7 Reasons why Taiwan is the best LGBT destination in Asia

As China tries to get the Taiwan flag banned from the Gay Games in Paris, why Taiwan is Asia’s most LGBT-friendly destination and the gay Games should acknowledge this.

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(By Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) bullyboy tactics have been having a good week. Not only have US Airlines caved into CCP demands over the use of the name Taiwan, but the East Asian Olympic Committee (EAOC) has gone so far as to remove Taichung as host of the 2019 East Asian Youth Games (EAYG) under pressure from Beijing. But perhaps the most surprising move has been the CCP’s targeting of the 2018 Gay Games in Paris.

There is a 25-strong team of athletes from Taiwan slated to attend this event for LGBT sports stars and the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) had agreed that they would compete under the name Taiwan and the Taiwanese flag. But it seems they are now going back on this agreement after being put under pressure from the CCP, despite that fact that the Communist regime there has a long track record of stoking homophobia and undermining gay rights across the country.

In contrast, there are a whole host of reasons why Taiwan is widely seen as the most LGBT-friendly destination in Asia. Quite why the FGG would choose to side with the CCP over a free Taiwan is unclear. But just to jog their memories, here is a quick rundown of 7 reasons why Taiwan is the most LGBT-friendly country in the region. If you think we have missed anything out, please share them with us on our Facebook or Twitter pages:

1. First Asian country to approve same-sex marriage

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In May last year, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that barring gay couples from marriage violated “the people’s freedom of marriage” and “the people’s right to equality”. This ruling paved the way for Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to introduce legislation to permit same sex marriage. The legislation process to enshrine this in law has been slow since then, but with most Taiwanese people supporting the move, and opposition coming primarily from US-based Christian organizations, it shouldn’t be too long before Taiwan passes this landmark law.

2. Home to the largest Gay Pride celebration in Asia

Image Credit: Taiwan News reporter Sophia Yang

There has been a Gay Pride event in Taipei since 2003 and with more than 80,000 people taking part in the most recent event, it is officially the biggest in Asia. Taking place over 4 days, with the main parade always being held on the last Saturday in October, the weekend is packed full of events, parties, and fun. The parade itself begins in Ketagalan Boulevard, outside the Presidential Palace before following a two-hour route through the city center. Other Pride events have also taken place in Kaohsiung and Taichung.

3. Great LGBT Movie culture

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Taiwan has a long and rich culture of making LGBT-themed movies. Taiwanese Director Ang Lee is well known for directing Brokeback Mountain, but that was not his first movie with LGBT themes. Back in 1993, he made The Wedding Banquet about a gay Chinese man who stages a sham marriage to please his parents. In 1997, The River by art-house director Tsai Ming-liang told the tale of a Taiwanese patriarch who secretly frequented gay saunas, while the hugely successful 2002 film Blue Gate Crossing is about an innocent love triangle complicated by ambiguous sexual orientations. The 2006 film Eternal Summer also featured a similar love triangle, while in 2015, the multiple award winning Thanatos, Drunk, told the tale of a young Taipei man, his gay brother and their sexually ambiguous gigolo friend. Taiwan also hosts an annual renowned LGBT Film Festival, the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival.

4. Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association - 台灣同志諮詢熱線協會

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These days there are no shortage of LGBT advocacy groups in Taiwan, but none have had such a profound influence on promoting LGBT rights and improving the lot of Taiwan’s LGBT Community than the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association. The association was founded in 1998 and has been providing support for the Taiwanese LGBT community for twenty years. It also provides gender and sexual orientation counselling, publications, and education. It also has campaigned vociferously and effectively for equal rights in Taiwan. But perhaps the single most important service they offer is family consultations to help older and more traditional Taiwanese generations understand the LGBT community and deal with the news that a family member is LGBT.

5. A bustling LGBT scene

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Most Taiwanese cities boast LGBT-friendly bars and nightclubs, but as you would expect it is in Taipei where the biggest gay scene can be found. This scene is centered largely around the Red House, a western style red-brick octagonal building, which is also a class III historical site. Situated in Ximending, the Red House is a cultural hub which houses more than 25 LGBT bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Whether you are looking for a quiet meal, some karaoke, or something more vibrant, the Red House has it all.

6. The first Chinese language LGBT bookstore

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As well as a thriving gay scene, Taipei is also home to the first ever LGBT bookstore in the Chinese-speaking world. Gin Gin Books (晶晶書庫), which is situated in Da’an district, carries a huge range of LGBT books, magazines, DVDs, and merchandise. It also hosts regular exhibitions and community events on various LGBT-related themes. The store has also played a role in promoting LGBT rights both locally and across Taiwan and is a regular haunt for many of Taiwan’s LGBT community.

7. Thriving LGBT nightlife

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If you are looking to party in a proper gay club, Taipei has the place for you too. There are no shortage of gay clubs around the city, but the most famous is probably G*star Club. The club boasts a light-up dancefloor and plays host to regular stream of the best DJs in Taiwan. For gay men in Taipei, it is probably the must-visit nightclub. For lesbians, that accolade probably goes to Taboo. Taboo offers live music some nights and a fairly small dancefloor, but later in the evening and at weekends it is packed with revelers enjoying the wide range of music that is played.