by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
This might surprise you, but Taiwan is one of the most open-minded countries in all of Asia. In fact, it's arguably the safest, Gay-friendliest place in the Far East to live or visit, while playing host each year to Asia's largest LGBT Pride festivites. The island nation is also on the brink of legalizing same-sex marriage, which would be a first for that part of the world.
On October 28 and 29, the capital city of Taipei was the location for two well-attended, highly publicized events, Taiwan LGBT Pride and the newly formed Queermosa Awards. I was privileged to attend both, as part of a group of fellow Gay journalists from North America invited to experience the culture and sites of the country, traveling to a handful of cities, including Taipei.
Here's a summary of the festivities.
2016 Queermosa Awards
The word 'mosa' in Latin translates to beauty, or beautiful, so it's befitting that the inaugural Queermosa Awards recognized those within the LGBT community and its allies who've made beautiful contributions - artistically, politically and financially - to promote the Gay movement forward.
Guests were greeted with a red carpet arrival and champagne reception at the chic W Taipei hotel on the evening of Friday, October 28, before being escorted into the lavishly decorated Mega Room for a sit-down dinner and the awards ceremony. Jay Lin, Queermosa Awards founder and director of the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival, and a special jury selected the nominees in ten categories and the eventual winners, who were given hand-held trophies during a two-hour gala that included musical performances and appearances by Taiwanese celebrities, some of whom served as presenters.
Actress, singer and TV host Ella Chen, who simply goes by her first name and is currently pregnant, mentioned in a pre-event interview with ETtoday.com that if her child is Gay she will 'feel lucky for them,' and she will 'love her kids unconditionally regardless of sexual orientation.' Multi-talented artist Stephen Rong, who starred in Terrence McNally's play A Perfect Ganesh last year at Taipei's LAB Space, stated to local press that he was 'Very honored to be invited to Taiwan's very first QUEERMOSA awards. I'm sure there will be more and more years to come! Love and equality!'
Among the recipients were Queer Icon Award winner Dee, Hsu and Pioneer Award winner Jia-Wei, Qi, who wrapped himself in a rainbow flag as he raced up to the podium. The Outstanding Journalism Award was presented to local newspaper The Reporter for the feature story 'Gay Family and Their Children,' while the Asia Pacific Short Film Award was given to the Indonesian movie The Fox Exploits the Tiger's Might, which tells the story of two preteen boys from a small town who discover their sexuality. The film's director Lucky Kuswandi accepted the award in person, dressed in a two-piece black tuxedo.
The Queermosa Awards are expected to return next year during Taiwan LGBT Pride weekend.
2016 Taiwan LGBT Pride
In its fourteenth year, the Taiwan LGBT Pride parade attracted an estimated 80,000 people on the afternoon of Saturday, October 29, who assembled just outside the presidential building to march in unison through the streets of Taipei. Only 500 participants and spectators were present the first time this event was held, and thirteen years later it has become Asia's largest Gay pride gathering. The vast majority of attendees were local, either from Taipei or another Taiwanese city, yet there were noticeably many who were from the United States, Canada, Europe and throughout Asia.
The parade, more of a march than a typical parade with floats and performers, began at 2pm under cloudy skies and a drizzle of rain, although the temperatures were mild. Drag queens in glittery gowns and colorful wigs, a clad of Japanese bears wearing matching khaki shorts with white dress shirts and red suspenders, a group of Uber employees holding signs that read 'UBERLOVELGBT' and 'Stay with U,' a dozen shirtless young men donning underwear with the Hornet company logo (Hornet is the Grindr equivalent in Taiwan), people in cosplay outfits, political activists holding banners asking to support same-sex marriage and acceptance of the LGBT community, plus men, women and transgender persons of all ages, as well as families with babies in strollers and Gay couples clasping hands marched the multi-mile course, a loop from the presidential building in and around several of Taipei's main streets and then back to the starting point, together side-by-side. It was a beautiful celebration of unity, as people walked collectively in no particular order, yet in a very coordinated stream, through the city's inner dwellings.
There were no protesters in sight during any part of the event and many bystanders waved from the sidewalks in support, even a cluster of schoolgirls cheered from open windows from a building along the route. As policemen stopped traffic to allow the thousands of people to cross busy intersections, locals waited patiently and respectfully in their cars or curbside for everybody to pass through. It was a safe, festive and fun parade, however, my feet were in pain after the long walk, but I loved how we all marched together as one big happy, peaceful family. It began raining harder about an hour into the parade and it progressively got cooler, yet that didn't discourage anyone from continuing on the route; in fact, some of them politely shared their umbrellas with complete strangers.
Afterwards, everyone flocked to Taipei's bustling Gay district of Ximending for cocktails, dancing and a Mr. Gay Taiwan pageant, held outdoors in a small plaza packed with two levels of Gay bars. Local news stations and international outlets, such as Reuters, provided coverage of the Pride Parade on mainstream media.
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