This year’s Taipei Pride parade comes at a pivotal moment in the island’s gay rights movement
By David Prentice
On October 29, an estimated 82,000 turned out on the streets of Taipei to march for marriage equality and gay rights, marking record attendance for Taiwan’s annual Pride event, now in its 14th year and the biggest LGBT rights parade in Asia. The event undoubtedly came at a pivotal time in Taiwan’s gay rights movement with revelers knowing that a breakthrough on marriage equality is as close as it has ever been. The move which would make Taiwan the first East Asian country to legalize gay marriage, potentially paving the way for other countries in the region to follow the island’s lead.
Such a breakthrough would be a hard-fought win for Taiwan’s gay community, but also one tinged with sadness following the death of Jacques Picoux, a gay professor at Taiwan’s best university – National Taiwan University. The professor’s death was a suspected suicide, driven by years of unfair discrimination he faced alongside his partner, who had passed away a year prior. Picoux was reportedly left devastated when his lack of legal relationship status in Taiwan denied him the right to participate in crucial medical decisions in his partner’s final moments.
Picoux’s death raised questions in the gay community about the sincerity of the promises made by newly elected President Tsai Ing-wen, who rode to electoral success on a wave of popular support due in part to her support for liberal causes such as marriage equality. Tsai’s election campaign even used gay rights imagery such as the rainbow flag to sell electoral memorabilia. With the government seen as dragging its heels by gay rights activists in the country, Picoux’s tragic death galvanized public support and sympathy, paving the way for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to put forward a bill granting gay couples equal rights in marriage and parental authority. The bill is expected to be passed early in 2017, cementing Taiwan’s position as East Asia’s most gay-friendly nation.
The wet weather in Taipei on Saturday did little to dampen the spirits of those in attendance, with the usual array of feather boas, thongs, six-packs, glitter, and S&M apparel on show. Starting outside the Presidential Palace on Ketagalan Boulevard, the parade took two directions, both taking the party past some of Taipei’s most famed landmarks, such as Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Noticeable during the festivities was the sizable international contingent in the parade, with hundreds of attendees from Malaysia, Japan, and Thailand making the journey to Taipei. “It’s impossible to imagine this happening in Malaysia for at least the next 20 years,” said Alan, a 24-year-old Malaysian student studying in Taipei.
In a post on her Facebook page on Saturday, President Tsai further reiterated her support to the gay community, stating: “Although my role has changed, my belief has not. Love should allow people to feel free, to feel equal, and to feel strong.”
With such momentum behind the movement, it now seems only a matter of time before Taipei becomes Asia’s capital of love and tolerance. “We’re as close as we’ve ever been,” said Billy, a local from Taipei, perhaps echoing the optimism shared by many in attendance.
“I want a wife too,” read one banner held aloft by a beaming young woman with the rainbow flag painted on her cheeks. At this rate, she won’t have long to wait.
David Prentice is a freelance journalist currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.
Source: THE DIPLOMAT
Taipei Gay Resources
For more details on the Taipei gay scene, which is extensive, it’s well worth having a look at the online GayTaipei4U Taipei Gay Guide – it’s a helpful site with details on local bars, gay bathhouses, events, and more.
If you’re planning a trip to this gay-friendly nation, look to the very helpful website of the Taiwan Tourism Office, which has plenty of details on hotels, attractions, and transportation. It’s easy to find direct flights from North America to Taipei on a number of airlines, with some of the best deals available on the national carrier, Eva Air, which has service to Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Toronto, and New York City.
Parties During Taiwan Gay Pride Weekend
The buzzy cluster of gay bars and terraces (along with cafes and underwear and club-gear boutiques) situated around the historic Red House arts and design market in the Ximending district are always packed with revelers throughout the Pride weekend. To get here, take a taxi or the metro to Ximen Station – the distinctive redbrick Red House building is across the street, and the bars curve around the plaza behind the building, both at street level and upstairs. The surrounding Ximen area, especially the blocks immediately north of Red House, also abound with karaoke clubs, restaurants and shops (from outposts of international chains to upscale establishments), and a handful of boutique-y hotels. Head a few blocks north of Red House to find Commander D, the most popular of Taiwan’s gay fetish and leather clubs, which is also a hive of activity during Pride.
On the east side of the city, hip and stylish gay nightspots like the young and modish Park Taipei(close to the Daan metro station) and Abrazo (a few blocks south of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall metro station) also draws huge crowds partying into the wee hours.
Where to Stay During Taiwan Pride
Host of the most see-and-be-seen party during the weekend, the swish and contemporary W Tapei Hotel (10 Zhongxiao East Rd., 886-2-7703-8888) is one of the hottest addresses in the city during Pride weekend. The stylish hotel offers a Proud to Love Pride Package during each year during Pride Weekend, which includes access to the glam Woobar & Wet Bar party, on the hotel’s 10th-floor pool level. You can book the W Tapai Proud to Love package here.