Mr. Gay Canada 2014: Coquitlam's Christepher Wee advocates diversity as social education
WHISTLER—Christepher Wee is the first Asian Canadian to win the title of Mr. Gay Canada. But he says he hadn't given much thought about his racial identity.
"Live your life as best you can as a humanitarian and your labels fall secondary," he says of his personal philosophy. "For me, I don't go through life helping someone…because I'm Chinese or I'm an LGBT member. I'm doing it because I'm a human being and that's what we should be doing."
On the other hand, Wee, in an interview with the Georgia Straight at the Whistler Conference Centre, says that what partly inspired him to enter the contest was Miss New York Nina Davuluri, who won Miss America 2013, and Miss California Crystal Lee, who was first runnerup.
After seeing an Indian American and Chinese American top the Miss America pageant, he began to wonder what was available for gay men. He had grealtly admired the initiative of a friend who quit his job to do charity work in Cambodia, and he in turn wondered what could be done on a national or international level. After stumbling upon Mr. Gay Canada in a Google search, he decided to give it a go.
Regional competitions were held in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver. After a three-day competition during Whistler's WinterPRIDE LGBT ski week that included sports, fashion, and public speaking challenges, Wee won the title on January 30—which was Chinese New Year's Eve, no less. (He inherits the position from 2013 winner Danny Papadatos.)
Wee, who was born in Singapore to ethnic Chinese parents from Singapore and Malaysia but grew up in Vancouver, was surprised to receive hundreds of Facebook messages thanking him, particularly from Asia.
"I had messages like 'I'm so proud of you. You represent us Asians,'" he says. "I didn't even think I was Asian when I was applying and it really hit me when I got all these messages saying you represent us and you are our voice because part of my message was I would like to use my voice and be heard."
The Coquitlam resident won the peoples' choice award, the best costume award (for dressing up as a Justice of Supreme Court of Canada with a rainbow strip to represent Canada's stance for human rights), and the Mr. Congeniality award.
Although LGBT rights in Asia have a long ways to go (even in his birthplace of Singapore, homosexuality is still illegal), he says his family was always accepting of his sexual orientation.
"I would talk to them openly about things as though it's like daily life," he says. "It's not like a big deal."
His experiences of being in the public eye in Asia, after becoming a model and actor, gave him training to be a role model. He says he felt it prepared him for the competition and helped him become a better teacher.
Teaching and education issues remain a priority for him. In his capacity as Mr. Gay Canada, he wants to work with organizations like Out in Schools, Pride Education Network, and gay-straight alliances.
"My goal is to get Out in Schools and all those programs more into our school system, especially outside of the city," he says.
By doing so, he believes all students will benefit by improving their social skills.
"Every person needs to learn how to live in society. The young, they learn how to be more understanding and whatnot, it will help them in their workplace. It will help them when they go to postsecondary, or if they move out of the country. When we move out of the country and live in different places, you have to adapt to different cultures…so I think it's a good thing for kids to learn at a young age."
He prefers not to use the word "inclusion" because he feels it emphasizes who isn't included.
"For me, it's more like a celebration of the diversity in the school, whether it's gender or religion or your race or your sexual orientation [and it's important] to learn from each other about the differences and celebrate those differences."
Wee hopes to meet with city councillor Tim Stevenson, who is currently on a mission to the Sochi Winter Olympics to advocate for LGBT rights, and he will also go on to compete in the Mr. Gay World competition in August in Rome, Italy.
While he feels that Canada has significantly progressed thanks to previous generations of LGBT pioneers and activists who fought for rights and acceptance, he cites Russia as an example of how things can change for the worse.
"We can't just focus on Canada," he says. "We also have to look globally at how we can influence [others] as well."
Feb 7, 2014 at 8:36pm
Advocacy out of schools!
Keep it in your pants
Feb 8, 2014 at 6:51am
I'm an adult and I think that we need to leave this issue out of schools and out of the media scrum.
Kids are impressionable and they need to grow mentally and spiritually at their own pace and not be influenced by adults who already know better.
"Live your life as best you can as a humanitarian and your labels fall secondary," but you will hammer the LG label and make sure the world labels you. ??
Feb 8, 2014 at 12:22pm
My children do not need to listen and acquaint themselves with your gay issues. Inclusion and developing strong connections without hate and judgement are neccessary.
Feb 8, 2014 at 9:54pm
With all due respect Mr. Wee, your perspective on human sexuality is your own, and does not reflect the viewpoints of many parents. If you want to identify as gay and live your life that way, by all means, but you do have the responsibility to present homosexuality accurately - the good and the bad. It's not a lifestyle many people are interested in having their children learn about.
Feb 9, 2014 at 4:29pm
Great comments, parents. The ol' don't tell our kids about this, it'll mess 'em up. FORTUNATELY, parents, your kids are waaay ahead of the game, as is always the case with evolution. Today's kids understand that sexuality is a prime (primal?) component of being human and they are not afraid of it. Like their parents were (are?)
Feb 10, 2014 at 6:29am
You are so wrong it's funny LOL. Most kids today are beyond fucked up, young women dressing like hookers, little men humping everything that moves to have something to boast about at recess. Sex is just given away like a handshake now and you can point the finger at your cousins from the south and the media that hammers this false agenda into kids.
Sex is the bond that seals the deal after you make a spiritual bond first. Not the opposite and people who put sex in your face are actually pleading for attention because of personal issues. Gay canada seems like he needs a hug from some straight people.
Feb 10, 2014 at 9:14am
Personally, I don't understand why it would be a problem to teach tolerance at school. Some of you think that talking about homosexuality at school might influence your children. This is not true! Besides, talking about homosexuality may help gay teens to accept themselves and see that they are amazing, smart, creative and inspiring people like M. Wee that are gay and can be part of life. Not talking about homosexuality is a mistake because it would increase the fear of some people and the hate of some others.
The point of talking about homosexuality is not necessarily to tell to your kids: "Be gay, it's cool!" but: "You know, maybe your friends next to you is gay. But it's ok. He's still your friends so don't laugh at him.". It might help your children to understand gay people and have more compassion.
As for M. Wee, I would like to congratulate him and tell him how inspiring he is to me because he shows that there is beauty, intelligence and creativity in everybody, no matter what race, nationality or sexual orientation we are. And I totally agree with his ideas of education because these programs may help gay teens to get out of their isolationism and bring them hope and more acceptance. Because we are what we are. We are not monsters, we are not abominations, we are not sinners. We are just men and women willing to live up our life as best as we can without being judged, without being bullied, without being treated like we are not normal.
Like M. Wee said, before being an ethnicity or a sexual orientation, we are human beings first. Congratulations M. Wee and best of luck! :)
Feb 10, 2014 at 11:42am
You said hate and inclusion are necessary without hate and judgement but then you say that your children don't need to hear about gay issues? WTF? Think that one over again.
Also, tell us: What are you going to do if your own children come out as LGBT? Consider it: there is a chance they might be. Are you going to hate and judge them?
To "Keep It In Your Pants":
You may be an adult physically but that doesn't mean you are emotionally or intellectually mature. Homosexuality is only to do with sex—it's also about love, identity, differences, and social relations. And it's not something that can be influenced. You are or you aren't.
Also, he isn't "hammering" the LGBT label. He's being visible in a world where people like you try to keep him invisible.
Looks like some people really do need education.
Feb 15, 2014 at 11:40am
Speech by Ellen Page. http://humanrightscampaign.tumblr.com/?og=1 #ellenpage #humanrights #anti-bullying #pinkteeday #equality #diversity #education
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