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COMMENTARY: What Americans can learn from Taipei Pride

Taipei Pride celebrated its 10th anniversary on Oct. 27. It is the oldest and biggest Pride event in Asia.

More than 50,000 marchers attended this year, according to the Taipei Times.

On the surface, Taipei Pride is not a celebration of extravagance or politics. It seems to be a celebration of the “normal” lives of “normal” people. Whereas D.C. Pride is filled with churches, NGOs and political groups, and New York Pride is filled with hot men on glitzy floats, the majority of participants in Taipei Pride walked with their friends, dressed in their regular clothes.

That is not to say that Taipei Pride wasn’t fun, or that gay marriage wasn't at the forefront of discussions. What’s different is the method in which the average person so comfortably participated. You don't have to sign up or pay a fee in advance.

Chiwei Cheng, the director of Social Work at the Taiwanese Tongzhi Hotline Association (the first officially recognized LGBT NGO in Southeast Asia) explains:

"Taipei Pride is not a festival. It is a political rally. Once a year, we get a chance to teach LGBT people about what the issues are and what's at stake."

At the end of the march – when I was expecting everyone to immediately disperse to their favorite bars – participants gathered and attentively listened to 18 lectures ranging from stern explanations of law and anthropology, to heartfelt discussions of disability issues. We heard laments about how Taiwan is one of the last democratic countries that deports foreigners with HIV, and encouragement from the monk who caused a stir a few months ago for officiating a lesbian Buddhist wedding.

Most extraordinary to me was just how much more "queer" the largest LGBT event in Southeast Asia was pushing the boundaries. We heard reminders that some LGBT people do not want to get married or be monogamous, and want to challenge the prejudices against open relationships. As LGBT people continue to assert their rights through the power of the pink dollar, participants of Taipei Pride were also reminded to be respectful and responsible consumers.

Organizers of a local anti-nuclear movement also spoke. According to Chiwei, anti-gay rhetoric often resorts to the arguments that homosexuality isn't "natural" and that if more people were gay, the population would die off. "Well, nuclear energy isn't natural and also threatens mass destruction," he asserted, "why aren't anti-gay activists rallying against nuclear energy?"

After the successful re-election of President Barack Obama, is it time for us to follow the example of Taipei Pride and push for a more queer agenda in the mainstream LGBT movement?

Would a less glitzy Pride event in the States empower more individuals to participate, or just fizzle out?

Are organizers of Pride in the States missing out on opportunities to educate LGBT people about the details and nuances of LGBT issues?

( Allister Chang graduated summa cum laude in history at Tufts University, where he received the Tuft's Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service for his work on LGBT issues. He is working on a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He currently is living in Taiwan, where he is studying Chinese language and literature at National Taiwan University. He is also blogging about LGBT issues in Taiwan and China, and writing gay travel stories.)