the wonderful people we met, it was victory plus:  love over hate, inclusion over exclusion, understanding over bias, acceptance over rejection.

A few LGBT people have told us that there is nothing like an all-gay cruise and that, from what they've experienced, there's no gay-attitude on the cruise which is hard to imagine (you know, the attitude that says looks is all that matters so that if you aren't beautiful you're not noticed - it exists in the heterosexual world, too).  That being the case, we might try an all-gay cruise some time.  But, if you're thinking about a straight cruise with gay-friendly people, then for us, as far as we experienced it, Carnival can be a good choice.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I was Gay and Closeted in Martinique in 1970; Now, in 2011 on a Caribbean cruise, I'm openly gay in St Lucia and I'm meeting "my counterpart."

by Rev. Steve Parelli, published from the Bronx, NY, May 4, 2011
Photos by Steve Parelli

Part I - Some of the highlights of our nine-day vacation to the Caribbean

Steve Parelli (left) and Jose Ortiz on Carnival Victory,
 in port at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, April 17, 2011
 Last week, Jose and I returned from a nine day vacation in the Caribbean. For six days and seven nights we sailed the Caribbean Sea, visiting islands, on board Carnival Victory. We had a stateroom with a balcony. Our trip originated and ended in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Jose and I tagged on two extra days of sightseeing Old San Juan before returning to our home in the Bronx.

Jose Ortiz, Brighton Beach,
Barbados, Wednesday,
April 20, 2011
While in ports on the Carnival Victory, we snorkeled (St. Thomas), did beaches (two: Barbados and St. Maarten), boated (to the World Heritage site of the Pitons) and did general sightseeing (like the home where George Washington lived when he was in Barbados at age 19). We purchased only two excursions on board Carnival (the snorkeling and the Pitons). Otherwise, while in port, we made it on our own - the world travelers we are - haggling transportation costs (with taxi drivers who doubled their fees); chance-finding a native (a police officer off duty) who drove us around Bridgetown, Barbados, for the cost of a beer together (we did tip/pay him, too! freely - there wasn't the slightest suggestion to do so on his part); visiting a good-Friday Wesleyan Methodist church service (St. Kitts); and just generally being our own guide at times. It was classic Steve-Jose abroad.

Part II - Remembering my first time in Paradise: As a Baptist youth of 17 years of age, I lived in Martinique in 1970 with American Baptist missionaries

Steve Parelli, on the Carnival Victory lobby deck, with Martinique
in the distant background, Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For me, the most memorable event of the cruise was viewing the island of Martinique from the quiet, little-visited lobby deck of the ship. For about three hours in the afternoon of our second day, Jose and I lounged on the lobby deck and watched the far distant purple outline of the west side of Martinique - from its Mount Pelée in the north to its mammoth Diamond Rock in the south, a diamond-shaped island off the south coast of Martinique.

Jose and Steve looking towards the central mountains
of Martinique from Carnival Victory, lobby deck,
Tuesday afternoon, April 19, 2011
 The ship moved southward, gently over the waters. Martinique is only about 35 miles long -- if I remember correctly, but, happily, it took hours to pass its length at our lazy, sleepy speed; and then into the evening as we rounded its southern coast, St. Lucia was seen at our starboard side.

In 1970, when I was 17, I lived on the island of Martinique from August to December. I was a senior in high school. I was living with Baptist missionaries from America (with Evangelical Baptist Missions - EBM) who had opened their home to me for this cultural-missionary experience. I was this New York up-state boy in paradise – for a brief, memorable time I was in paradise. The American family I was living with did everything in their power to give me an exceptional yet realistic experience of life as American missionaries in Martinique. After all, I was in the process of enrolling in Bible college for the fall of 1971.

Jose and Steve on Carnival Victory
with Martinique in the far distance,
lobby deck, Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The missionaries had two lovely daughters - one a teenager who was very active and popular with the sizable Baptist youth group of the church of Robert (on the east coast, due east of Fort-de-France the capital). I've never forgotten this missionary family and the positive impression they left upon me. And now I was setting my eyes on Martinique for the first time since 1970. More than 40 years later. I was transfixed watching the island from the cruise ship. I recounted to Jose my memories and young impressions of Martinique, pointing out to him different localities on the island.

Part III - Meeting my gay self and my Baptist Martiniquan past, as it were, on the St. Lucia boating to the Pitons

Jose Ortiz (left) meeting Jonathan Chavez on our excursion
to the Pitons of St. Lucia, Thursday, April 21, 2011.
 On our second day after seeing Martinique, we arrived in Castries, St. Lucia, from Barbados, approaching Castries from the south-western end of St. Lucia. In the early morning sunlight, we could observe the Pitons of St. Lucia from our balcony.

