After the Rain, Comes the Rainbow?

By November 1, 2015 Learning
A reflection piece written by our media & communication officer, Safir Soeparna, on his participation in two Asia’s largest LGBT rights events: 2015 ILGA Conference and Taiwan LGBT Pride.

Although far from perfect, Taiwan has set an exemplary remark of creating a more tolerating and inclusive society for other Asian countries. Last Saturday, Taiwan marked its 13th LGBT pride. More than 70,000 people marched the celebration of sexual diversity and gender identity as they circled Taipei’s downtown, making it Asia’s largest gay pride.

Many of the marchers hoped that the country’s next year presidential election would bring to power the island’s first pro gay and female-led opposition party. Making a stage appearance in a video message, the opposition leader Tsai Ing-Wen spoke her support on legalization of same-sex marriage in the country.

Issues intersecting between sexual and health rights were also highlighted by many of the marchers. Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, the country’s oldest and largest LGBT organisation, called for a positive awareness towards people living with HIV, LGBT elders and intersex persons. Gisneyland, creative community working on HIV services in the country’s southern cities, utilized the pride to educate the crowd on the HIV risk of chem sex – a devastating trend that seemed to be increasingly popular among young Taiwanese gay men.

Regional initiative such as UNDP’s Being LGBT in Asia (BLIA) also rallied in the pride. BLIA is a participatory review & analysis of the legal & social environment for LGBTI persons in Asia. The initiative is stepping into its second phase, in which a detailed country survey – piloting in China – would be undergone as an effort to end harmful practices against LGBTI people.

from left to right: activists of Taiwan Hotline Association, Gisneyland volunteers and contingent of BLIA

from left to right: activists of Taiwan Hotline Association, Gisneyland volunteers and contingent of BLIA

Three days prior to the Pride, Taiwan for the first time hosted Asia’s largest LGBT right conference, the 6th Asia-chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Conference. A diverse range of LGBT organizations from the smallest collectives to national and international groups is flocking in the three-day conference to forward the equality agenda.

APCOM joined and contributed to the conference by holding two separate sessions highlighting the impact of UN resolutions towards the grassroots movement, and the discussion on affirmative Christian perspectives on sexual diversity and access to health. APCOM was also invited to speak at the “Creative HIV Prevention” side event for sharing its TestBKK, the HIV prevention campaign that has been stimulating word of mouth, both online and offline, in encouraging young MSM in Bangkok to test for HIV.

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With 2015 Taiwan Queer Film Festival also kickstarted in the same week, the past few days felt very promising for Taiwanese LGBT environment. We are crossing fingers that it will only get better. The rest of Asia, however, is still left behind. Major setback to the battle for the rights of sexual minorities are emerging. Malaysia’s highest court verdict reversing a lower court’s decision that gave transgender Muslims the right to cross-dress and Brunei’s proposed bill allowing death by stoning for gay sex are added to the “setback list”, along with India’s court reversal on same-sex act decriminalization two years ago.

Many of the community advocates speaking at ILGA conference sounded hopeful. But there’s a considerable amount of them who were still wondering. Is the growing visibility of LGBT movement in the region as well as the triumph in Western world, such as the increasing number of countries legalising gay marriages, backfiring us here in Asia? Would’ve religious harsh opposition towards LGBT people not grown, had the movement kept under the radar? Will the rainbow come after the rain?

Cover Photo Credit: Zive Chu

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