Taiwan draws hundreds of thousands in East Asia’s largest Pride march

Taiwan Pride 2023 in Taipei

A Pride march held this weekend in Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei saw the largest turnout in East Asia.

Organisers estimate that at least 176,000 people took to the streets on Saturday (28 October) for Taiwan Pride, according to the Central News Agency, many of whom were foreign visitors.

This marks a significant jump from last year’s turnout of 120,000 revelers.

Alongside attendees were go-go dancers, drag queens, and advocate groups, who stuck to this year’s theme of “recognising the diversity of every person, and respecting and accepting different gender identities.”

Taiwan Pride 2023 in Taipei
This year’s Taiwan Pride had over 176,000 in attendance. (Getty Images)

The theme was an important one, not just for Taiwanese natives who enjoy an openness to and acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights, but to visitors from neighours like China, who are far less progressive when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community.

China, which claims the island of Taiwan as its own territory, does not criminalise same-sex relations, but its government has implemented serious crackdowns on advocate groups and on depictions of LGBTQ+ people in the media.

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Just this summer, concert-goers in China reported having rainbow apparel confiscated by security at a Chang Hui-mei gig. Last year, apps like Grindr disappeared from Chinese app stores, and scenes from blockbuster films like Fantastic Beasts were cut to remove any allusions to LGBTQ+ characters or relations.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is moving in the opposite direction. In 2019, it became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. 

Taiwan Pride 2023 in Taipei
According to organisers, many attendees at this year’s Pride were foreign visitors. (Getty Images)

Earlier this year, the Same-Sex Marriage Act was extended to grant full adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Acknowledging Taiwan’s promising progress in recent years, Vice President Lai Ching-te spoke at this weekend’s Pride march – making him the most senior government leader to ever attend the annual celebration.

Lai, who is a member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), thanked attendees for always supporting equality and voting to legalise same-sex marriage in 2019 – a move that Lai had championed at the time.

“On this road, the DPP has always been together with everyone,” he said, per AsiaOne.

“Equal marriage is not the end – it’s the starting point for diversity. I will stand steadfast on this path.”

Lai then went on to mark alongside the DPP, behind a banner that proudly read: “Democracy Supports Gays.”

Pride attendees could reportedly be heard calling out: “Hello Mr President” as Lai walked past.

Vice President Lai Ching-te at Taiwan Pride
Vice President Lai Ching-te took part in this weekend’s Pride march. (Getty Images)

Vice President Lai’s attendance at Pride comes just ahead of Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections this coming January. At present, Lai is leading opinion polls in his run for president.

None of the other three presidential candidates attended Taiwan’s Pride celebrations, though the Chinese Nationalist Party’s youth wing also took part in the march, ensuring that people knew they also supported equality.

Although Taiwan is taking massive strides toward equality in comparison to its neighbours, Pride organisers, Taiwan Rainbow Civil Association, noted that there was still a long way to go.

The association told Taipei Times: “With gender issues still in need of continuous attention and advocacy,” Taiwan’s annual Pride march strives to “be an avenue to celebrate a life that is true and free, a life without discrimination, stigmas and violence.”