‘Gaypec’: San Francisco champions LGBTQ+ rights at Asia summit

‘Gaypec’: San Francisco champions LGBTQ+ rights at Asia summit

/ 05:36 AM November 18, 2023

‘Gaypec’: San Francisco champions LGBTQ+ rights at Asia summit

A SHOW OF THEIR OWN Drag artist Khymera Rouge performs during “Gaypec,” an LGBTQ+ party held on the sidelines of the Apec Summit to celebrate queer Asian history and move for more progress toward equality among communities in the Asia-Pacific region, in the Castro District of San Francisco, California, on Nov. 15. —AFP

SAN FRANCISCO—The calendar for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) in San Francisco featured a US-China summit, appearances by top CEOs, negotiations on a trade pact—and seductive dances by elaborately coiffed drag queens.

Welcome to “Gaypec,” one of the side events of the Apec forum, being held in the city for decades at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ+ acceptance.


“This is the most significant gathering of international leaders in San Francisco in more than a half century,” said Rafael Mandelman, who represents the LGBTQ+-friendly Castro district on San Francisco Board of Supervisors.


“It seemed to me that if an event that big was happening in San Francisco, there had to be something gay about it,” he said.

Acknowledging that homosexuality is frowned upon in some Apec member states, Mandelman hoped that San Francisco would provide a level of comfort for LGBTQ+ visitors and let them “find a queer community for the time they’re here.”

READ: Biden reassures Apec summit, says stable China ties benefit world

Mayor’s support

With support from Mayor London Breed, San Francisco invited Apec delegates to a “Gaypec” reception Wednesday night at a gay club in Castro with plenty of less formal mingling than at the summit venue.

Few foreign delegates were seen at the club, which took place at the same time as President Joe Biden’s opening reception, but organizers said the event was as much about making a statement as welcoming any LGBTQ+ guests.

“We know that LGBT rights are not enjoyed in many Asian countries,” said Evan Low, a California state Assembly member who is Chinese-American and openly gay.

“I met a number of delegates who privately pulled me aside and said, I wish I could come to this Gaypec event, but for me as an official diplomat, it would be terrible, it would be devastating,” he said.


“So we are here to gather and channel this energy into a movement, into an actual commitment of advancing equality for everyone.”

READ: Climate activists oppose nuclear energy as Marcos signs deal at APEC

Asian heritage

Muslim-majority Brunei, an Apec member, has the death penalty on the books for homosexuality—although the sultan has imposed an indefinite moratorium in the face of strong international criticism, including boycott calls of Brunei-owned luxury hotels abroad.

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who is attending Apec, had been imprisoned on allegations of sodomy. He denied the charges, which he said were trumped up by political rivals.

At Gaypec, taking the stage to electropop, her arms stretched in the air above her voluminous curls, the first drag performer wore a sparkling red dress in tribute to her Asian heritage.

Born in the United States to Cambodian parents, the drag performer, who goes by the stage name Khmera Rouge, said she hoped to show the inclusiveness of the city to visitors.

“San Francisco is one of those places where everybody is welcome,” she said. “Anybody can be whoever they want here.”

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TAGS: APEC, APEC summit, gay, LGBTQ

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