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Knowing the history, enlightening the future

With the the theme, “The future we once thought was impossible is already here, so let us envision the future now,” the exhibit is small but attractive and interactive, consisting of six large installations in the shape of letters that spell out “Taipei”



IT is also an installation that spells out “Taipei.”

In May this year, Taiwan became the first nation in Asia to achieve marriage equality when the bill granting same-sex couples the right to marry was enacted. It was a historic and joyous moment, a major step for such a small country. Like all milestones in LGBTQ+ history, which is replete with marginalization, repression, persecution and bravery, this was achieved with much stuggle.

As Taiwan held its 17th LGBTQ+ Pride march, an exhibit was mounted that remembers 20 years of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in Taiwan, particularly, in the capital Taipei. LGBTQ+ groups Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan and Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy collaborated with Taipei City Government’s Department of Civil Affairs for “The Future is Now: The 20th Anniversary of Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities” at the Vieshow Cinema Square in the city’s Xinyi District, which is on view from 23 October to 13 November.

With the theme, “The future we once thought was impossible is already here, so let us envision the future now,” the exhibit is small but attractive and interactive, consisting of six large installations in the shape of letters that spell out “Taipei.” Each installation is uniquely designed. They double as a ping-pong table, a bench, a bookshelf, a rock-climbing wall and a photo wall. At night, these installations light up.

“The Future is Now” exhibit is at the Vieshow Cinema Square, Xinyi, Taipei City.

The history is presented in a narrative timeline through the eyes of a fictional character named An, making it more accessible and entertaining, thus engendering more understanding of and appreciation for the courage and efforts of LGBTQ+ activists.

But “this is not just the story of An, but also the story of all of us,” the exhibit says.

The timeline starts in the year 2000 with the first government effort for the LGBTQ+ sector, the Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities, a fair in Ximending. The inauguration was attended by Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who served as Rainbow Ambassador. This was also the year when the news of the death of a junior high-school student in Pingtung, Yeh Yong-chi, became prominent. Yeh Yong-chi was found dead on the restroom floor at school during class time. Yeh’s mother said he had been a victim of constant bullying at school because of his effeminate nature.
In 2001, Lescircle, Taiwan’s version of the Gay Games, was held.

Many mall goers are open in learning LGBT history.

In 2002, the Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities held a survey on LGBT’s favorite love songs and dream lovers. The handbook, What is LGBTQ+?, was also published, with a preface titled “What the White Snake Wants Is Not Just Compassion,” written by Kevin Cai Kang-yong (Kevin Tsai), a celebrity who came out during a television program. The teenage movie Blue Gate Crossing was shown, one of the first films to depict lesbian attraction.

The first Taiwan LGBT Pride was held in November 2003 at the entrance of the 228 Peace Memorial Park with some participants wearing masks.

In 2004, the “Home Party on Nong-An Street” incident happened, right before Lunar New Year. Police officers broke into a home where a party attended by gay men was happening. Ninety-three attendees were brought to the station for a compulsive blood and urine test. Twenty-eight were found to be HIV-positive. After that, there was much negative perceptions on the LGBTQ+.

President Chen Shui-bian announced the “Gender Equity Education Act” and schools began conducting gender equity classes. The Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities that year held an exhibit with one artwork displaying 93 pieces of underpants about the “Nong-An Street Home Party” incident.

This installation is also a chair.

In 2005, BBS, an online bulletin board system, became popular. The documentary Boys for Beauty was shown during the Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities. It was directed by Mickey Chen, an LGBTQ+ activist. When Boys for Beauty aired in 1999, it broke the box office record of documentary films in Taiwan.

In 2006, the Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities held the Rainbow Flag Raising Ceremony in front of the Taipei City Hall, a proud moment for the LGBTQ+ community. Hsiao Bi-khim, a legislator, proposed the same-sex marriage bill in the Legislative Yuan, which went viral on BBS.

In 2007, the film festival, “How to Understand LGBTQ+ Films,” was held, bringing in LGBTQ+ films from all over the world.

In 2008, there were underground LGBTQ+ clubs in schools. The Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities hosted an essay contest themed “My Best LGBTQ+ friends.”

In 2009, the Red House in Ximending was covered with rainbow flags for the Rainbow Market. In 2010, the Taipei LGBT Civil Rights Activities held a lecture on LGBTQ+ and their parents. In 2011, 12 lectures on LGBTQ were held in every district in Taipei. About 4,000 people participated.

In 2014, the Taipei City Government was setting up the Office for Gender Equality, which would promote LGBTQ+ human rights and introduce LGBTQ+ friendly working space. A demonstration supporting marriage equality was held, but was overwhelmed by anti-LGBTQ+ people, whose faces were covered.

In 2015, a petition for constitutional interpretation was filed by the Taipei City Government and Chi Chia-wei, the first out gay in Taiwan. It was the first year that the joint wedding hosted by Taipei City Government was opened for gay and lesbian couples to register.

In 2016, LGBTQ+ friendly workplaces were promoted led by companies such as Google and JP Morgan. The concert “Love Is King, It Makes Us All Equal” was held with support from many celebrities.

Professor Jacques Picoux, a lecturer on French language and literature at the National Taiwan University, committed suicide after his partner passed away, leading to more calls for marriage equality.

On Human Rights Day, 10 December, the Concert for Marriage Equality wad held on Ketagalan Boulevard with about 250,000 people attended.

In 2017, Constitutional Interpretation 748 paved the road to equality. On 24 May, the grand justices of the Constitutional Court announced that prohibiting same-sex marriage in Civil Code was unconstitutional and the legislative administration must amend the law within two years to legalize same-sex marriage.

In 2019, The Act for Implementation of Judicial Yuan Constitutional Interpretation 748 passed the third reading on 17 May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. On 24 May, The Act for Implementation of Judicial Yuan Constitutional Interpretation 748 took effect. The first appointment for same-sex marriage registration took place in Taipei. A total of 154 couples made the appointment.

The LGBTQ+ stuggle does not end with marriage equality thought, and there is much work to be done.

“As a model of Asian democratic city, Taipei City Government will continue to push for relevant policies to support the value of diversity, inclusion and harmony,” the exhibit promises.