I went to my first gay pride parade yesterday. For a long time I sniffed at the idea, in the opinion that such parades did nothing but hurt the image of the gay community. However, last week’s anti-gay demonstration in Taipei shook the complacency from my attitude. I figured that, if I am going to offer an opinion on such matters, I might as well go take a look for myself.
Also, it was a nice day and I didn’t feel like staying at home.
I took the MRT to NTUH Station and found the park exit mobbed with people watching the parade; police officers were trying to clear exit routes. Gongyuan Road was the scene of two parades: the main parade, with floats and signs and people in costumes, watched by crowds on both sides of the street. On the sidewalks was the second parade, which consisted mainly of people who wanted to follow or even be in the parade, but didn’t dare be so open about it. The result was three streams of people; the main parade flanked by two lesser streams of watcher/participants. Chenbl and I stood on the curb and watched the various groups and floats, and I found that the gaggles of prancing, feathered nudists that the media would have you believe represent all gay people everywhere were actually just a small minority of the people in the parade. I suppose it’s natural that photographers and reporters focus on what they feel is different and strange, but it ends up distorting the reality.
I saw a lot of interesting people, some of whom I knew and many I didn’t; I met Sho, whom I’ve bumped into a couple of times over the past few months, a particularly fuzzy bear from Banqiao who seems to have lost a lot of weight since I last saw him, and The Taipei Kid, whom I haven’t seen in a while. It was his first gay pride parade as well, and he also said he was prompted to attend by the Christian anti-gay protests of the week before. I wonder how many people the Christians motivated to come out to the parade, and how they feel about the result of their actions. Certainly I didn’t see any Christian anti-gay protesters at the parade.
As the end of the parade neared, I began to follow it up the road, ducking in and out of it, taking pictures with my little camera. I had thought that I wouldn’t be very interested in the typical “gay parade” shots and thus didn’t bring the Invincible Rabbit, but there were plenty of people shot opportunities, and I ran down an entire battery taking shots. The light was excellent, at several points reflecting off of nearby office buildings and creating “no-flash corners” and backlighting people on the street in an interesting fashion. We walked along Xiangyang Road to Chongqing South Road and then along Hengyang Street towards the West Gate District, where I ducked in to get some water and lost track of the parade at the intersection with Zhonghua Road.
Chenbl wanted to go see some friends of his, gay Malaysian badminton players who were partaking in an international gay sports event at the NTU gym, so we took the MRT over and walked through the campus to the huge complex on Xinhai Road, and down to the basement where the tournament was taking place. Ray arrived not long afterwards to watch as well. The action was pretty fierce, far above my level, as players from Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong battled on the long series of courts. I talked to one of the Taiwan team players, and he said that they practice at the center near the Little Big Egg on Saturdays, and Ray said he might check it out, as he is better at badminton than I am and might fit in better. It was a bit odd to realize that everyone in the room was ‘mo-Asian. “This is our sport,” someone told me. “Badminton is made for gay Asians.”
After the tournament we went back to K-Road in front of the presidential palace where the paraders had ended up for a concert. Police stood around, looking bored and more than a little unneccesary, as people listened to the musicians on the stage telling them to be brave in the face of adversity. Looking at the crowd, it occurred to me that perhaps the attraction of such events is not so much to say something to the world in general, but just to be in an environment where, for once, we are not the minority, where we don’t have to censor ourselves or worry that others might think ill of us or just freak out. Ironically, the point of such events, which are portrayed as being bizzarre meccas of hedonism and extremism, is just to feel “normal” for a short time.
We’d arranged to meet some of the Malasian team at Za Watami by the train station for dinner, but we ended up waiting on the sofas outside for a good half hour before we could get in. I spent most of the time giving Ray some pointers on using his new 500D. The food, when we were finally served, was excellent as usual. I’ve always liked the atmosphere at that place, the lively colors and the sight of the station sign looming over Zhongxiao West Road outside the tall windows. It was interesting to hear about the Malaysians’ experiences in Taiwan; it’s difficult to think of one’s home city as a tourist destination, particularly hard for a city like Taipei. I managed to not eat too much, a real feat, and we chatted until the place was about to close before going our separate ways.
In other news, I’ve decided I need a break before the weather gets too cold, so I’m flying to Tokyo tomorrow for a week or so of meandering around that great city and hopefully capture some of the fall colors there. Although I haven’t learned Japanese as I’d told myself I should, I have more or less memorized the Hiragana and Katakana, so at least I’ll be able to read the signs.