Colorful processions overflowing with rainbow flags, muscled men and drag queens in flamboyant costumes are no longer the preserve of Taipei’s pride parade. Following parades held in Hualien and Greater Taichung last month, Greater Kaohsiung is calling on lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, intersexuals, queers and their supporters to march through the city’s downtown to raise awareness, demand human rights and have some fun.
Celebrating its fourth year, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual and Queer (LGBTIQ) Pride Parade in Greater Kaohsiung is part of efforts by local LGBTIQ communities to establish a platform for social causes and solidarity. From a beginning of more than 1,000 participants in 2010, the annual event has steadily grown. Thousands of people are expected to join the festivities, which begin at 2pm on Saturday.
With this year’s theme of Sharing the Same Space in Harmony (空間革命 , 異同占領), parade organizers seek to highlight the need for LGBTIQ-friendly public spaces and the right to live a life free of harassment, discrimination and prejudice.
“People think it’s normal when a man and a woman hold hands. But when two men or two women hold hands, people look at them as if there is something weird about them. If we are discriminated against over things as simple as walking down the street, you can imagine what it is like in schools and the workplace,” Pan Wei-to (潘維多), convener-in-chief of the march, told the Taipei Times in a phone interview last Tuesday.
Initiated as a government-funded event, organizers stopped accepting sponsorship from the Civil Affairs Bureau, Kaohsiung City Government (高雄市政府民政局) in its second year because it didn’t want to be tied up by bureaucratic restraints. Kaohsiung LGBTIQ Parade Community (高雄同志遊行聯盟), formed by several Kaohsiung-based LGBTIQ groups, student clubs and academic institutes, has taken up the role of event organizer. The core members include the South Office of Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線南部辦公室), Sunshine Queer Center (陽光酷兒中心), Taiwan Adolescent Association on Sexualities (青少年性別文教會) and Graduate Institute of Gender Education of National Kaohsiung Normal University.
The withdrawal of government funding, however, means organizers had to tackle the financial burden and find ways to sustain the annual event. Fundraising events were held for this year’s parade, arranged on a budget of NT$200,000.
Money aside, the parade has called for a more active participation of the lesbian community and is led, for the first time, by a lesbian convener-in-chief. Noticing that there are fewer gay women participating in the event than gay men, Pan says one of her missions is to contact gay women’s groups and call on the lesbian community to join, take to the street and “not let gay men get all the attention.”
For Pan, who revealed her homosexuality to her family last year, coming out is one of the most important things.
“The more you hide, the more afraid you are. I used to be afraid of gossip, worrying that they may find out who I really am. But I have changed since I told my family. I have become more open and have come to accept who I am,” she said. “I am happy now. It is the happiest thing on earth to be yourself.”
Pan also points out that a group of intersexuals — a term used to refer to individuals with sex characteristics that don’t fit the typical definitions of female or male — will also take part in this year’s parade.