Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 13 News List

Thongs and the average gay next door

Taiwan's Pride Parade last year was the first in the Chinese-speaking world. This year, organizers are hoping it will be even bigger and better

By Alonzo Emery  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

At this year's Taiwan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade (台灣同志大遊行) you can expect to find revelers festooned in feather boas, leather bondage straps and rainbow flags, as well as those sporting barely-there speedo swim trunks that leave little to the imagination.

However, parade organizers from the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線), an organization that provides sexual minorities with support services, promised that those watching the parade will also discover that an overwhelming majority of parade-goers are average citizens who just happen to be gay.

"Despite the image the media puts forth, we are not all drag queens," said Wu Hsu-liang (巫緒樑), co-organizer of this year's parade.

The event starts tomorrow at 1pm, with a street party led by local DJs Victor Cheng and Kay at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂). The parade will culminate at Red House Theatre (紅樓劇場) in Ximending, where various dance and musical performances will take place.

The Pride Parade is the most demonstrative expression of the Tongzhi Hotline's work, which includes over-the-phone counseling on topics ranging from relationship trouble to attempted suicide. This year, the Hotline inaugurated a parents and friends of sexual minorities support group -- modeled after the famous Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PLAG) organization in the US.

Taiwan's Pride Parade, touted as the first ever in the Chinese-speaking world, was held last year and attracted 1,000 lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and their supporters. Organizers expect to attract more than 2,000 this year.

The parade also promises to distinguish itself on several new fronts. This year's event is centered around four slogans: Citizens with Exceptions (異議公民), Cities with Colors (彩虹城市), Society with Variety (花樣主體) and Politics with Participation (同治國家).

"People think that our parade is just a copy because other big cities in the world have them," Wu said. "But this time the Pride Parade is really stressing the point that we are all citizens with rights and that all of us can be involved in the civic process of law- and policy-making."

Last year, the Taipei City Government provided NT$720,000 for the event, but the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline chose not to solicit government funds this year. "The government is a little conservative and we felt pressure from them last time. If it is a government-sponsored event they have more control. This year we had some ideas we wanted to express free of the government," Wu said.

The potentially controversial ideas Wu alluded to might include those stemming from a group new to the Pride Parade roster. This year BDSM, whose members include adherents to bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism, will show their solidarity with the LGBT (transgender) community by joining the parade with groups such as Ri Ri Chun (日日春關懷互助協會), an organized association of sex workers.

Some worry that these unconventional groups and the often exaggerated image of gays projected by the media might further alienate transgender groups from mainstream society.

Roan Ching-yueh (阮慶岳), author of the book Queer Space: Cha cha cha, said there was a good reason the colorful images of drag queens cavorting in the streets often made the headlines in a negative way. "By presenting themselves in this way, gays allow the media to exploit images that will horrify conservatives, presumably making them even more hostile to homosexuals."

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