Tens of thousands of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers, intersex individuals and their supporters will march side by side tomorrow in the annual Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade, turning downtown Taipei into a venue for a big, boisterous carnival, while fostering awareness and solidarity.
But to some, the parade is already off on a sour start. In the run-up to the annual event, the LGBT community has seen the resurgence of internal conflicts that have always existed, but which have rarely been discussed in public.
Controversies first arose last month, when parade organizer Taiwan LGBT Pride Community (台灣同志遊行聯盟) announced this year’s theme: Make LGBT Visible 2.0 (看見同性戀2.0). While the English title appears problem-free, the literal translation of the theme is “seeing homosexuality” (看見同性戀), directly suggesting the exclusion of bisexual, transgender, intersex and other non-homosexual groups.
Speaking in their defense, organizers explained it was never their intention to overlook other groups. Rather, they wanted to adopt the same theme that the very first edition of the event had used in order to draw attention to how little has changed over the past decade regarding the way mainstream society views and treats the LGBT community.
Also, the decision by organizers to use the term “homosexuality” (同性戀) instead of “comrade,” or tongzhi (同志), is to highlight the stigma that still attached to the word homosexuality and the different sexualities and desires it connotes.
“We started to use tongzhi because it is more agreeable and less provocative, and it is much easier to say I am a tongzhi. But 10 years has passed, and being a tongzhi hasn’t brought much change,” explains David Lee (李明照), a convener for this year’s parade.
Many are not convinced.
“I feel that there is a communication problem between the parade organizers and trans and bisexual groups. While they say they are not ignoring us, we think if they can invite representatives of different groups to their discussions, there will be less misunderstanding,” says Chen Wei-jhen (陳薇真), founder of Transgender Punk Activist (跨性別倡議站).
Admitting their fault, Lee says as an organization formed by volunteers, the Taiwan LGBT Pride Community has struggled to attend to and meet the needs of different groups. Moreover, in the eyes of the convener, the controversy has brought unexpected benefits.
“It reminds us to see and recognize each other, bringing attention to the diversity and differences in what is thought to be a united community. People start asking questions like ‘who are we’ and ‘how do we speak of our own subjectivity,’” he says.
Seeing the differences
As the convener-in-chief of Bi the Way (拜坊), the country’s first and only bisexual group, Gondolin (剛朵琳), whose real name is Yang Tsung-yu (楊宗育), echoes Lee’s sentiment, pointing out that this year’s theme has generated the most heated debate seen on the bulletin board system PTT in years.
While many people have complained about the focus on homosexuals, the complaints have led to productive discussion: “The homosexual-centered thinking prompts us to explore what non-homosexuals can do,” Gondolin notes.
One thing the bisexual community can do is to encourage people of different sexual orientations and gender identities to raise their voices, seek their own people and identify and understand the problems, difficulties and issues they face, the leader of Bi the Way says.