Fri, Sep 30, 2005 - Page 14 News List

Taipei's gay pride march ready to roll

By Steve Price  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Queens and feathers from last year's gay pride march.

PHOTOS: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will set off on its annual parade tomorrow in an effort to promote equality, fight discrimination and have some fun.

Taiwan Pride 2005, organized by the Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線), will begin outside the Eslite bookstore at 1pm at the corner of Renai and Dunhua South roads and progress down Zhongxiao East Road, ending at the Taipei City Government offices at around 4:30pm.

Taiwan Pride activities this year include a costume competition for which contestants are required to register in advance, speeches, a celebrity guest speaker and a performance by local band La Zi (拉子). Members of Amnesty International Hong Kong's LGBT group will also join the parade to show solidarity.

There have been gay carnivals since 1999, but the first Pride parade, held in 2003, was organized as part of a government-sponsored festival. But last year Taiwan Pride organizers organized and funded the event themselves, citing limits placed on parade activities and a lack of political will to push through legislation that would make Taiwan the first Asian nation to allow gay marriage.

"We want to let the government know we demand our civil rights and that these must be written into law," said Ashley Wu (巫緒樑), the director of public affairs at the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association.

The hotline, which operates under the name tongzhi, meaning comrade, provides services such as counseling for the LGBT community and receives some 800 calls a year seeking help on a wide range of issues.

Breaking from official support has freed the parade organizers to form alliances with other activist groups including the Association for Ri Ri Chun (日日春關懷互助協會) that advocates the rights of workers in the sex industry and BDSM which supports practitioners of sadomasochism and bondage.

The linkage has raised some eyebrows, but Wu argues these groups represent citizens that fall outside socially accepted norms of sexual behavior.

"We are in the same boat because society discriminates against tongzhi, sex workers and members of BDSM," Wu said.

Taiwan is generally seen as a relatively open society with violence linked to sexual orientation a rarity. But Josephine Chuen-juei Ho (何春蕤), professor at the Center for the Study of Sexualities, National Central University, said the relative lack of violence does not equate with acceptance or tolerance.

"The traditional Chinese culture of reticence, where most discrimination is done under the table, prevents open confrontation that would warrant a protest ... so that sort of limits what gay movements can fight," Ho said.

"They can only fight for certain issues that have become policy. But with the general homophobic atmosphere there's no place where you can put your fingers on and say you know there's something wrong here, we need to change this."

A prominent battle that has become a focal point for this years' Taiwan Pride march is the recent court case of Gin Gin bookstore owner J.J. Lai (賴正哲), who was convicted of selling indecent gay magazines. The case, which received widespread attention, is currently pending an appeal hearing at the Taiwan High Court.

For Wu and many other LGBT citizens, the case appears to be an obvious example of discrimination against the gay community.

Activists' arguments against the prosecution of Lai revolve around the perceived violation of civil rights.

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