Taiwan is a bastion for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, and it wears the status proudly. Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel, people from across the region would make a pilgrimage to Taipei for its annual Pride parade in October, proudly waving their national flags remixed with the rainbow in a land where they are able to do so freely.
Given this track record, it was an honor when Kaohsiung was chosen to host the ninth WorldPride, a semi-biennial event licensed by InterPride with parades, festivals, conferences and other queer-centric events. With the exception of Jerusalem in 2006, every host city has been in a Western country, which would have made WorldPride Taiwan 2025 the first edition to fully realize the event’s global aspirations.
Yet for an organization whose purpose is to fight for human rights, InterPride has been disappointingly indulgent when it comes to self-determination.
The first sign of trouble came with the winner announcement. What was supposed to be a triumphant moment for Taiwan was undercut by InterPride mistakenly calling the nation a “region,” prompting a tripartite meeting convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in November last year to negotiate a correction. At that meeting, the three sides agreed on the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025.”
Controversy that should have ended there resurfaced during contract negotiations and came to a head on Friday, when the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee decided to terminate the event. The “final straw” was InterPride’s insistence that the event’s name use “Kaohsiung,” rather than “Taiwan,” suddenly reneging on their agreement. According to the committee, this was after InterPride repeatedly raised doubts as to whether Taiwan could host such a major event, as though the same people have not since 2003 been hosting one of the world’s largest annual Pride celebrations and successfully lobbied to create one of the world’s freest societies for LGBTQ+ people.
In a Facebook comment that is the closest it has come to a public statement on the issue, InterPride said it had suggested using the name “WorldPride Kaohsiung, Taiwan” and were “working with KH Pride to ensure they would deliver the event they promised to our members,” offering a glimpse into the condescending tone hinted at by the committee. An organizer later denied to the Central News Agency that they were ever given that option.
While former WorldPride events were named after the host city, InterPride had already agreed to using “Taiwan” in the name. The committee also justified its decision by citing Taiwan’s own Pride naming convention, which has never used the city name, and other Taiwanese cities’ participation in planned WorldPride events.
The trouble seems to trace back to the UN. During last year’s naming controversy, InterPride in a statement said it had been applying to receive consultative status at the global body and is therefore “aligning with United Nations requirements.”
InterPride is admittedly in a tricky situation. To influence the UN and therefore potentially further LGBTQ+ causes, it must bring itself under China’s influence. Yet it also involves compromising on its core beliefs to appease a government that would never dream of allowing an InterPride event within its borders. Attempting to walk the line has only helped legitimize Beijing’s claims while harming InterPride’s reputation and Taiwan’s LGBTQ+ community in its wake.
Other organizations should heed this lesson: China has carefully designed a strategy toward Taiwan and other human rights issues that bets on democratic participants wanting to find compromise. The only way to avoid falling into its trap is to take a firm and principled stance that refuses to abandon one cause for another.
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