When it comes to LGBTI rights, Taiwan has been regarded as quite liberal and progressive compared to its neighboring countries in Asia. Although same-sex marriages are not currently recognized, several cities including Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan and New Taipei city have allowed same-sex couples to mark their partners in civil documents for reference purposes.
Regardless the legal status of same-sex union, Taiwan’s openness has attracted many people to visit its LGBTI-friendly communities. Here are 10 popular or important LGBTI destinations, events and organizations in Taiwan:
二二八和平公園 228 Peace Memorial Park
Formerly known as Taipei New Park, 228 Memorial Park is one of Taipei’s most well-known and historical gay spots. It’s the major setting of Taiwan’s first gay novel, Crystal Boys, which was set in the 80s in Taipei, and was also made into feature film, The Outsiders. It was known to be a secret spot for gay men to hang out and cruise for hook ups in the evening. Since its re-opening and re-naming to “228 Peace Memorial Park” in 1997 in memory of the 228 Incident, a massacre in 1947 which left more than tens of thousands dead and started Taiwan’s martial law era, the park’s well-lit surroundings and trimmed landscape these days have made 228 Peace Memorial Park become less secretive and more open to the community.
More information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/228_Peace_Memorial_Park
Red House 紅樓
Speaking of most-known-gay-neighborhood in Taipei, the main gay scene is centered around the Red House in Ximen (Ximending). Not only is the Western-style red-brick octagonal building the most well-preserved class III historical site, it is also a major location for the development of cultural and creative industry, hosting cultural events and connecting the creativity of the people in its community.
The Red House district is also home to more than 25 different gay bars, shops, and restaurants. From karaoke, to S&M, to intimate gathering, there is one for everyone. Most of the bars have an open area, which is best for people watching.
Information on Red House as a historical site: http://www.redhouse.org.tw/info_en.aspx
Gin Gin Books 晶晶書庫
Found in the quiet residential neighborhood Daan, Gin Gin Books is the first gay bookstore for the Chinese-speaking world, not only carrying LGBTI genre books and publications, but also thriving to promote LGBTI rights in Taiwan. The bookstore is filled with literature, DVDs, and even clothing and sex-toys. Other than selling merchandise, the store also reserves the back section for special activities and exhibitions. If you visit, check out not just the books, but also see if there’s any interesting exhibition or community events going on.
Bookstore website: http://www.ginginbooks.com
女書店/女巫店 Fembooks/ Witch House
Fembooks, one of the first feminist bookstores in Taiwan, was founded in 1994 mainly by a group of activists and supporters of the Awakening Foundation, the first women’s movement organization in Taiwan. It now not only sells, but also publishes books with a huge variety of topics such as autobiographies, theories of women’s/gender studies, sexualities, art, novels, and poetry. The bookstore also holds all kinds of activities year round, the most popular one being the classes of “trends and theories of feminisms”. It’s also adjacent to the lesbian cafe Witch House, which shows small acts like acoustic, indie and folk music. If your type of evening event is more low-key and relaxing, picking up one or two books at Fembooks and dropping by Witch House would be an alternative scene in the busy Taipei evening.
Funky is one of Taipei’s longest running and most popular gay clubs. The underground club is known for its 70’s vibe disco complete with lit up floor and mirror balls on the dance floor. It also has an excellent sound system DJ’d by talented artists. If you are in the mood for some disco and cha-cha-cha on the weekends (as well as people watching), Funky would be great spot for you to “shake it off”.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Funky-Club-229063240778/
While Funky is known for gay men, Taboo is almost entirely for lesbians. The underground club has live music on Thursdays and a small dance floor that doesn’t get packed until midnight. NT$300-$500 charge will give you more than just music – it’s all you can drink! Music ranges from your usual club and pop music to some EDM.
Sauna & Hot Spring Houses
Emerging from the early days of suppressing their sexual tendency and facing the pressures of an enforced straight life, saunas (or men’s spas) have become the shelters of gay men who wished to get away from their “straight lives.” Rainbow Sauna is one of the earliest installments and is still one of the most popular gay saunas in Taipei with amenities including a jacuzzi, steam room, video lounge, dark room, and private relaxation cabins. Other saunas such as Kawayu in Beitou, Taipei, have also earned a reputation of being gay-friendly although not specifically opened for the LGBT community.
台灣同志遊行聯盟 Taiwan LGBT Pride
Being one of the most LGBTI friendly country in Asia, Taipei is also home to the largest gay parade, Taiwan Pride, which was first held in 2003. The parade has seen a progressive theme from raising awareness in the earlier years, to more recently focusing more on self identity and social justice. The parade usually takes place around October and November in Taipei. This year, 2016, the parade will be held on Saturday, October 29th in Taipei. If you happen to be visiting during this time, come join the social movement that’s shaking Taiwan’s society.
More info: http://twpride.org/twp/index.php
台灣國際酷兒影展 Taiwan International Queer Film Festival
In 2014, the first Taiwan International Queer Film Festival took place in Taiwan, touring to Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung in October and November. The festival aims to establish itself as the premier LGBTI film festival in Asia, showing not only LGBTI films from around the world to Taiwanese people, but also showcasing the best Taiwanese queer cinema to the international audience. The inaugural year of TIQFF in 2014 featured 60 films from 30 countries, and in 2015 the festival expanded to feature 100 films with even greater representation of country and culture, covering social, political, and cultural issues relevant to LGBT community.
In additional to film screenings, the organizer also plans various events to further educate and engage with festival attendees on issues surrounding gay culture, gender equality, and human rights. Programs include panel discussions with film makers, film workshops for young and veteran film makers to exchange experience, and festival tours where the organizers take attendees out on tours away from major cities and into more remote areas of Taiwan where LGBTI issues aren’t often presented in proper context.
台灣同志諮詢熱線協會 Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association
Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association was founded in 1998 and is now the oldest and the largest LGBTI organization in Taiwan. It’s dedicated to achieving equality and providing resources for the LGBTI community through creating public dialogue and gender inclusive sexuality education, such as through telephone consulting, publications, human rights advocacy, and family consulting to help parents better understand the LGBTI community. Its support and effort in promoting and educating on LGBT rights have been tremendous which makes it an important organization for Taiwan’s road to LGBTI equality.
More info: http://hotline.org.tw/
(Feature photo of the Taiwan LBGTI Parade, by William Yang)
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