Ciara Morris | China Fellow
Last year, InterPride, a global LGBTQIA+ rights group, named the southern Taiwanese city Kaohsiung host of WorldPride 2025. WorldPride takes place every two years to promote international visibility and awareness of LGBTIQA+ issues. As of August this year, Taiwan is no longer a host.
Taiwanese organisers claim InterPride abruptly insisted on removing the name “Taiwan” from the title and promotional materials, renaming the event “WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025”.
Even though all seven subsequent WorldPride events have been named after their host city, Taiwanese organisers claim “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” was used throughout the bidding and initial consultation stages without dispute. They argue that their plans for the event would have brought together queer activists from across the island, not just Kaohsiung. Unfortunately, the two sides couldn't reach an agreement and scrapped it altogether, citing “major discrepancies between our stances on the event’s naming, understandings of Taiwan’s culture and expectations of what a WorldPride event should look like,” according to the Taiwanese organisers.
WorldPride Taiwan 2025 would have been the first event held in Asia, making its cancellation a substantial blow for the Asia region’s LGBTQIA+ community. The hosting rights will now likely go to Washington DC, the runner-up in the bidding process. WorldPride 2023 will be held in Sydney, marking its first iteration in the Southern Hemisphere.
InterPride says that it “supports being seen as your authentic self.” Expression and recognition of Taiwanese national identity is very important in Taiwan. The majority of people in Taiwan view themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, even though over 95% of Taiwan’s population are ethnically Han Chinese. By their own logic, InterPride should have respected Taiwan’s desire to be seen in the international arena under the name it chose for itself.
However, InterPride may have had an ulterior motive in insisting on the removal of any reference to the island’s name.
InterPride aims to eventually receive consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council to further promote LGBTQIA+ rights globally. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), a UN veto power, has repeatedly blocked Taiwan’s participation in international organisations, businesses, and events, in line with its One China policy. By insisting on removing “Taiwan” from the event title, InterPride has indirectly supported the PRC’s mission to diminish Taiwanese identity on the global stage.
LGBTQIA+ rights are largely respected in Taiwan. It was the first Asian jurisdiction to legalise same-sex marriage in 2019. Gay and lesbian people can openly serve in the military. Conversion therapy is banned. There is no censorship of LGBTQIA+ people in the public media, and the capital city of Taipei hosts an annual Pride event which, before COVID, brought together over 200,000 people in celebration.
Taiwan is far from perfect. For example, there is no legal recognition of non-binary people. However, across the Taiwan Strait, the PRC tells a very different story for its LGBTQIA+ community. Despite advocacy attempts from human rights groups, Beijing continues to reject supportive protective legislation for LGBTQIA+ people. Under President Xi, state-sanctioned homophobia has worsened.
Advocacy groups and university societies have been shut down, including any online presence. Conversion therapy is available at public hospitals. On-screen depictions of LGBTQIA+ people are banned. Last year, President Xi ordered a “clean-up” of the entertainment industry. Soon after, the National Radio and Television Administration announced broadcasters must “resolutely put an end to sissy men and other abnormal aesthetics,” using a derogatory term for effeminate men, “niang pao” (娘炮), which literally means “girlie guns.” These are only a few examples of state-sanctioned homophobia in the PRC.
If InterPride did buckle under pressure from the PRC in its decision to remove the name “Taiwan” from WorldPride 2025, it is a symptom of a far greater problem: a problem of progressive international orgnaisations, companies, and countries acting in fear of repercussions from an increasingly socially conservative and powerful PRC.
Taiwan has the potential to be an effective model for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and activism in Asia. It is a place the international queer community should celebrate and support. I, for one, look forward to attending Taiwan Pride this October – and to hopefully see WorldPride hosted in Asia one day soon.
Ciara Morris is the China Fellow for Young Australians in International Affairs.