|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Rainbow flags, drag queens in flamboyant costumes and revelers will once again take over downtown Taipei when the nation’s lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and their supporters march side by side tomorrow in the annual Taiwan LGBT Pride Parade, one of the largest in Asia.
Though the event feels like and is indeed celebrated as a big carnival for LGBT communities, Taiwan LGBT Pride is also a platform to raise awareness and deliver serious messages. With this year’s theme, LGBT Fight Back, Discrimination Get Out! organizers aim to highlight the continued prevalence of discrimination against people of different sexual orientations.
“Several incidents that took place this year make us realize how discrimination has become different and more elusive. Before it was ‘homosexuality is abnormal and perverse.’ Now the language and attitude have become more refined and sly,” said J.J. Lai convener-in-chief of this year’s parade.
Lai mentioned a large-scale petition organized by the Chen Ai Alliance, a self-proclaimed parents group, in April. The aim of the petition was to block the release of three reference books that contain gender and sexual diversity teaching materials, as required by the Gender Equality Education Act, for teachers in elementary and junior high schools. With help from several legislators, the group successfully pressed the Ministry of Education to suspend the distribution of the books.
Gender and activist groups including the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association in Taiwan and Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association took the case to court, saying that the alliance had twisted the content of the teaching materials and inaccurately presented the number of petition signatures they had garnered.
“The gravity of the matter lies in the fact that conservative groups are able to influence policies through manipulation,” said Liu Ching-hung, a parade volunteer whose activism began with the country’s first wave of gay rights awareness in the 1990s.
Lai and Liu said that while claiming to be worried parents, Chen Ai Alliance comprises members of conservative Christian groups that have waged several anti-homosexual campaigns over the years, including an unsuccessful attempt in 2006 to obstruct an amendment to the Employment Service Act that prohibits discrimination against an employee based on sexual orientation. In 2009, Christian groups held an anti-gay march one week before the LGBT parade took place.
“Knowing that their Christian beliefs may not gain a sympathetic response from citizens who are predominantly followers of Buddhism and Taoism, this year they were smart enough to conceal their religious background and succeeded in stirring up anxiety among parents who were told that their children would turn gay if teachers start teaching about homosexuality in schools,” Lai said.
In light of the development, organizers are calling on children, teenagers and their parents to join tomorrow’s parade.
“Education is the most important thing. If children don’t learn to respect people who are different from themselves, they may grow up to be insensitive to others,” Lai said.
HIV and AIDS-related issues are also part of this year’s parade agenda, especially after an incident in August in which five patients received organs from an HIV-infected gay donor at National Taiwan University Hospital.