Celebrating Pride in Post-Covid Taiwan

By Leslie Lee

Translated by Kiyou Kamisawa

On October 31, Taiwan hosted the biggest in-person pride parade in post-Covid 2020, reinforcing Taiwan’s image as a beacon for gay rights.

Taiwan marked its 18th anniversary of Taiwan LGBT Pride by hosting its annual Pride parade in Taipei on October 31, 2020. Taiwan, having gone more than 200 days without local infections, was able to host its annual parade without going online, like many other pride parades this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. What is it like to attend Taiwan LGBT Pride? What makes Taiwan’s LGBT Pride parade and Taiwan so different from other Asian countries when it comes to LGBTQIA+ issues? After being unable to return to Japan, I decided to stay in Taiwan to attend Taiwan LGBT Pride, and compare it with my experiences at Tokyo Rainbow Pride.

What is Pride like in Taiwan?

Taiwan LGBT Pride is hosted by the Taiwan Rainbow Civil Action Association, which was founded in 2012 to manage the annual parade. However, Taiwan Pride started its roots in 2003, and the day of Taiwan Pride falls every year on the last Saturday of October. Unlike other countries, Taiwan holds its Pride parade in October. In many countries, Pride is during June, because the original Stonewall riots that sparked the fight for LGBTQIA+ issues was in June 1969. 

Taiwan Pride is different in terms of parade foundation. Taiwan Pride started initially as a social movement, when the first pride was hosted in 2003 in order to promote visibility of different LGBT groups. The march started from 228 Memorial Park, which had historically been a gathering for LGBT people in Taipei. Currently, Taiwan’s Pride still retains its roots as a social movement, and keeps commercialization and corporate advertising to a minimum compared to other Pride parades. 

The Pride parade also differs in terms of its use of roads. In most Pride parades, the roads are blocked in order to allow performers and floats to take control of the main road, with bystanders on the sidewalk. However, in Taiwan, the parade route is shared with cars, bikes, and attendees, so bystanders can join the parade whenever they wish. 

What is Pride like in Japan?

Japan’s main Pride parade is the Tokyo Rainbow Pride, which is held in late April.  Tokyo Rainbow Pride is held over two days, during “Pride Week,” which falls on the last week of April and first week of May. It is held in Yoyogi park, and on the first day the parade winds through Omotesando, Harajuku, and Shibuya. However, due to the pandemic, this year’s Pride was moved online. 

Japan’s Pride parade started in 1994, but it was held on and off until 2012, when Tokyo Rainbow Pride (TRP), the organization responsible for the parade, was created. Ever since, Tokyo Rainbow Pride has been Japan’s biggest LGBT event, with 120,000 people on the first day of Tokyo Rainbow Pride in 2019. Last year’s parade also marked a significant milestone in surpassing 10,000 marchers in the parade. 

This year, those who wanted to participate in this year’s online parade could post messages or photos with the hashtag #TRP2020 or #おうちでプライド, which means “Pride at home.” There was also an online talk of the originally scheduled guests, broadcasted live on  TRP’s official Twitter account. With this year’s theme of “Your happiness is my happiness”, TRP seeks to celebrate happiness and celebrate each other’s existence. 

Beauty, My Own Way

This year’s Taiwan LGBT Pride, with the theme of “Beauty, My Own Way,” is the second pride after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. In Chinese, the theme is 成人之美, a Chinese idiom representing the virtue to help others accomplish their beauty. 成人 means adult, because Taiwan Pride turns 18 this year.

In 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in a landmark court ruling. With the legalization of same-sex marriage, this year’s Pride is focused on LGBT education. “To this end, the LGBTIQA+ community not only needs to be visible but should also be celebrated for our beauty, vivacity, and collective transformation.” 

With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing around the world, Taiwan was able to hold the event safely due to the low numbers of cases. While last year the number of attendees was at a record high 200,000, this year was around 130,000, due to many overseas attendees unable to come to Taiwan. Every year, many people from all over Asia come to Taiwan to celebrate pride. As a trailblazer for other Asian countries, Taiwan continues to set an example for other countries in LGBTQ+ issues. 

What is it like to attend both Prides?

This year, I was a volunteer at Taiwan LGBT Pride, after applying through their online portal. There were over 10 different categories, and I was part of the volunteer team that would get to engage with participants with interactive games and other events next to the main parade. One of our interactive teams held up large picture frames for participants to take pictures with. Another was an interactive game in which participants chose to learn about different slurs that are detrimental to the community, since this year’s focus is about LGBT education. Since Taiwan LGBT Pride falls on one day instead of two main days in Tokyo, there was a large number of people and the parade is so large that it is split into a Northern route and Southern route. 

Road map of this year’s Taiwan Pride

With the parade route shared with cars and other pedestrians, there is a grey zone where everyone who is not part of the official LGBT pride organization can also march with the performers, floats, and corporations. While it was more chaotic because we would have to cross the street at times, I was amazed to see so many families bring their children. I was also amazed by the sheer numbers of people from all ages and genders coming together for Pride. There were many celebrity guests as well as politicians who were on stage as well. There were many booths run by small businesses, selling different kinds of merchandise. 

Tokyo Pride 2018, Tokyo Pride 2019

Previously, in Tokyo, I was able to participate in the parade because I was invited to participate in the Amnesty International group in the parade. Last year, I was part of the PVH (which owns brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) group, and we were given matching rainbow shirts and other merchandise to wear while marching in the parade. It was uplifting to hear so many people say “Happy Pride,” and high-five us while standing from the sidelines. Compared to Taiwan LGBT Pride, there were more corporate booths. Since participants were not allowed to participate in the parade, it seemed a lot like a festival, with many different interactive booths set up by different companies. While there were many small business booths as well, a large percentage of them were companies. It was extremely heartwarming to see businesses all around Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando change to rainbow colors to support Pride. I hope that through Pride, more people can learn about the LGBT community and fight for equal rights. 

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