Interview: ALMA Award nominees Abby Lee and Betty Grisoni

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Arthur Tam speaks to ALMA Award nominees Abby Lee and Betty Grisoni about their milestone achievements

Every year there are new, positive and impactful changes that benefit the LGBTI community. This is in no small part due to the hard work of individuals, groups and even corporations who make it their goal to improve the livelihood of marginalised groups. It’s no small feat, especially within the Asia-Pacific region, where LGBTI rights aren’t widely recognised – for many people it’s a constant uphill struggle. This fact hasn’t stopped the ambition, spirit and fortitude of a few exceptional individuals who continue to fight the good fight.

To honour these heroes, Elements (Singapore’s online-only gay magazine) organises the annual Asia LGBT Milestone Awards and Diversity Leadership Forum (ALMA Awards) to celebrate the progress they’ve made while pushing for equal rights for LGBTI communities throughout Asia.

This year’s event took place on Tuesday, April 14 in Bangkok, just after the Songkran water-splashing festival. Representing Hong Kong as finalists were lesbian couple of 17 years and activists Betty Grisoni and Abby Lee, who have been the premier LGBTI leaders for a decade in our city with their queer women’s organisation, Les Peches. In fact, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of Les Peches, which is quite the hallmark occasion.

“We are very proud that a dream and a little event that had 20 people now boasts 6,000 members,” says Grisoni. “We are proud to see our queer lady friends coming out. We are proud of giving the queer women a voice at a table where the men still usually stand out.”

Grisoni and Lee are definitely the most outspoken, social and present lesbian duo in all of Hong Kong. Besides hosting events through Les Peches, the ladies were essential in organising the inaugural Pink Dot event last year – and because they did such a good job, they’ve recently been appointed as this year’s directors. “There is going to be some pressure to outdo last year,” says Grisoni. “We were so happy last year to see 12,000 people in Tamar Park, cheering for love and equality without any political pretence.” Lee adds, “People were out there purely because they believe love is love. We saw friends, colleagues, families and a huge number of straight allies spending their Sunday in support and enjoying the festivities.”

On top of Pink Dot, the ladies are also pushing for the legislation for gay marriage through their organisation Double Happiness. And they continue to be essential to the Pink Alliance – the organisation responsible for putting together Hong Kong’s largest season of LGBTI events, Pink Season.

Alas, Lee and Grisoni didn’t win this year’s Community Leaders of the Year award at ALMA. However, it goes without saying that they’ve been able to bring together a previously fragmented queer community through their unwavering efforts. “We want to be visible,” says Lee. “A lot of times people fear the LGBTI community because they do not know who we are. They fear the unknown. By joining together and coming out, hopefully we give them a better understanding of us, and give the rest of the community the courage to come out as well.”

Thanks, ladies. We look forward to your 10th anniversary party at the end of this year. Here’s wishing you another 10!

ALMA Awards Check out the winners at almaawards.org.

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