Taiwan’s new year for marriage equality

26 01 2017


Taiwan’s Equal Love campaign has launched this ad for the Chinese New Year, featuring two members of a male couple (in matching sweaters) celebrating the occasion separately with their families and fielding the classic CNY question – double edged in this context – “When will you get married?”

Love doesn’t lie

12 12 2016


A quarter of a million Taiwanese took to Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard this weekend in a massive show of support for the legalisation of gay marriage. The rally came in response to earlier Christian-led anti-gay protests which drew 80,000 protesters to oppose the changes, which have been proposed by President Tsai Ing-wen.

The issue had been given further impetus with the suicide of a French university lecturer on the island who had been kept away from his chronically ill long-term partner by that man’s family. After his Taiwanese boyfriend passed away, the French partner also killed himself.

But anti-gay rights campaigners have been opposing any changes.

“Every person has a right to love, but there is also a proper order to love: We do not use the same manner to love animals as people, and love for a husband and wife is different from how you love friends,” Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference secretary-general Otried Chan (陳科) said. Other protesters have made wild claims about the impact the bill would have on heterosexuals, inaccurately claiming for example that the changed marriage law would outlaw the terms “mother” and “father”.

Such statements have led to Taiwanese gay rights protesters adopting the catchphrase, “love doesn’t lie”.

The bill will receive its final test in parliament in the first quarter of next year.


Waa Wei

4 12 2016


Breathy Faye Wong-essque pop from Taiwanese star Waa Wei.

21 09 2016


Taichung: the little city that could

21 09 2016


For my birthday, my boyfriend had bought me a “mystery ticket”. We would be going away for the weekend…somewhere, but I didn’t know where. My first suspicions, for some reason, were Malaysia but one evening, tired after work and not thinking clearly, he let slip that it was to be Taiwan. So, Taipei I assumed, and started mentally planning. It was only when we arrived to check in for the flight that the smiling attendant took my passport and asked “So, for Taichung?”

Taichung. What did I know about Taichung? I frantically wracked my brain. Nothing. I drew a big blank.

My boyfriend later told me that when he had mentioned his plan to Taiwanese friends, they had also responded with “Taichung?”

Taiwan’s third biggest city, with a population of about one million, is not really a top tourist draw. It is not the kind of place many international tourists would pick as their top choice, lacking the big city buzz of Taipei or the lush scenery of the countryside. There is no beach. The mountains are about an hour away. Taichung is generally thought of – if people think of it at all – as a nice place to live, a spacious green city with a mild climate. So in other words, an Asian version of Brisbane. Or Adelaide, perhaps.

Once an industrial boomtown, the home of “Made in Taiwan” electronics, Taichung is now adjusting to a post-industrial future, its factories moved offshore. The new Taichung is trying on a fresh identity as a city of leisure and culture, art and cafes. But still, it retains an (endearing?) provincial twinge.

So, with modest expectations we set off for the weekend. Not expecting too much, we found ourselves surprised at almost every step. Taichung was relaxed and provincial – in the best possible way – but also more of a city than I had expected. The cafes were hipper, the sights more interesting, the art better, the architecture more arresting. And yet it still moved at a slower pace – and this was perhaps its greatest asset.

It was a city where friends could gather to barbecue squid and drink beers on the curb every evening outside their shops, and you could cycle through local neighbourhoods, but there was still more than enough to do. There was the  cheap denim and thumping pop music of the Fengjia night market with its typically Taiwanese array of snacks: pungent tofu and duck-shaped candy floss, hot-dogs-in-hot-dogs, bubble tea and beef noodles (as well as the local specialty, turkey rice). Neon signs glowed and garish octopuses and pigs were perched on top of restaurants hawking different kinds of meat.

There were quirky shops and restaurants with funny names: Think Think Human Culture, Pretty Wife Eats Cheese, (and for the gay visitor, bars like “My Sister’s Husband” and shopping centre “Taichung Top City.”) There was indeed a thriving cafe culture (with a current fondness for Cuban sandwiches, a surprisingly cosmopolitan touch)  and random, big malls spaced widely along long roads. A monorail was under construction, Uber had just arrived. Which is just as well, because Taichung sprawls. There is space, and sky. People are friendly. Families play in parks and people walk their dogs everywhere.

It seemed to have the best of both worlds. I returned to Hong Kong, with its harried impatient rat race and tiny apartments, daydreaming about a return to Taichung.



The sunset …

21 09 2016


My boyfriend had been advised by somebody’s Taiwanese girlfriend in Hong Kong that while in Taichung we should go to the nearby Gaomei coastal wetlands to watch the sun go down. I was a bit skeptical, it sounded like the kind of thing you would do in a small town rather than a mid-sized city.Watching the sun go down in a swamp? O-K…. But then we had nothing else to do…

Approaching the wetlands – visible from far away because of the silhouettes of its huge, vaguely futuristic wind turbines – traffic slowed to a crawl. It seemed the whole town had turned out for the twilight show. Soon, we saw why.


With masses of spectators standing on an artfully designed bridge, we watched one of the most spectacular sunsets I can remember break over the wind towers, while flocks of birds, little sparrows and larger waders, drifted over the mud flats.

It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

… and the moon

21 09 2016