At a rowdy gay bar in Taipei, 28-year-old Villion finished a Friday night drag show on a traditional tribal tunic over her white silk lacquer and danced to a tribal song that has become a rally call for Taiwan’s indigenous minority.
An ethnic boon, Willian is one of the indigenous drag queens who use their performances to fight against the double stigma of being part of the LGBTQ + community and the island’s historically oppressed indigenous minority.
“As a drag queen, I’m trying to speak out for people of gender diversity in the Indigenous community,” Willian, who goes by a name, told Reuters.
Known as an icon of liberalism in the region, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year – the first in Asia – despite stiff opposition from some Christian and conservative groups.
On Saturday, thousands of people are expected to attend Taipei’s annual Pride Parade, likely due to the largest coronovirus restrictions in the world this year.
But Taiwan is divided over other related issues such as same-sex parenting.
Gender diversity is a particularly sensitive subject for many indigenous communities, where Christianity and traditional values play a major role.
Taiwan has made enormous progress in protecting and promoting the cultures of around 570,000 indigenous people, which make up 2.4% of its population. In 2016 President Tsai Ing-wen offered a formal apology to tribal people for centuries of “injustice and suffering”.
But for decades they faced discrimination and were forced to assimilate to an island where many people have Chinese ancestry, taking Chinese names and speaking Mandarin, threatening the extinction of their own languages.
Siwang Teyera, an educational director at National Taiwan University, said that some indigenous rights activists have to hide their sexuality while organizing programs to increase diversity awareness in tribal villages.
“It’s a big challenge for families to come out of the closet,” she said. “Ever since they were small they faced intergenerational discrimination against indigenous people and the gay community.”
Carefully adjusting an oversize wig before the show in Taipei, drag queen Dragie Boo Boo, an ethnic pawn from southern Taiwan, said she is part of a “minority of minorities”.
“Our very existence is a disregard,” said the 27-year-old, whose father is a retired priest and opposes homosexuality.
“All we can do is appear again and again to all of us so that people see us and understand the world behind us.”
(This story is published from a wire agency feed without textual modifications.)
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