Urban life

An Insider’s Guide to LGBTQI+ Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s gay bars are just the beginning. Get to know the city’s best queer hangouts, day or night, including literary haunts, inclusive cafes and loud and proud festivals

Hong Kong is often cited as one of the world’s most convenient and cosmopolitan cities. It’s also increasingly an inclusive LGBTQI+ destination – and will host Asia’s very first Gay Games in 2022. The nine-day sporting and cultural festival will welcome 15,000 participants to compete in 36 events.

Hong Kong is an ideal host city, according to Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2022 Founder and Chair Dennis Philipse. ‘It’s a one-of-a-kind place where shopping, fine dining, country parks, beaches and nightlife are within walking distance of each other.’

The city is indeed unique, with an unmatched skyline, a colourful blend of cultures and a diverse social scene – including the city’s LGBTQI+ community. While there’s arguably still room to grow, there are plenty of ways beyond Hong Kong’s gay bars to experience the loud and proud LGBTQI+ scene and its hippest hangouts.

Here’s a list of the finest queer cafes, literary haunts, inclusive beaches, roller derbies and festivals.

Culture

Mum’s Not Home: Queer Tween Cafe

Mum’s Not Home is the kind of place where you can lounge around, indulge in a slice of masala cheesecake and listen to an eclectic playlist of folk, indie or classical music. Partners Chow Kong-chuen and Makui Ma turned a once dingy, dilapidated first-floor flat on Yau Ma Tei’s Shanghai Street into a rustic cafe filled with plants, custom decorations and Chow’s whimsical gallery of gender-nonconforming portrait paintings. It’s celebratory and joyful: the foundation of queer representation.

Madame Quad: A Safe Space and Roller Derby

Roller derby’s revival has returned the sport to the forefront as a safe space for women across the world – and Hong Kong is no exception. In 2019, Milanie Bekker and Snooky Wong, president of the Hong Kong Roller Derby team, opened Madame Quad in Causeway Bay, selling skates, helmets, pads and all the other gear you need to get started. Madame Quad is an inclusive space where straight, gay and queer women can be part of a community. Drop by to say hello or inquire about joining their crew.

Queer Reads Library: Mobile Literary Engagement

For those curious about queer literature, seek out the Queer Reads Library. You just have to find it first (check Instagram for its current location). This mobile library is a collection of thought-provoking books and zines covering photography, comics, community care articles and even vintage personal ads. Founders Beatrix Pang, Kaitlin Chan and Rachel Lau also host discussions with leading voices in the community like Filipino pastor Marrz Balaoro – a champion of LGBTQI+ rights for the city’s migrant workers. As Lau puts it, ‘It’s not so much about the books in the collection, but the relationships we build and the space we carve out for ourselves as LGBTQI+ people.’

Restaurants and Bars

T:me: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

T:me has been a Hong Kong gay bar staple for almost a decade. Tucked away in an alley behind Central’s Hollywood Road, the quiet bar run by partners Fred Ng and Barry Sum is great for socialising and making new friends. Every Tuesday and Thursday there’s free gin and vodka from 8:30pm until they run out.

Happy Paradise: ’80s Disco and Cantonese Cuisine

Expect neon lights, an ’80s Cantopop soundtrack, creative cocktails and modern takes on Cantonese classics. At Happy Paradise, head chef May Chow (Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017, but honestly just one of the best chefs full stop) maintains the traditional flavours and philosophy of Cantonese cuisine while adding her own spin to dishes like chicken wings stuffed with cuttlefish and black truffle; scallop noodles; and seared skirt steak noodles with preserved lemons and seaweed butter. She’s a vocal advocate for LGBTQI+ rights and often hosts one-off events featuring drag queen Virgin Xtravaganzah.

Nightlife

Host: Baring It All

If you’re all about body expression, Host is the monthly party for you. It’s held at Mihn Club, a ‘safe space’ club in Central that hosts visiting and local DJs, alternative events and punters of all race, gender and sexual identity. On Host nights you’re encouraged to strip down and feel free in your own skin while dancing to a playlist of electronic music. There’s no dress code – and no photos.

