Interview: GJ Matten of ‘gay bombing’ group Guerilla HK

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GJ Mattens of Hong Kong ‘gay bombing’ group Guerilla HK tells Arthur Tam about taking over the city’s straight bars
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It’s begun. What conservatives and religious fanatics have been fearing since Sodom and Gomorrah, lewd Greek sculptures and Oscar Wilde, is finally happening. And it’s taking place right here in Hong Kong. The ‘gay agenda’ – as the Family Research Centre so kindly put it in 1992 – is being rolled out in our city, thanks to an LGBTI operation that’s just formed, which is infiltrating straight venues and doing the unthinkable. Socialising. They said it would happen right after George Michael started shaking his booty in those hot pants. And they were right. There are dark rainbow times ahead for Hong Kong.

All jokes aside, this is a great time for sexuality integration in Hong Kong. And it’s down to Guerilla HK, a new group formed a few months ago by resident Belgian, GJ Mattens, as a way of ‘promoting integration and stirring up an unsuspecting environment’. Basically, this group is hellbent on getting gay people to mix with straight people in our city’s bars, rather than segregating the crowds as is fairly traditional in the nightscene. Essentially, the group is like a flash mob but with less fickle spontaneity as it’s designed so that people end up staying at an arranged meetup spot to have fun and socialise.

Usually on the third Thursday of each month, Guerilla HK chooses a traditionally straight venue for its group of LGBTI members to patron. Venues can range from pretty much anything from a high-end hotel bar to a sports pub or a club. So far, there have been four events which have taken place at Red Bar, The Globe, Liberty Exchange and Insomnia, and there’s an upcoming one on Thursday March 5 over at the Tazmania Ballroom in LKF Tower from 6pm until 9pm. The group has so far been able to gather around 40 or so people at each event. “I enjoy being at a straight bar,” says Mattens. “I personally don’t hang out at gay bars too often because there are other bars where I enjoy the music, setting and crowd much more. The only thing that’s missing, though, are the gay guys. I would just like to know that if I see a cute guy, I have a higher chance of hitting on him.”

Guerilla HK offers a natural ice breaker to folks who want to join in. People who go along to the event receive a sticker and start mingling with others who believe in the concept, while attracting regular customers to join in the fun – optimising the human-to-human contact and killing the sometimes awkward social pressures of being at a bar. Instead of ‘hey, I’m talking to you cause I want to hook up’, it’s ‘hey, what’s Guerilla HK? Would you like to chat some more about it?’ Mattens says: “It would be great to equal out the ratio of straight and gay people. To me, it breaks boundaries, so there doesn’t need to be a designated place for straight people or gay people. And it’s just a great activity for people to engage in after work.”

Okay, so the concept isn’t entirely new. It’s something that started in San Francisco, USA, a little over a decade ago, with the idea of ‘gay bombing’. Though SF is already pretty gay, the LGBTI community is still in the minority and the city saw it as important to expand venues where people can hang out, feel comfortable and, most importantly, have fun. But Guerilla HK is, of course, highly unique to Hong Kong.

Mattens aims to build on the already existing gay scene without taking anything away from it. The group isn’t here to contend with gay clubs and bars, he says. It just offers a nonchalant alternative. As the popularity of the event grows, the 27-year-old hopes that he can collaborate with more venues and perhaps host, weekly events. So, in an age where the LGBTI community is still struggling for equality, particularly in Hong Kong, an event like Guerilla HK may well be helpful in promoting more inclusion and awareness in our city. Either way, it’s a great excuse for gays, lesbians and everything in between to get out of their ‘designated areas’ and explore pastures new.

Guerilla HK Tazmania Ballroom, Thu Mar 5, 6pm-9pm. Free; facebook.com/guerrillahongkong.

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