Cantopop star Denise Ho (何韻詩) comes out as gay at Hong Kong Pride

Cantopop now has its first lesbian star.

Denise Ho (何韻詩), who is also known as HOCC, is the first mainstream female Hong Kong pop star to come out of the closet publicly.

The androgynous 35-year-old singer made her coming out speech at a Hong Kong Pride concert on November 10.

“I am proud to say that I am a tongzhi," the tearful star told an audience of approximately 4,000 attendees, receiving cheers and applause in response. (Tongzhi, or comrade, is a Chinese slang term for gay.) Her announcement effectively put years of speculation and rumours to rest.

She had previously sung songs about same-sex love (such as "Lawrence and Lewis" and ""Goodbye, Rosemary") and starred in the gay-themed musical "Butterfly Lovers".

Her announcement follows fellow pop star Anthony Yiu-Ming Wong's public declaration in April that he is gay. Ho stated that her decision was in fact influenced by Wong. Wong performed with her, prior to her announcement.

But her decision was also prompted by the prevalence of prejudice against homosexual people in Hong Kong.

A few days earlier, Hong Kong lawmakers rejected a motion calling for a public consultation on protecting all sexual orientations from discrimination.

"Silence is no longer an option," Ho said. "By speaking out, you may lose some chances, face extra problems and get unexpected results, but still fail to change the status quo immediately.

"However, as a public figure, I think if a little fact that I say can add my voice and give a bit of a boost to the fight for equal rights, then I think my personal concerns are simply trivial."

She acknowledged that her announcement was a risky one.

"My concern was my company and job. We don’t know how inclusive and progressive society is, so high-profile public figures like us have to test the water."

In spite of her fears about coming out, she had stated that she felt she had "an obligation, a duty to stand forward for the sake of love and more peace."

She was supported by her parents, whom she hugged afterward, as well as other celebrity friends.

After the announcement, she elaborated upon her feelings about coming out on her blog on Weibo.

"I am very fortunate to be living in such an open society, to receive the support from many good friends. Although I am moved and grateful, I will keep reminding myself to not be swept away by one moment of happiness," she wrote.

"The person that I am today is no different from yesterday. The only difference is that I have a bigger mission. At this time, we must let everyone know that the label is only a small part of ourselves. We have so many other outstanding roles in society."

Ho has a Canadian connection: she immigrated with her family to Montreal in 1987 and attended school in Canada before returning to Hong Kong to launch her music career.

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Georgia Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.

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