Bing Bing: Muscle Boys and Cheap Drinks

Bing Bing is the late-night hotspot for wild weekends. Expect a packed crowd from midnight until the wee hours, with go-go boys in full gyration mode, while gay men and their gal pals drink together from a party-size glasses. This is the closest you get to a circuit party experience in Hong Kong.

Behind: Chic Monthly Parties

The Behind parties usually take place at different venues, but their home base is Behind Bars, located in the impressive new Tai Kwun heritage centre in the former Central Police Station. Have your own cell block tango at this slammin’ gay party on the last Saturday of each month. You get it all: art, culture, fabulous people, catchy beats and delicious cocktails in a chic space converted from a former prison block.

Petticoat Lane: Fierce Drag Performances

Between its free-flow vodka Wednesdays (10pm-midnight) and nightly drag performances featuring emerging talents like Miss Mid Levels, Mocha Diva and Violette Blanche, Petticoat Lane is one of the hottest spots in Hong Kong’s gay bar scene. It’s isn’t just the vodka and fierce lip syncs that draw crowds, though. ‘Petticoat Lane is an inclusive LGBTQI+ bar for people who don’t judge others and don’t want to be judged,’ says general manager Justin van Herwerden.

Outdoors

Middle Bay Beach: Nudity Encouraged

Nude sunbathing isn’t strictly permitted in Hong Kong, but that doesn’t stop some some sunseekers at Middle Bay Beach. There are two beaches at this bay: the more secluded one on the northern side is very queer and nude affirming for those of us who want to go au naturel.

South Bay Beach: Idyllic and Tourist-Free

This is the most pristine beach on the south side of Hong Kong Island, and it’s mostly visited by families and members of the LGBTQI+ community. If you’re looking for a relaxing day of reading, swimming and tanning, South Bay Beach is the spot; it’s just obscurely located enough to deter the hordes. There is also an outdoor cafe for all your food and alcohol needs. Getting transport back to the city can be tough at weekends, so download Uber or the Hong Kong Taxi app, or ask if you can share a taxi with others.

Out in HK: Getting Physical

From the same organisers of Hong Kong’s Gay Games 2022, Out in HK is an opportunity for members of the LGBTQI+ community to bond through outdoor adventures without the crutch of a vodka soda (at least not until happy hour). There are multiple events each month involving hikes, kayaking, races, paddle boarding and more.

Festivals & Events

Pink Season: Hong Kong’s Version of Pride Month

From late September to early November, Hong Kong’s premier LGBTQI+ festival Pink Season returns with more than 20 events, ranging from wine-pairing dinners and comedy nights to drag workshops, live music and wellness events – all geared towards spreading a message of acceptance, inclusion and equality. Arguably the highlight of the season is the launch party at Petticoat Lane: miss it and run the risk of a serious case of FOMO.

Pink Dot: All For One and One For All

Usually held around October on open green spaces like Admiralty’s Tamar Park or West Kowloon’s lawns, Pink Dot features food, drink and music by Hong Kong’s most popular artists and allies. The event, originating from Singapore, requires everyone to dress in pink, so at a given moment they can join together to create a giant dot, which is captured from above by a drone.

Hong Kong Pride Parade: A Big Gay Party

Every November, thousands gather in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park for the Hong Kong Pride Parade, where the crowd marches to Central to celebrate the fabulousness and colour that the LGBTQI+ community brings to the city. It’s a chance to let loose, dress up and express yourself in a safe, accepting environment. Expect fierce drag performances and musical numbers at the end.

Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival: Queens Onscreen

The love for film runs deep in Hong Kong, and the annual Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival – the longest-running fest of its kind in Asia – is a popular event on the calendar for both the LGBTQI+ community and avid cinephiles. In the spirit of inclusion, the varied programme includes queer cinema from comedy to documentaries, telling stories from Hong Kong and across the globe.

Floatilla: Fun in the Sun

Hong Kong’s subtropical waters mean that October is still a good time to hit the high seas. Enter Floatilla: a fleet of junk boats carrying gay men (along with the occasional lesbian ship) for a day of sun, swim and drinks. If you’re not in town for the annual event, renting a junk boat with your friends is always a popular Hong Kong weekend pastime and a recipe for a good time.

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