Ping “Hoping” Hou ’18 LL.M.
2017 – 2018 Human Rights Fellow
Ping Hou ’18 LL.M. never used a Western first name like many of her classmates in China. Then a friend suggested she combine her own names into a single English word: Hoping.
It’s the perfect participle to describe her work as an LGBTIQ and women’s rights advocate—she believes things should and can get better and, in her experience, they have.
In her first job after earning her master’s in law from Shandong University in 2010, Hoping, a lesbian, experienced the kind of gender-based stereotyping common in many countries: A boss kept criticizing her for her unisex style. Knowing that others were facing the same struggles, Hoping founded LesGo, an LGBTIQ organization in China that focuses on eradicating social discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in 2010. The group’s goal is to raise awareness about gender-related issues through self-empowerment and public education, including the production of the VaChina Monologues, modeled after Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.
In 2015–2016, while Hoping was a fellow of the Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet) at Columbia University,a friend connected Hoping to Ensler, and the playwright recorded a video encouraging the LesGo team to continue its work, a serendipitous development Hoping called “amazing.” As a PILnet Fellow, Hoping also had the opportunity to take Gender Justice with Professor Katherine M. Franke.
“It opened my eyes,” she said. “I found there were so many great professors and colleagues here, and I wanted to work with and learn more from them.”
Hoping said homophobia is different in China than in the context of other countries, including the U.S., where the root of discrimination is often based on religious beliefs. “In China, the bigger problem was ignorance and family pressure,” she said. Through continuous efforts of activists and organizations, the visibility of the LGBTIQ community has been improved greatly. However, due to lack of legal protection, the obstacles faced by the LGBTIQ community have become increasingly visible as well.
As an LL.M. Human Rights Fellow and a Mark Haas Public Interest Fellow at Columbia Law School, Hoping is taking human rights and business classes with the ultimate goal of helping corporations become better human rights advocates. When she worked as an in-house attorney at a multinational company in China in 2012, she found a more diverse workplace and was able to come out to her colleagues. “It made me more confident,” she said. “I was empowered to talk to people about these issues more naturally, which also made me realize the importance of the business power and inclusiveness at the workplace.”