Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, has been selected to host WorldPride festivities in 2025, beating out runner-up host city Washington, DC. It will be the first time WorldPride will be in East Asia.
InterPride, which oversees WorldPride festivities, announced the host city on November 13 following a vote by members during the 2021 General Meeting and World Conference. More than 300 member organizations took part in voting, workshops, and other meetings during an eight-day virtual gathering.
“The WorldPride Taiwan Team 2025 would like to thank all before us who lit the way, to thank InterPride who built this wonderful organization and platform, and thank our supporters who have bestowed this amazing opportunity for Taiwan and Asia,” Darien Chen, a spokesperson for Kaohsiung Pride, said in a written statement. “This is the beginning of a four-year journey that we plan to ignite change in Asia, to promote InterPride’s mission, and to advance human rights in the world.”
This year, WorldPride was held in two cities across separate countries — Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden — and it will be in Sydney, Australia in 2023.
The announcement unveiling the host city for 2025, however, sparked controversy after InterPride described Taiwan as a “region.” While China has maintained that Taiwan is part of China, it is governed independently — and the United States recently called for Taiwan to be represented at the United Nations (UN). The American government has also provided arms sales to the island, though the US has stopped short of recognizing Taiwan as an independent country thanks to a decades-old “One China” policy.
Lance Chen-Hayes, an out gay Taiwanese-American activist who helped mobilize New Yorkers to support marriage equality efforts in Taiwan several years ago, was among those who turned to Facebook to push back against InterPride’s framing of Taiwan.
“Taiwan is a sovereign country, not a region of an oppressive regime that’s hostile to LGBTQ+ people,” Chen-Hayes wrote. “Please change your language.”
InterPride subsequently released a new statement November 16 claiming that their terminology in the original announcement was intended to conform to UN policies pertaining to organizations seeking “consultative status” with the UN. The updated statement did not mention the word “region.”
“Over the past two years, InterPride has been going through an application process to gain consultative status with the United Nations to better serve the global LGBTQIA+ community,” InterPride wrote on Facebook. “At the same time, we have considered very carefully the overwhelming feedback we recently received. InterPride stands for the human rights of all our members, including the right to self-determination. InterPride would like to congratulate Kaohsiung Pride, who has won the bid to host WorldPride 2025 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.”
Chen-Hayes, who said he plans to move back to Taiwan next month, pointed to what he described as a shift in global attitudes towards China as of late, with more countries embracing Taiwan’s significant role in the international community while “refusing to kowtow” to China’s “bullying behaviors.”
“However, this is a delicate dance because Taiwan can still be the ultimate recipient and victim of China’s aggressions,” he said.
The selection of Kaohsiung City is notable, Chen-Hayes said, because the local LGBTQ community in Taiwan has pushed to direct more support and resources for LGBTQ individuals outside of Taipei.
Taiwan’s LGBTQ community endured a hard-fought bid to gain marriage rights, culminating in the legalization of marriage equality in 2019. Taiwan’s Constitutional Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in 2017 and gave lawmakers two years to pass a law allowing LGBTQ couples to marry, but religious conservatives took advantage of that two-year window by flooding the country with millions of dollars in ads aiming to thwart the momentum. In 2018, citizens voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman, prompting LGBTQ activists to organize counter-fundraisers — including one held at the Stonewall Inn — to add support to the marriage cause.
In 2019 — like the court asked — lawmakers ultimately approved the marriage equality bill, making Taiwan the first in Asia to establish marriage equality and marking a shift in the international LGBTQ community’s public perception of the country.
“It is wonderful to have the InterPride selection committee vote for Taiwan to be the host of WorldPride in 2025,” Chen-Hayes said. “This means that they have recognized the significance of Taiwan in the global LGBTQ+ movement.”