I’m a flower noob. I can’t tell hydrangeas apart from peonies, nor can I right away pinpoint the difference between asters and ice plants. Moving to Prince Edward here in Hong Kong only reminded me more of my inability to do so as the area is best known for its Flower Market Road, which is a haven of delight for florists and plant-parents.
I’m neither one of them. So while people flock to the flower stalls and shops to buy their spouses, moms, dads, friends with flowers imbued with sentiments and meanings, I go the opposite direction and head towards shops for home supplies, where I can lose myself in plastic wares, items, and other household accouterments.
Amid plates and pots, cutlery, and cleaning supplies, one item that especially – and will always – catch my attention though, is a toilet seat cover. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see one is my girlfriend or partner for three years, almost two of those spent apart.
Our long-distance arrangement started in late 2019 when I moved to Hong Kong to work for a publication. Back in the Philippines, I lived with her in an apartment often rented by students in the university town of Los Baños, a province three hours away south of the urban jungle that is Manila.
Our place is not small, nor is it big. It’s not in a slipshod state and is actually very homey, but some parts of it couldn’t be made better no matter how much you clean and wipe and shine them. I’m referring particularly to the restroom, whose toilet bowl lacks a seat cover.
When I was still in Los Baños, or Elbi as it’s fondly called by its residents, I will scour every shop and mall for that damn toilet seat cover. It’s something that is a novelty for us Pinoys, I suppose, as they are hard to come by – you either spend a whole day trudging between 4-5 shops, endure the confused look from the salesperson as you tell them you only want a toilet seat cover, not the whole toilet, or just buy a whole new toilet bowl altogether to get the new seat cover, as there’s really not much of it being separately sold there.
But not here in Hong Kong.
I don’t have to go to a big mall or explain to the salespeople what I am looking for – they’re just there, these toilet seat covers, happily lined up next to a convenience store, across stalls selling flowers, ready for your picking.
There’s one that’s white, one that has a cartoon character on it, one that has an animal design.
But it’s not only a new toilet seat cover which I can get for me and my girlfriend here in Hong Kong.
I can also apply for a whole house if ever we get married somewhere where same-sex marriage is legal and secure a whole home for us if ever we become permanent residents.
Hong Kong’s high court has ruled that same-sex couples can apply for public rental housing, saying that their exclusion from this by the Housing Authority is a violation of Article 25 of the Basic Law and Article 22 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.
Article 25 says “All Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law,” and Article 22 stipulates that a person cannot be treated differently based on his or her “race, colour, sex, language, religion, opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or any other status.”
The High Court handed down this ruling on June 25, a win for gay couple Henry Li and his deceased partner Edgar Ng and a victory for the rest of the LGBTQIA community.
Because of this, I get to have a chance to seek a place, to apply for one from the government’s subsidised housing program for my family – my partner – something I cannot do back in my own country. It will be a place registered under our names, if ever – with her as my spouse when we reach that stage and hers as mine.
There are still a lot of important aspects of rights equality and protection for the LGBTQIA people in Hong Kong which have to be addressed and recognised by the government. Same-sex marriage is still not legal here, for one, among other things and there is still homophobia, as most recently manifested in some lawmakers’ opposition towards having the Gay Games held here in 2022.
But the fact that one aspiration gets recognized as valid gives me hope.
I can shop for a damn toilet seat cover for a home that the government will say rightfully belongs to me and the woman I love.
And even if I’m such a flower noob, I can buy a peony that I cannot differentiate from a hydrangea and bring it home to her too, one day. A home that we can call ours.
Cover image by fotografierende on Unsplash. The copyright of this piece belongs to the author of this literary work.
Copied and pasted from Eksentrika.
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