Taiwan withdraws from hosting WorldPride 2025 over naming dispute

Society & Culture

A blame game involving contradictory accounts erupted after Taiwan backed out from hosting a global LGBTQ gathering due to a name dispute with the event’s licensor.

A WorldPride parade in Madrid, Spain, July 1, 2017. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Earlier this month, Taiwan pulled out from hosting an international LGBTQ gathering after global organizers requested the self-ruled island replace “Taiwan” with “Kaohsiung” in the event’s name.

The news broke on August 12 when the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee released a statement on Facebook saying that the event would be canceled and that all preparations would be terminated. The committee explained that the cancellation was due to “major discrepancies” between the local organizers and InterPride, a global LGBTQ rights group that licenses the event, regarding their stances on “the event’s naming, understandings of Taiwan’s culture, and expectations of what a WorldPride event should look like.”

“In the back-and-forth discussions, InterPride repetitively raised their concerns and doubts about whether Taiwan has the capacity, economic and otherwise, to host an international event like WorldPride,” it wrote. “This is despite our team consisting of highly competent Pride organizers who have successfully organized some of the largest Pride events in Asia.”

But the “final straw that led the negotiation to a deadlock,” the committee said, was an abrupt request from InterPride to replace the word “Taiwan” in the event’s name with “Kaohsiung,” a southern city on the democratically-governed island that was scheduled to host the celebration.

The Kaohsiung organizers stressed that the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” was used throughout the entire bidding process, from document submission to proposal evaluation, voting, and the winning announcement back in 2021. “After careful evaluation, it is believed that if the event continues, it may harm the interests of Taiwan and the Taiwan gay community. Therefore, it is decided to terminate the project before signing the contract,” the post said.

On the same day, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) released a statement in which it claimed that InterPride’s sudden request for the name change was due to “political considerations.” MOFA emphasized that Taiwan, as the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, is one of the most capable places in the region to host an international Pride.

The co-presidents of InterPride, Hadi Damien and Linda DeMarco, in an interview with the LGBTQ media outlet Washington Blade, denied political considerations as the reason for the name change. DeMarco said that the geopolitical issues were “never even brought up” in all the past conversations. According to Damien, back in October 2021, InterPride confirmed with Taiwanese organizers that the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025 candidate” would only be used during the bidding process. Damien also mentioned InterPrde’s concerns over the local organizers’ commitment to “precise financial statements.”

Taiwan won the bid in November 2021, when the group Kaohsiung Pride was selected over a Washington D.C.-based group to host the 2025 edition of WorldPride. This would have been the first time the event was held in East Asia. When the result was announced, InterPride listed Taiwan as a “region,” which initially sparked an outcry from local organizers, who accused InterPride of endorsing Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of China. The dispute was settled after a negotiation between the two parties, mediated by MOFA. According to the Taiwanese organizers, the result of the negotiation was a tripartite agreement on the use of the name “WorldPride 2025 Taiwan.”

In a subsequent statement published in November, InterPride dropped the term “region” and congratulated “Kaohsiung, Taiwan” for winning the bid. In the same post, InterPride also highlighted its attempt to gain consultative status with the United Nations and the need to conform to its requirements. Meanwhile, MOFA claimed that InterPride’s choice of the previous wording of “region” was due to political pressure from Beijing.

WorldPride started in 2000. Although all of its past editions were named after the host cities, the Taiwanese committee wrote in its cancellation announcement that given the symbolic significance of “Taiwan Pride” for the Taiwanese LGBTQ community, the 2025 event should be named after “the nation as a whole.” Moreover, the group stated that it would be inaccurate to name the event only after Kaohsiung, as activities would take place in several cities. The statement also underlined the above-mentioned agreement reached in November and blamed InterPride for breaking the previously formed consensus.

A-Ku, co-chair of the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee, told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that the group had been using “Taiwan” since the beginning, without InterPride stipulating on the use of the city’s name. However, in a letter sent to the preparation committee on July 26, InterPride emphasized that naming it after a city is a tradition as well as a newly updated requirement. A-Ku considered this sudden change as “a stipulation targeted specifically at Taiwan.”

On August 15, InterPride released an official response on Twitter, saying it was surprised to learn about the cancellation. According to the post, the licensor suggested an alternative of “WorldPride Kaohsiung, Taiwan” to the local organizer.

A-Ku told a Taiwanese media outlet that InterPride never proposed a name that contains “Taiwan.”

The announcement of the cancellation was made after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s short visit to Taiwan in early August, which caused massive outcry on the Chinese internet and was followed by military actions near the Taiwan strait.

This past year also seem turmoil at another high-profile international LGBTQ event, the Hong Kong Gay Games. The global sporting event’s debut in Asia was originally set to take place in November 2022, but was postponed to November 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2022, the founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay Games, Dennis Philipse, announced his resignation out of concerns over COVID-related travel restrictions in Hong Kong. Following the resignation, the Mexican city Guadalajara, another finalist for the 2022 Gay Games, was added as a co-host of the event.

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Queer China is our fortnightly round-up of news and stories related to China’s sexual and gender minority population.