TAIPEI (CNA) — Over 1,000 people, flamboyantly dressed and carrying rainbow placards, marched in downtown Taipei on Sunday in a gay pride parade, when many other cities around the world either postponed events or held virtual festivals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1,200 participants, including drag queens wearing makeup, ladies frocks and high heels, paraded from under the arches of Liberty Square to National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to show the solidarity of the international LGBT community when many cities had to cancel their parades.
Despite a brief afternoon thunderstorm, participants waited patiently for the rain to pass before setting off carrying posters that listed the name of the cities or countries they came from or the values they were marching for.
“I’m marching for New York, because that’s the origin of the Stonewall uprising. I attended the parade there last year, but this year it has been canceled,” Chyi Jia-uei (祁家威), pioneering gay rights activist and honorary chairman of the Taiwan Gay Sports and Development Association, told CNA.
June is celebrated worldwide as Pride Month because it commemorates the Stonewall uprising, a demonstration that began June 28, 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City and gave rise to the international gay rights movement.
Taiwan has been an exemplary country in its work to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling public events such as the pride parade to be held, Chi said.
“As June is pride month for the international gay community, and so many cities cannot hold events, the parade in Taiwan is especially meaningful because it signifies our solidarity,” Chi said.
Another parade participant, Aurelien Jegou, better known as Cookie the Drag Queen, said she feels proud to be in Taiwan, marching for France during the pandemic.
“Taiwan is one of the safest place to be right now and I feel very proud that I am here to be a part of this country,” said Cookie, who has lived in Taiwan for seven years.
In comparison to France, pride parades in Taiwan have become more festive since last year, when the country became the first in Asia to pass same-sex marriage laws, Cookie said, adding that previous pride parades in Taiwan used to be more about fighting for equality.
Taiwan’s government legalized same-sex marriage in May 2019.
Meanwhile, Darien Chen (陳宏昌), a consultant at the Taiwan Gay Sports and Taiwan Gay Development Movement Association, said the pride parade this year is meaningful because it marks the 50th anniversary of the very first gay pride parade in Chicago in June 27, 1970.
“That’s why it is crucial for us to keep the torch burning and do it somewhere, and Taiwan is lucky to be the only place in the world to do it. That’s why we do it, to stand with the world,” said Chen, who represented Taiwan at Mr Gay World 2013.
More than 500 pride events worldwide scheduled for June have been canceled or postponed, due to travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to international news reports.
As a result, a series of virtual events were organized instead, including Global Pride 2020, a 24-hour live stream from around the world that featured musical performances, appearances by drag artists, and remarks by several world leaders, according to the reports.
In Taiwan, the pride parade can be held live because the country has been gradually easing its COVID-19 restrictions since June 7, when it recorded 56 straight days without any domestically transmitted infections.