Taiwan holds first LGBTQ Pride march in two years

Tens of thousands braved downpours in Taiwan on Saturday to celebrate as the island staged its first LGBTQ Pride rally since fully reopening its border.

Taiwan is at the vanguard of the burgeoning LGBTQ rights movement in Asia and became the first place in the region to legalise marriage equality in 2019.

Its capital Taipei hosts one of Asia's largest Pride marches annually -- except for last year, when a surge in Covid cases forced the event online.

The festivity was back in full swing on Saturday as marchers donned eye-catching costumes and draped themselves in rainbow flags in Taiwan's 20th Pride march, with organisers estimating the turnout was 120,000.

"I'm so very excited to be a part of the first physical parade in two years," said 40-year-old service industry worker Wolf Yang, sporting a gold bodysuit with a matching sequined headpiece and nose ring.

Max, a 35-year-old French national, joined the march for the first time since moving to Taiwan last year, along with several friends who flew in from Japan and South Korea.

"I think Taiwan needs to be proud of that. It's a great thing to recognise gay marriage. Asia and the world need to be proud of it."

A record crowd of 200,000 joined the 2019 Pride march to celebrate after Taiwan legalised same-sex marriages that year.

At least 7,000 same-sex couples have wed since then, although the law still contains restrictions that heterosexual couples do not face.

Under the current rules, Taiwanese nationals can only marry those from roughly 30 countries and territories where same-sex marriage is also legal.

College student Virginia Li, 22, said she joined the parade with about 20 friends from eastern Hualien city to support gay rights.

"Taiwan is much more friendly to the gay community than many countries... I am proud of the progress that has been made."

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