They were meant to unite but the Asia LGBT Milestone Awards have ended with three different sets of winners and a boycott by their own judges.
The awards, held in Shanghai, China on Sunday (26 June), were meant to be a partnership. Shanghai Pride would host the awards, founded by Singapore’s Element Magazine three years ago.
In the end both Shanghai Pride and Element agree on five award winners.
But the judges coordinated by Shanghai Pride have released their own winners list, including four winners who never got awards.
And the official website for the Asia LGBT Milestone Awards, run by Element, names four other winners that Shanghai Pride doesn’t include as well as listing 27 commended companies.
The categories were also in chaos – someone who won for Hero of the Year apparently wasn’t even nominated for that. Pride had a Diversity Champion and Campaign of the Year but Element didn’t, while it added in a Role Model and Visual Impact of the Year, which Pride didn’t include.
Shanghai Pride claims the voting process, was a ‘sham’ with LGBTI community leaders ignored.
‘The votes of the judges were ignored blatantly by the organizers from Element Magazine,’ reads an open letter from LGBTI leaders, mostly from China and Korea, coordinated by Shanghai Pride.
They continue: ‘To everybody’s regret, the event was a fiasco. The host magazine followed their own agenda and focused narrowly on the profitability of “pink commerce” rather than the range of issues represented by this year’s milestones.
‘High gloss gay magazines have their readers, but an award ceremony celebrating hyper-masculinity and drag fails to represent the wider array of possibilities the community is continuously exploring.’
Thorben Li Leilei of Shanghai Pride told GSN yet another set of winners was announced on the night – containing some, but not all of those on Element’s list.
After organizers lost the award trophies, winners were presented with teddy bears instead, he said.
Hiro Mizhura, founder of the awards and Element Magazine, told GSN that Shanghai Pride had failed to provide the help to organize the awards they expected.
He said: ‘I apologize that the whole thing has become rather dramatic and I really didn’t want to fight like this within the community.
‘I wanted to create a platform for the much needed LGBT NGOs and activists to come and present and share their projects, challenges, etc with the mainstream corporates, business leaders who have much more economic power to help with their LGBT campaigns.’
He emphasized the ALMA awards even provided $1,000 (€900) to fund flights so activists could come to the free event.
‘I actually already guessed they would do all they can to let ALMA die. What good can it do them? The Chinese version of the open letter they wrote implied that they would like to take over ALMA. I have heard from some insiders in China they have done that quite a few times before us to other LGBT event organizers.’
The chaos reflects general criticism of LGBTI – and indeed all – awards, that they are often ‘bought’ by sponsors or given as gifts to supporters.
Full disclosure: GSN has, in previous years, partnered both with Singapore Pride and with Element and its first Asia LGBT Milestone Awards because we believe both have a positive contribution to make to Asia’s LGBTI community.
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