In gay culture the Gay Pride parade has come to represent performative culture that is both a political act and a personal celebration for lesbians, gay men and trans individuals the world over. The Gay Pride parade offers lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans persons the opportunity to be out and proud, visible in the community and achieving legitimacy in the political and public realm.
In countries where lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans do not receive the same degree of rights and privileges as heterosexuals, or experience intimidation, threats or discrimination in the workplace or in the public sphere, the Gay Pride parade remains particularly relevant. In Taiwan, organizers instituted the inaugural Gay Pride parade in Taiwan beginning in 2003 and called it Taiwan Pride (Taiwan Pride n.p.).
Since the rescinding of martial law in Taiwan in 1987, various social movements have transformed the features of Taiwanese political culture as well as daily life, including “a workers’ and a student movement, feminist organizing and lesbian activism have begun to create alternative cultural spaces and to affect public policies and perceptions” (Sieber 20).
According to the Advocate, “Taiwan’s gay men and lesbians walk a tightrope between fighting for civil rights and staying within the government’s comfort zone. Among mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, only the latter has legalized gay sex, and that was done before the United Kingdom handed control over to China.
According to various news reports, the number of Internet gay porn sites is exploding across the region and officials are not cracking down. There is a sense among gay men and lesbians that they can come out to family members but still cannot do so in public” (Galliano and Lisotta 83).
According to the Asian Lesbian Network, lesbians in Taiwan still encounter significant personal obstacles as individuals (Sieber 22). Organized as a group, lesbians in Taiwan enjoy “more public leverage…[and] as individuals, [they] can affirm and consolidate [their] own sexual and social identity” (Sieber 22). Despite the advances made in Taiwan, according to the Asian Lesbian Network “it is still incredibly difficult to be an open lesbian.
For one thing, we are constrained by family expectations. We are supposed to be devoted to our parents and most parents cannot help but see lesbianism in a negative light. So most families don’t know about their daughter’s lesbianism. As a student, you are financially dependent on your parents, so you cannot really afford to alienate them. And when you work, you could be fired or harassed by your superiors or co-workers” (Sieber 22).
Within the Taiwanese lesbian community, as in any lesbian community, lesbians experience daily contradictions between their public and private selves. These include “passing straight at work but being out with friends, public oppression vs. private pleasure, or the seeming contradiction of multiple political commitments. The recognition and working through of conflict is a process that is essential to political and personal growth” (Becker 36).
The visibility that Taiwan Pride affords gives Taiwanese lesbians an opportunity to integrate these disparate selves and march as whole individuals. As a performative culture, Taiwan Pride underscores the need for “the expression of self…against the dominant ideology,” and provides a suitable forum for this expression (Becker 35).
As an oppressed community…Taiwan Pride offers Taiwanese lesbians an opportunity to “create positive images both to offer the new self identity and also to combat the negative stereotypes promulgated by the dominant culture” (Becker 35). Similarly, the same positive images created and expressed during the march at Taiwan Pride “cannot be cut off from the societal pressures that created the original stereotypes or the conditions that maintain them” (Becker 35).
The year 2003 was a major break through for the lesbian community in Taiwan. According to the Advocate, the Taiwanese government “boldly suggested changes to a human rights law that would allow for same-sex marriage and adoption by gay and lesbian couples. The proposals didn’t pass into law, but it was a watershed legislative moment for any Asian country” (Galliano and Lisotta 83).
The 2003 parade attracted more than 20 000 participants by different gay from organizations from all over the world as well as Asia; the main march was held in the city of Taipei on November 1 and represented the first of its kind in the Chinese community. Later on, the success of the event motivated the gay community located in Hong-Kong to organize a parade of its own (Taiwan Pride n.p.).
The 2003 march received funding from the city of Taipei, and nearly 500 people came together in the streets of Taipei “brandishing rainbow flags and pushing strollers to show support for the government’s move. The mayor of Taipei stressed that gays and lesbians wouldn’t suffer harassment by the municipal government. Although many marchers wore masks to protect their identity, hundreds walked openly in front of cameras” (Taiwan Pride n.p.).
Lesbian groups located in Taiwan believe that Taiwan Pride remain crucial to the community’s well being, “especially in the wake of a highly publicized raid on a bookstore that sold gay adult magazines” (Galliano and Lisotta 83). Kao Yi-chao, one of Taiwan Pride organizers, understands that in “places like the United States and northern Europe, gays and lesbians are able to be much more open than in Taiwan…we want to let the public know about our rights as homosexuals and increase discussion” (Galliano and Lisotta 83).
Each year since the first march in 2003, Taiwan Pride has increased its size and its political import. In October of 2007 Taiwan Pride was held again in the city of Taipei and attracted 15 000 participants who marched under the slogan Rainbow Power (Taiwan Pride n.p.).
Taiwan Pride is very different when compared to other Pride parades in different countries as it “remains predominately for social and community gay and non gay movement, with just minor advertisement joining in” (Taiwan Pride n.p.). 2007 marked the first time a corporate sponsor participated in the parade when swimsuit manufacturer Aussiebum sponsored a float known as Waterboy who modeled the swimwear (Taiwan Pride n.p.).
The other unique aspect about Taiwan Pride is that “participants share the street with bikes, bystanders and cars and subject themselves to regular traffic management” (Taiwan Pride n.p.).
The Taipei Times reported that the 2007 Taiwan Pride marked the largest Gay Pride parade to ever occur in Asia, “which demonstrates a growing awareness of the marginalization of these groups” (Taipei Times 8). In 2009 and 2010, the advocacy group Taiwan LGBT Pride Community announced that “the parade has exploded in numbers,” as Taiwan Pride attracted 25 000 and 30 000 participants respectively (Taiwan Pride n.p.)
Becker, Edith et al. “Lesbians and Film.” Out in Culture: Gay, Lesbian, And Queer Essays On Popular Culture. Eds. Corey K. Creekmur and Alexander Doty. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Print.
Galliano, Joseph and Christopher Lisotta. “Worldwide Pride.” Advocate 917 (2004): 81-88. Web.
Sieber, Patricia. “Lesbian Organizing: Culture, Sexuality, Politics.” Connexions 46 (1994): 20-23. Web.
Taipei Times. “Editorial: Cloud Hangs Over Taiwan Pride Parade.” Taipei Times 26 September 2008. Page 8. Web. 2 May 2011.
“Taiwan Pride.” Twpride.net. Taiwan, 2009. Web. 2 May 2009.