Taipei and Cleveland

Written By Ezra Ellenbogen

An image of a Pride event in Taipei

Image Credit to Carl Court / Getty Images

June is Pride Month in the United States! In the United States, LGBTQ+ rights have come a long way since the original Stonewall riots (though there is still some progress to be made), but globally, LGBTQ+ citizens are most often not given the same rights as straight citizens, and even sometimes considered illegal. Unfortunately, Asia is home to little progress in this field, but Taiwan has pioneered LGBTQ+ rights in a region where such rights are almost unheard of.[1]Taiwan’s capital is Taipei – and the city of Taipei is a sister city of Cleveland. First – a bit of background.

On September 25th, 1975, former Cleveland Mayor Ralph J. Perk and former Taipei Mayor Lin Yang-Kang partnered their cities as sister cities.[2] Taipei City is a very friendly city, as shown with their total of 52 sister city partnerships (Cleveland has 23 including Beit-She’an).[3] In 1985, Taipei City generously gifted the Chinese Cultural Garden to Cleveland.[4] The beautiful garden was modeled after the Chinese Imperial Palace and includes two Chinese dragon statues as well as one of Confucius. In 1990, the state of Ohio and Taiwan became “sister states.[5]” Ties between the two regions have been positive throughout the sister city relationship.

In 2016, Taiwan was the 6th largest export market in Asia for Ohio. Business interactions between Taiwanese businesses and the city of Cleveland have helped diversify the reach of numerous Taiwanese products. Moreover, Taiwanese students have had numerous scholarly opportunities in Cleveland, especially with Case Western Reserve University. Reciprocally, Cleveland students have had similar academic opportunities in Taiwan, and both sides of the exchange have helped spread Taiwanese and Cleveland culture.[6] For instance, in May 2019, 16 Taiwanese high-school-age music students visited the city of Cleveland, welcomed by a local delegation that later traveled to meet the same group in Taiwan. While visiting Cleveland, the students toured three world-renowned music conservatories across Northeast Ohio, learned about music therapy, and more. In Taipei in October, Cleveland’s delegation of 3 high-school students participated in local music-themed activities and music service learning projects, visited local temples, learned about playing the Chinese Zither (Guzheng), and more.

Taiwan is known for its progressiveness with LGBTQ+ rights, as well as its festive Pride celebrations. The country’s rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community are still developing, but they are certainly the most forward in the region. Taiwan has a large and flourishing LGBTQ+ community, and a record 200,000 people participated in Taipei’s 2019 Pride parade.[7] For comparison, 80,000 people attended the 2015 Taipei Pride event.[8] The main reason for the sudden influx of pride and celebration was that Taiwan legalized same-sex marraige that year. The struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in Taiwan has been a long and politically divisive one.[9] Taipei’s Pride march started in 2003, and since then, there has been a major political movement behind legalizing same-sex marraige in the country.

In 2016, the first female president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, was elected, and expressed clear support for the LGBTQ+ community as well as its members’ legal rights. In 2017, the Taiwanese constitutional court struck down the Civil Code’s definition of marriage being only between a man and a woman, and this led to a political struggle throughout Taiwan’s government that resulted in the 2019 legalization of same-sex marraige by President Tsai.

Taiwan is well-known globally for its modern Pride celebrations. In fact, Taiwan’s Pride parades most often include international groups. Taiwan is a beacon for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, and the country’s Pride celebrations include Pride movements from other countries that are not supported by their own state, including prominent Hong Kong LGBTQ+ movements.[10]

Pride celebrations in Taiwan typically occur in the month of October, which is known as LGBTQ+ History Month, or sometimes Queer History Month. In the United States, Pride celebrations are typically in June, to commemorate the Stonewall riots. October was chosen for other countries’ Pride months to coincide with Coming Out Day – which is October 11th.[11]

Taipei City and Cleveland have a history of cooperation and beneficial cultural exchange. Moreover, now is a good time to recognize and appreciate the progress made by Taiwan, not only for its cultural diplomacy with the United States and especially Cleveland, but also for its wondrous progress with LGBTQ+ rights. It is important to recognize the progress that has been made globally, as well as what still needs to be accomplished.

Happy Pride Month!