When Phil met Margaret – my interview with award-winning comedian and LGBT rights campaigner, Margaret Cho
Written by Philip Howell-Williams on March 29, 2016.
Three time Grammy and Emmy nominated comedian, Margaret Cho, graced Hong Kong with her presence earlier this month when she performed her first ever live show in Asia. The Psycho Tour, which began in Singapore and is now touring the States, sees Cho doing what she does best – poking fun at the racist, the sexist and the homophobic in hilarious fashion.
Cho is described by Imdb.com as ‘a sort of ‘Patron Saint’ for Outsiders’ and has always been a staunch defender of LGBT rights, which is why, as someone actively involved in the LGBT community here in Hong Kong, I was honoured to have the opportunity to interview her.
Cho told me that this tour fulfils a long-held dream to visit Hong Kong having worked with Mission Impossible 2 director, John Woo, one of Hong Kong’s hottest exports, and describing herself as a ‘total freak’ of singer, actor and film-maker, Leslie Cheung. She told me of her touching personal homage to him as she visited a temple and gifted him a paper i-phone.
For the comedian Hong Kong symbolises beauty, film and culture although she also described it as ‘a futuristic city’. That futuristic aspect makes it all the more strange that Hong Kong is so far behind other countries on the subject of gay marriage, legalised nationwide last year in the US.
It is a subject close to Cho’s heart – she campaigned for the legalisation of gay marriage for ten years, although admits that she never thought she would see it actually happen. Having grown up in 1970s San Francisco, the child of parents who were avid supporters of the gay community and heavily influenced by activists like Harvey Milk, it seems almost inevitable that she became an AIDS activist and LGBT rights campaigner.
She gave me her view on why Hong Kong, such a progressive and open-minded society when it comes to finance, business and racial relations, remains so resistant to gay marriage. Cho explained how there are two forces to fight here in establishing LGBT rights: the evangelical social conservatives (an import from the US) who wish to stamp out what they see as the scourge of homosexuality as well as a highly conservative Chinese community which has serious issues concerning gender politics and sexual orientation.
But fight we must. As Cho says, a modern city such as Hong Kong, which she views as part of the west even though it is in Asia, needs to foster a similarly modern outlook which must include equal rights for the LGBT community.
Her advice for those of us undertaking that fight is to be vocal, keep talking about the issues and maintain LGBT issues in the spotlight by harnessing the incredible power of social media to bring about change. She fervently believes that it will come.
By adding her voice to the debate, this inspirational lady has hopefully motivated young LGBT people in Hong Kong to carry on doing just that. I know it has certainly encouraged me in my efforts to promote LGBT rights.