Taipei in 2019 bustles with energy. This year, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The island is also bustling with tensions. Old versus new. East versus west. Rickety street stands selling steamy 50-cent dumplings look more and more out of place. The shops in the buildings behind them, once selling fruit and vegetables are being replaced by Starbucks, 7-11, and the latest Japanese culinary fads. Every moment in Taipei feels ephemeral. You know it won’t look the same tomorrow, but you can’t quite guess what it will become.
Gay nightlife in Taipei is surprisingly queer. Venues like Fairy Taipei (No. 51, Lane 308, Guangfu South Road. Tel: +886-2-2741-8852. www.facebook.com/fairytaipei) blur lines between straight and gay spaces, and mix L, G, B, and T together quite gracefully. These blurred lines create comfortable spaces for new ideas and new people, making Taipei’s LGBT scene somewhat of a haphazard concoction du jour. If you’re willing to put yourself out there, there may be no better place to choose your own adventure.
My husband and I hold hands everywhere in Taipei, and for us it’s never turned any heads. One of my Taiwanese friends once said to me, “the main thing I’m scared of in Taipei is my parents finding out that I’m gay. Your parents don’t live here, what do you have to be scared of?”
In our latest trip to Taipei, I took my husband to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (No. 21, Zhongshan South Road www.guidetotaipei.com/visit/chiang- kai-shek-memorial-hall). I wanted to show him the big grand blue (I think it looks a bit purple) octagonal roofs (because “eight” in Cantonese is pronounced like “fortune” in Mandarin, so eight is a lucky number). We happened to catch the changing-of-the-guard ceremony (every hour on the hour). It’s not Buckingham Palace, but who doesn’t like to watch men in uniform do a little dance? I went up to one of the guards after, just to ask a few questions. This guy was wearing a blue suit with colorful pins, carrying a rifle. “These plaques all tell the story of how great Chiang Kai-shek is,” he explained, “but the reality is that nobody is perfect. He made some bad decisions too.” I was shocked by his candor. If Chiang Kai-shek’s historical mythology can be questioned, what other myths are people questioning in 2019? The question that’s on everyone’s mind this year: What does it even mean to be Taiwanese? Ask folks this question, and you’ll get a big mix of answers. Since the 2016 election of Taiwan’s first female president, I’ve found that more and more Taiwanese people are publicly questioning/debating what futures they want. There’s a bustling energy here right now, even if its form is not quite yet defined.
This year’s Taiwan LGBT Pride will be on the last Saturday in October. It will be important. Last year’s Pride brought over 120,000 people from across East Asia to march through the streets of Taipei. Already the biggest pride in Asia, Pride 2019 will likely be Taipei’s biggest pride event yet. With the recent legalization of same-sex marriage, it’s likely to be an historic event that I won’t miss.