Thu, May 09, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Hometown pride

Saturday’s LGBT pride parade in Miaoli is a historic first by the county’s youth to open hearts and minds in their conservative hometown

By Davina Tham  /  Staff reporter

In February, longtime LGBT activist Jennifer Lu, left, and Miaoli’s LGBT pride parade co-conveners Huang Hai-wei, center, and Hsia Li-min, right, speak to an audience about plans for Taiwan’s LGBT rights movement this year.

Photo courtesy of Miaoli Loves to Turn

Over 16 years, the LGBT pride parade in Taipei has grown to international proportions, with organizers saying that it attracted 137,000 people last year. Apart from the capital, nine other counties also have their own annual pride events.

On Saturday, Miaoli will host its inaugural pride parade and join their ranks.

The parade to celebrate LGBT identities is a response by a group of Miaoli-born young professionals to the results of last November’s national referendum, in which a majority of voters rejected same-sex marriage and LGBT-sensitive sex and gender equity education.

It is a culmination of months of public outreach and education, led by co-conveners and Miaoli natives Huang Hai-wei (黃海惟) and Hsia Li-min (夏立民).

Planning for Miaoli’s own pride parade began right after the referendum. Since February, the organizers have held a book exhibition and sharing sessions by prominent LGBT personalities and allies with links to Miaoli to combat ignorance about LGBT rights in the county.

Huang tells the Taipei Times that the organizers are driven by a desire to “provoke” change in the hearts and minds of Miaoli’s people.

“Lack of understanding is very likely to lead to discrimination and fear,” Huang says. She adds that many Miaoli residents who reject LGBT-friendly positions may not actually know anyone who is living as an out lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.

The parade and other outreach activities are intended to bridge that gap, laying the groundwork for more residents to learn about the lives of LGBT people and recognize that they are already part of the same community.

It will also be Taiwan’s last large-scale pride event before same-sex marriage becomes legal on May 24.

Event Notes

What: Miaoli Loves to Turn (苗栗愛轉來平權遊行) LGBT pride parade

When: Saturday at 1pm

Where: Zhunan Sports Park (竹南運動公園槌球場), 55, Gongyuan Rd, Zhunan Township, Miaoli County (苗栗縣竹南鎮公園路55號)

Admission: Free

On the Net: Click here


COMING OUT, COMING HOME

The parade’s organizing team has an average age of 32 and draws primarily from Miaoli-born youths who have returned home after spending time away for work and studies.

Huang herself moved back to Miaoli last year to start a business, while Hsia is currently based in Taipei, where he and his partner registered a same-sex partnership in 2016.

The event’s official name, Miaoli Loves to Turn (苗栗愛轉來平權遊行), is a call for Miaoli natives who have moved away to show up for their hometown and support the freedom to love.

The organizers share an inside joke that every event they have put on this year has been history in the making, because any level of community organization around LGBT issues is unheard of in Miaoli.

“In the past, even I would have found it difficult to imagine [LGBT-focused] activities like this happening in Miaoli,” Huang says.

The reaction so far has been largely positive. Huang says that any intolerance has been kept to a low level. Several local businesses have publicly expressed support for marriage equality, sporting declarative posters and stickers. These are provided by the parade organizers to identify LGBT-friendly businesses.

Miaoli is notable for being a bastion of Hakka culture, and one of only two counties in Taiwan with a majority Hakka population. This is not a mere stereotype — Hakka identity and what it means for both the individual and society come up often in conversation with community organizers.

“Compared to Minnan people, Hakka people are just a little more traditional and conservative,” Huang says. In that environment, “no one dares to make any grand statements” that express an opposing viewpoint.

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