Sat, Oct 26, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Parade marks march of progress

By Adam Dedman 戴擁浩

Today, under the banner of “Together, Make Taiwan Better,” the 17th annual Taiwan Pride parade starts in Taipei, a testament to liberal advancement and growing protections for minorities in Asia’s leading democracy.

Legal scholar Margaret Lewis recently said: “The May 2019 legalization of same-sex marriage … was a triumph for human rights, separation of powers and (at the risk of being sappy) love.”

Judicial Yuan Constitutional Interpretation No. 748 (司法院釋字第748號解釋施行法) is not a queer panacea, but it is a significant step in the right direction.

The flaws of the law notwithstanding, in the past decade there has been a momentous transformation from the melancholic sentiments of sexual minorities during Taiwan’s Crystal Boys era of the 1970s and 1980s, when Kenneth Pai (白先勇) wrote: “There are no days in our kingdom, only nights. As soon as the sun comes up, our kingdom goes into hiding, for it is an unlawful nation … we are neither recognized nor respected by anyone, our citizenry is little more than rabble.”

Authoritarian Taiwan has receded into the memories of an older generation, while Taiwanese tongzhi (同志) under 40 know a very different Taipei. Their city is a techno-mediated, virtual and physical city of freedom filled with transnational flows of queer media, bodies, desires and now sexual citizenship. The implications for Taiwan’s soft power and nation building should not be underestimated.

Perceptions of Taiwan as a gay-friendly country have grown steadily over the past two decades. After last year’s parade one news article, titled “How Taiwan became the most LGBT-friendly country in Asia,” said: “The reason such a small country hosts such a large parade is that Taiwan has become the most LGBT-friendly country in Asia... So the pride parade is not just for the Taiwanese — it attracts thousands of people from neighboring countries, where attitudes about sexuality may be less tolerant.”

In a 2017 article on intraregional desire among middle-class men in Bangkok, anthropologist Dredge Byung’chu Kang said: “Taipei has become a new frontrunner in regional gay tourism. This has led to a subsequent desirability of Taiwanese partners and subcultural influence.”

Following this cue, my research explores the emergence over the past 15-20 years of what I call “transnational gay Taipei” as a case study reflecting what Kang calls “new political-economic and socio-cultural alignments in Asia.” In other words, Asia desires Asia, not the West.

The rise of Asian regionalism among sexual minorities has been fueled by an increasing exchange of transnational media consumption among Asian countries, through GagaOOLala in Taiwan and Line TV in Taiwan and Thailand; the proliferation of low-cost airlines; and popular LGBTQ events that advertise in multiple Asian languages across social media platforms. All have given rise to “transnational gay Taipei.”

Taipei offers a fascinating case study of what scholars Audrey Yue (余燕珊) and Helen Hok-Sze Leung (梁學思) call “new queer Asian urban imaginaries” that circulate and foster the “emergence and consolidation of new and established gay cities in Asia.”

I focus on the late 1990s and early 2000s for three main reasons: First, the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, the first officially registered LGBT non-governmental organization in the country, was established in 1998.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top