At a rowdy homosexual bar in Taipei, 28-year old Vilian ends a Friday night drag show by putting on a traditional tribal tunic over his white silk negligee and dancing to an aboriginal song that has grow to be a rallying call for Taiwan’s indigenous minority.
An ethnic Bunun, Vilian is among a handful of indigenous drag queens who use their performances to fight against the double stigma of being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and of the island’s historically oppressed indigenous minority.
“As a drag queen, I am trying to speak out for the people of gender diversity in the indigenous community,” Vilian, who goes by one name, told Reuters.
Referred to as a beacon of liberalism in the region, Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage final year – a first in Asia – despite stiff opposition from some Christian and conservative groups.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of people are expected to enroll in Taipei’s annual Pride parade, likely one of the most largest globally this year because of coronavirus restrictions elsewhere.
But Taiwan remains divided over other related issues such as same-sex parenting.
Gender diversity is an particularly touchy topic for plenty of indigenous communities, where Christianity and traditional values play a major role.
Taiwan has made enormous strides in protecting and promoting the cultures of the kind of 570,000 indigenous people who make up 2.4% of its population. President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 offered a formal apology to aboriginal peoples for centuries of “injustice and sufferings”.
But for decades they have got faced discrimination and been forced to assimilate on an island where many of us have Chinese ancestry, by taking on Chinese names and speaking Mandarin, their own languages threatened with extinction.
Some indigenous rights activists have to hide their sexuality when holding events to bring diversity awareness in aboriginal villages, said Ciwang Teyra, an academic at National Taiwan University.
“Coming out of the closet to families is a brilliant challenge,” she said. “They have got faced the interweaving discriminations against indigenous people and the gay community since they were little.”
Carefully adjusting an oversized wig before the show in Taipei, drag queen Draggy Boo Boo, an ethnic Paiwan from southern Taiwan, said he is a part of “the minority of minorities”.
“Our existence itself is a defiance,” said the 27-year old, whose father is a retired priest and opposes homosexuality.
“All we will be able to do is to seem in front of everyone repeatedly in order that people will see us and understand the world in the back of us.”
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)
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