Does it sound crazy to create a theme park that promotes sexual health and rights? Not according to Gisneyland! Yes, you heard it right. Named similarly after “the happiest place on earth,” Gisneyland is a community organisation providing various health services – and sometimes in a form of a theme park! – to young LGBT individuals in Hsinchu, Taiwan. We sat down with Gisneyland Director Yingsak White (王淳禾) to share us the stories behind the organisation’s journey in making Taiwan’s “windy city” the LGBT-friendliest place on earth.
GisneyLand is famous for its GisneyLand Festival. Tell us what the Festival is all about.
Conducted on every last Saturday of September, the Festival packages sexual diversity awareness in a jubilant way. While Taipei has its worldwide-known gay Pride, Hsinchu – which is much smaller in a sense of population size and ‘open-mindedness’, relies on Gisneyland Festival in declaring positive stance against discrimination and violence toward LGBT people to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance. We might not do the marching around the city, but the Festival surely brings in a lot of non-LGBT people.
GisneyLand Festival’s 2016 Poster
Running from 2PM to 8PM, the Festival will be divided into two area: Booth and Stage. The booth area will be filled by non-governmental organisation, community organisation and local LGBT businesses who will share or promote their services and ideas with the audience. LGBT band, dance crews and celebrity ambassadors will take the stage to make the Festival more merry.
The main tradition of the Festival is to release balloons with six different rainbow colors into the sky, as a symbol of LGBT’s pride.
How was GisneyLand established?
Established in 2011, GisneyLand is the brainchild of the Institute of Taiwan AIDS Foundation, the country’s national-scale foundation in carrying out the necessary outreach, advocacy and other HIV services in curbing the epidemic. This includes a strong service delivery to key affected population such as gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men and transgender individuals, which encourages GisneyLand’s scope of work to also cover various mental and sexual health of LGBT individuals.
Explain to us the kind of “happy place” that GisneyLand aims to create.
A place where gay and trans people can be proud to be who they are without a fear of being harmed and stigmatized. A place where they can live a sex-positive life without forgetting the importance of safe sex, regular HIV testing and/or early treatment, if they’re diagnosed with HIV. A place where diversity is applauded, not shamed.
And how does GisneyLand contribute to create this “happy place”?
Our headquarters is a space where we empower LGBT persons with friendly networking zone and life education such as teamwork skill building. The headquarters is also where Hsinchu’s LGBT residents can receive free mental and health support, such as counselling on eliminating self-stigma and, of course, a drop in centre to receive support like friendly sexual health consultation, anonymous HIV and syphilis testing, and referral to essential medical care.
Left: Gisneyland’s creative illustration on their core activities. Right: Endearingly designed, Gisneyland’s headquarter map exhibits how welcoming the organisation is.
We also provide consultation on the aforementioned topics via telephone and social media channels such as Facebook, Line and Plurk.
We recruit and train peer volunteers to spread our messages beyond our headquarters. We often visit schools and non-LGBT community groups to raise awareness of HIV prevention and/or sexual orientation and gender diversity.
And, since 2011, we’ve been holding an annual event called GisneyLand Festival every September. It’s like a gay pride, but crafted in a more traditional, or you can say, less aggressive way.
To learn more about GisneyLand, contact Director Yingsak White at [email protected]