Once in port, we boarded the Catamaran Cruise with others from our ship for a four hour (round trip) excursion along the west cost of St. Lucia to the Pitons to the south. During this cruise, mingling with our shipmates from Carnival, Jose became engaged in a conversation with a young man, age 17, named Jonathan Chavez. As for me, I was trying out my non-existent one-sentence Martiniquean Creole (Mwe car parle Creole ti toc) with a mid-teen girl of St. Lucia who was helping behind the bar. Her father was captain of the boat. Jonathan, who is Puerto Rican, became very interested in what Jose had to say about Other Sheep (our worldwide work with LGBT people of faith). Jonathan is openly gay.

Steve Parelli (left) and Jose Ortiz, returning from
viewing the Pitons of  St. Lucia.  Thursday, April 21, 2011
 In my corner, the St. Lucian girl with whom I was speaking found it very interesting that Jose was my husband for real (legally married in California in 2008) and that a life-time ago I had lived in Martinique when I was 17. After telling her I had lived in Martinique with Baptist missionaries, she told me about her Baptist youth group in St. Lucia (the very next island to the south of Martinique). I shared with her briefly my evangelical Christian journey in order to find common ground. I believe I also asked her if she knew anyone who was Christian and gay. As I often do, I was putting a face on the LGBT Christian community for this young Baptist Christian by telling her my story.

Jonathan Chavez (left), Steve Parelli
back), and not shown (but at right - see
shoulder), the St. Lucian Baptist teenage
girl who posed for this three-some picture,
Thursday, April 21, 2011.
Well, of course, I looked at gay 17-year-old Jonathan (the age I was when I was in Martinique in 1970) and the St. Lucian Baptist teenage girl with whom I was telling my religious-gay story - and I found these two young people a kind of type or representation from my past (I was already feeling nostalgic and sentimental). And when I asked if I could photograph them together (in this moment of sentimentalism, as I explained it to them) they were more than happy to oblige this older, gay-Christian gentleman. I remember Jonathan saying I could publish his photo and name on my blog. As for my new St. Lucian Baptist teenage friend - I don't remember if I received permission from her or not to publish her, but even if I did, my estimation is it would be best not to publish her here. She is only 14 or 15 at the most. But I am happy to tell you about her anonymously.

Part IV - Then and Now: I never thought in 1970, while living with missionaries in Martinique, that I would someday live in a world where Christians would be open and affirming about same-sex attractions

Steve Parelli in the early morning
sunlight, taken on our balcony;
Pitons in the background. 
Thursday, April 21, 2011
So then, my present-day re-encounter with my long ago past was obviously very contrasting – a then-vs.-now real contrast. Then, in Martinique in 1970 I was closeted, although every bit keenly aware of my same-sex sexual orientation as I am now. I could never have shared that secret then with anyone within my religious circles – no missionary, no pastor, no Sunday School teacher or youth worker, no individual (in or out of the church) – I knew the consequences then (and I’m living with those consequences now, even in 2011: total ostracism from some). Now, however, I was openly discussing my sexual orientation with a Baptist youth of St. Lucia on a boat in the Caribbean Sea along the coast line of St. Lucia (the island to the south of Martinique) while at the same time an openly gay 17 year old Puerto Rican stood in the mix of people, speaking with Jose my legal husband.

Left to right:  Jose Ortiz, Jonathan Chavez, and Steve Parelli
West coast of St. Lucia, Thursday, April 21, 2011.
Then – in 1970 in Martinique – I thought my sanctification was a process of growing in Christ which would, among other evidences of the Spirit being operative in me, manifest a day-by-day victory over my same-sex attractions. Now I rejoice, like others both straight and gay, both Christian and non-religious, in the sexual orientation which God has given me (or permitted me - nature or nurture, whichever the case). I celebrate the gift of sexuality and human touch and warmth with the life-partner I’ve been blessed to receive.

Jonathan Chavez, back
in port, Castries,
St. Lucia
Who would have thought then (1970), that I would be enjoying now (2011) the same wonderful aspects of love that heterosexual couples enjoy: intimacy, warmth, social and civil validity, emotional and physical connectedness, intellectual engagement, security, personal development and fulfillment within marriage, mutual support and respect -- all with one other single human being in a life-long committed relationship. 

That's the difference between then and nowThen - Martinique 1970:  a young closeted gay evangelical Baptist youth living with American missionaries.  Now - St. Lucia 2011:  an older, wiser gentleman graciously and openly embracing his sexual orientation since 1997, celebrating life in all its diversity, with the soul-mate God has gifted me with – my same-sex partner. 

More than ever, the island of Martinique (symbolically) holds an inviting allure.  How?  By a life lived in the context of love instead of fear; by a life lived in union with another who is physically fitted to one’s self; by a life lived authentically – being true to one’s self; and by living, when at all possible, in peace with others.

End of day, leaving St. Lucia andthe Pitons (the twin peaks
at the far right).  Not shown here, but Martinique, the island to the
 north of St. Lucia, is in view from Carnival Victory 
Thursday, April 21, 2011.