GLBTQ+ Taiwan

Taiwan is considered the most gay-friendly country in Asia. In 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court affirmed equal protection for same-sex marriages, and two years later Taiwan legalized same sex marriage, the first in Asia to do so. Not only has the government of Taipei printed up its own free guide to the gay community, but school children are taught about homosexuality and tolerance for sexual minorities. Taiwan's first Gay Pride Festival was held in June 1997 at 2-28 Memorial Park (New Park) in Taipei, a popular meeting place for gay men.

Taiwan Pride - Taipei, 2016.

Photo from Wikipedia by Kokuyo.

Taiwan Pride has taken place in Taipei every October since 2003, and is the biggest Gay Pride event in Asia. There is also an annual Pride parade in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. In addition, the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (TIQFF) is the only LGBTQ+ film festival in Asia. The festival takes place each fall in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. In 1983, Crystal Boys, the first queer novel ever published in Taiwan, described gay history of the 1970s, especially concerning men who often met in Taipei’s New Park. The book was later made into a popular TV series. The first lesbian group, Between Us, was founded in 1990, and The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association - the first nationally registered LGBT organization in Taiwan - dates from 1998.

Acceptance of gays and lesbians has not always been the case in Taiwan. During the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek, gays were often persecuted, and subject to arrest and public shaming. However, it’s interesting to note that Soong Mei-ling’s favorite niece, Jeanette Kung (Chen) liked to dress as a man and maintained what one author described as an “abrasive lesbian lifestyle.” She was reported to partake in drinking contests with Taiwanese military officers, and would share any information she may have overheard with her grateful aunt and uncle.

Taiwan has also been a leader in rights for transgender individuals. The Taiwanese Parliament enacted the Long-Term Care Services Act of 2017 protecting minorities, including transgender people, from discrimination in the medical field. In January 2018, it was announced that plans to introduce a third gender option on passports and National Identification cards would be implemented in the “near future.” However, life for transgender individuals has not been easy. Many report discrimination at work, and they are often subject to abuse by family members. A high percentage of transgender-identified people in Taiwan have contemplated suicide, and many are uncomfortable being out in public and using single-sex restrooms.

As in China, it is vitally important that the eldest son (especially) father his own sons who will carry on the family name in Taiwan. This tradition places intense pressure on gay men (especially those who happen to be the eldest or only son) to marry and become fathers. Many decide to marry and have children, but some maintain a secret gay life outside of marriage. The situation is somewhat easier for lesbians, although they are also pressured to marry and have children, especially sons. In general, gays and bisexuals in Taiwan are discreet about their sexual lives, and some remain “in the closet” for life. At the same time, Taiwanese tend to respect the private lives of others and refrain from asking direct questions about another person’s sexual preferences.

In addition to an abundance of gay and lesbian bars in Taiwan’s larger cities, there are many cafes and restaurants that are gay and lesbian-friendly. As in other countries, parks are popular meeting places throughout Taiwan, and Taipei has several gay-friendly hot springs. Due to the Internet being widely available, many gay and lesbian Taiwanese make connections online.

Like the Japanese, most Taiwanese rarely show public displays of affection, even to other family members (except children). Gay male and lesbian couples are rarely seen walking hand in hand, even in major cities. Relationships are considered “private” in traditional Taiwanese culture, although the younger generation likes living more openly.


Street scene, Taipei.




“LGBT history in Taiwan,”
“Gay Taipei Guide 2021,”
“Gay Taiwan,”
“Transgender people in Taiwan and mainland China,”
Wright Doyle, “Madame Chiang Kai-shek,”


© 2022 by Nathaniel Altman

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