Tens of thousands take to the streets as Taiwan holds first Pride parade since legalising same-sex marriage

A group of men in white vests and shorts. Each holds balloons in a different colour of the rainbow.

Taiwan Pride 2019 was a celebration of the country’s historic decision to legalise same-sex marriage, with over 200,000 taking to the streets of Taipei – 50,000 more than the previous year.

More than 2,000 LGBT+ couples have tied the knot since Taiwan became the first country in Asia to introduce marriage equality, many of whom marched during Saturday’s parade.

“I’m very excited because it’s the first Pride parade after same-sex marriages are recognised and I got married,” Shane Lin, one of the first men to marry under the new law, told the AFP news agency.

Two young women, who gave their English names as Tina and Gina, agreed that this year’s event had a different feel to it.

They told PinkNews: “[LGBT+] people are more open now, so more people in Taiwan are paying attention to these things now. More younger people are speaking out.”

Though same-sex marriage is now legal in Taiwan, its society remains divided on issues of LGBT+ rights.

Topless men wearing briefs and harnesses on a float during Taiwan Pride 2019

Topless men on a float during Taiwan Pride 2019. (Getty)

In 2017, the island nation’s constitutional court set a May 2019 deadline for the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Six months before the deadline, 72 per cent of voters said no to marriage equality in a non-binding referendum.

However this had no effect on the court ruling, and on May 17, 2019, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, lawmakers voted for a government-backed bill which defined a same-sex union as marriage.

A Pride-goer named Irene, who travelled to Taiwan Pride from a neighbouring island, said that the negative vote had soured last year’s event.

“We went to our first Pride last year after the vote had been denied, and the atmosphere felt very different,” she told PinkNews.

A group poses with rainbow elephant masks during Taiwan Pride 2019. (Getty)

“Last year was a little bit depressed because of the vote, but this has been really full of joy.”

But Irene also spoke of a schism which has divided families such as hers.

“For LGBT+ people it’s very optimistic to some degree, but I don’t think the discrimination has gone because of the legalisation,” she said.

“My mother is a Christian and her church has been strongly against gay marriage.”

Over 200,000 Taiwanese people came out in force to celebrate Taipei Pride

Despite Taiwain’s historic move, LGBT+ people are still unable to adopt children unless it is the biological child of their partner. They are also unable to marry foreigners from countries where same-sex marriages aren’t recognised.

“Marriage equality is the beginning, it’s not the end,” Leong Chin-fai, a 31-year-old Macanese national who is currently unable to wed his Taiwanese partner, told AFP.

“We hope to keep pushing for issues including recognition of international marriages, parental and adoption rights.”

Several Pride-goers wore wedding dresses in a nod to the historic vote for marriage equality

Despite these shortcomings, there was still much for Tapei to celebrate.

The theme of this year’s pride was “Together, make Taiwan better”, to promote greater tolerance and understanding of LGBT+ people among neighbours.

Revellers posing for photos outside Taipei City Hall

The sentiment was echoed by Henry Wu, a straight man who brought his five-year-old son to the march.

“I support marriage equality because it is a basic human right,” he told AFP.

“Taiwan made huge progress in legalising same-sex marriages… I feel very proud we are the first in Asia to do so.”