Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Straight-talking at Pride Parade

The second Taiwan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade put a spotlight on homosexual issues


The Pride Parade on Saturday from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to Ximending attracted around 3,000 marchers, celebrating ``alternative' lifestyles and asking for equality


Those gathering at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall on Saturday afternoon for the second annual Taiwan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade (台灣同志大遊行) were greeted by admonitions from a Christian group warning homosexuals, "If you do not change your sexuality, you will not enter heaven."

Another group of Christians took a more embracing approach, choosing rather to invite parade-goers to Sunday church services. But while the church took a divided stance, Taiwan's homosexual community chose to unite.

Organizers estimated around 3,000 people turned up to have their voices heard, their presence felt, and -- because it was a parade -- to fill the streets with music, dancing and bacchanalian revelry.

The parade gathered followers, both gay and straight, as it flowed past 228 Park, a well-known homosexual enclave immortalized in novelist Kenneth Pai's (白先勇) 1990 gay-literature cult classic Crystal Boys(孽子), before ending at the Red Playhouse in Ximending, a popular gay hangout in the 1970s.

One female marcher who joined the party said, "I'm not gay, but I came because I have many gay friends and I want to support them."

Parade organizers from the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線) hit their target by creating an event aimed at community building for Taiwan's sexual minorities.

Despite fears of facing the media cameras, many young gays came out of the proverbial closet in order to support the Parade and their community.

"I know my parents might see me, but I think it is also important for me to be here," said one university student attending the parade.

Excited photographers captured images of a small minority of parade goers dressed in various costumes, including a group dressed as the holy figure Kuan Yin, a group of young men called the Waterboys clad in just Speedos, as well as drag queens wearing costume jewelery and thick layers of make-up.

What most photographers did not capture were images of followers carrying an AIDS quilt, or quiet homosexual couples marching hand-in-hand, some boasting legally unrecognized unions outlasting many heterosexual marriages.

The fact that the parade-goers did not encounter much societal disapprobation, save the Christian saviors and the occasional annoyed motorist, might cast Taiwan as a gay-friendly Shangri La.

However, when the Parade spilled into the courtyard outside Red Playhouse in Ximending, two homosexuals from Kaohsiung testified to the contrary, reporting frequent police harassment and gay arrests on trumped-up charges.

This testimonial from the south both underscored Taipei's unique position as a liberal outpost in Taiwan and also the need for similar gatherings that will further shed light on existing discrimination.

Following the sober reminders, organizers attempted to rally the group into repeating various contrived chants of resistance borrowed from similar protests rallies around the world. It was a call to action that did not quite pass muster with the crowd. However, pop-diva Sandy Chen (陳珊妮), savvy enough not to alienate her gay fans, reinvigorated the crowd by making an appearance on the dais, professing, "I love you!" before belting out a couple of her hits.

Other public figures, including university professors and Taiwanese starlets, taped messages that were broadcast on the large screen across from the Ximending MRT station.

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