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U.S. Gay Mayor Praises Shanghai’s Inclusiveness

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Aug 3, 2010
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Annise Parker, openly lesbian mayor of Houston, praised Shanghai for its LGBT inclusiveness and its entrepreneurial spirit during a trip to the World Expo in that city.

"Shanghainese and Houstonians are similar," Parker said in an Aug. 3 address delivered at the World Expo’s USA Pavilion, reported People’s Daily Online that same day. "They care about what you do, not who you are."

The article said that the trip marks Parker’s first international travel as mayor of Houston since she was elected last December. About sixty of the city’s business leaders are also in Shanghai for the World Expo. The city is among the more accepting of China’s LGBT population, which is not legally discriminated against, but which still suffers from social stigma. In recent years, the Chinese government has showed signs of becoming more friendly toward the gay community, going so far as to open a government-approved gay bar and permitting a major theater to mount a 17th century play with dominant lesbian themes. However, Chinese gays have suffered other setbacks, such as the literally last minute cancellation of what would have been the country’s first gay pageant earlier this year.

In April, just before the May 1 opening of the world exposition in Shanghai, China followed the United States in lifting a longstanding travel ban on HIV+ visitors. The change--which amends two laws, one from 1986 and another from 1989--became effective on April 24.

Parker’s visit is part of a larger campaign to cultivate business ties, according to an Aug. 2 Advocate.com story. Advocate and GayPolitics.com reported that one of Parker’s projects is to establish a direct air route between Houston and China.

"What Houston and Shanghai have in common is the growth-oriented entrepreneurial altitude," noted Parker, telling listeners that, "To boost development, a city needs to be open to a full range of people, especially the innovative ones who break barriers, like people of the gay community."

Houston made history when it became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly LGBT mayor. Internationally, other major cities have long since had out, gay mayors, including Zurich, Paris, and Berlin, GayPolitics.com noted.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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