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9 Mar 2023

Tu’er Shen - the rabbit god that is an icon for Taiwan's LGBTQ community

This revered deity oversees love and sex between men.


Taiwan was announced as the host of WorldPride 2025 back in 2021. But on 12 August, officials said they were cancelled the event after InterPride, which licenses the event, “abruptly” insisted the festival be renamed WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025.
“The final straw that led the negotiation to a deadlock was the abrupt notice from InterPride requiring the name change,” the organising committee said on Facebook.
It continued: “There were major discrepancies between our stances on the event’s naming, understandings of Taiwan’s culture and expectations of what a WorldPride event should look like.
“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 was decided to terminate the project before signing the contract.”
The Taiwanese committee claims InterPride repeatedly questioned whether it could host WorldPride, “despite our team consisting of highly competent pride organisers who have successfully organised some of the largest pride events in Asia”.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it regrets InterPride’s about-turn, blaming “political consideration” for the cancellation, according to the Taipei Times.
“Taiwan deeply regrets that InterPride, due to political considerations, has unilaterally rejected the mutually agreed upon consensus, and broken a relationship of cooperation and trust, leading to this outcome,” the ministry said in a 13 August statement.
“Not only does the decision disrespect Taiwan’s rights and diligent efforts, it also harms Asia’s vast LGBTIQ+ community and runs counter to the progressive principles espoused by InterPride.”
WorldPride is one of the largest LGBTQ+ Pride events in the world, with hundreds of thousands attending.
Taiwanese organisers had used the WorldPride Taiwan 2025 name throughout the bidding process. InterPride followed suit when it announced that Taiwan had beat Washington DC to host the event.
Organisers hoped to make WorldPride a nationwide affair rather than limiting it to just Kaohsiung. The name choice would also put it in line with the country’s nearly two-decade-long history of naming even local Pride events using the word “Taiwan”, the committee added.
Sydney, Australia, will be the next city to host WorldPride in 2023. (Getty/James D. Morgan via Destination New South Wales)
InterPride’s board of directors said it was “surprised” by WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee’s decision, while referring to the event as “KH Pride”.
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“We were confident a compromise could have been reached with respect to the long-standing WorldPride tradition of using the host city name,” they said in a statement posted on Twitter Monday (15 August).
“We suggested using the name ‘WorldPride Kaohsiung, Taiwan’. We were also working with KH Pride to ensure they would deliver the event they promised to our members, who voted for their bid. While we are disappointed, InterPride respects and acknowledges KH Pride’s decision.”
WorldPride Taiwan 2025 would have been the first time a WorldPride event would have been hosted in Asia, according to InterPride.
But from the onset, Taiwan hosting WorldPride was met with controversy. Tension bristled between Taiwan and InterPride when InterPride named Taiwan a “region”  rather than a country during the announcement in 2021.
Taiwan’s status has long been contested. Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, but Beijing views it as part of China. The UN does not recognise Taiwan as an independent country. Thirteen countries recognise Taiwan as a country, per Newsweek, not including the US. However, the US is an ally to Taiwan.
The blunder prompted a three-way meeting between Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, WorldPride Taiwan 2025 organisers and InterPride representatives. “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” was agreed upon during the meeting.

Legend has it that Hu Tianbao was a soldier who lived in Fujian Province. He fell in love with an imperial inspector. One day, he was caught looking through a bathroom wall so that he could see the inspector's naked body.

The imperial inspector had Hu Tianbao sentenced to death by beating.

One month after Hu Tianbao's execution, he appeared to a village elder from his hometown in a dream, claiming that since his crime was one of love, the spirits of the underworld decided to right the injustice by appointing him the god and safeguarder of sex and love between men. According to the folk talkes, Hu Tianbao appeared in the form of a rabbit.

As instructed by the dream, the elder to which Hu Tianbao had appeared erected a shrine, and the cult of Hu Tianbao - the rabbit deity, Tu'er Shen - was born.

Some historians believe that the story mythologises a tradition of same-sex relationships between men that was common in Fujian Province. Similar to many other parts of the world, an older man (qixiong) would form a bond with a younger man (qidi), providing mentoring as well as a sexual relationship. To secure the relationship with a younger man, the older man would generally pay a form of dowry to the family of the younger man.

The only known temple to Tu'er Shen is in Taiwan. The temple is known as the Hall of Martial Brilliance.x

What's life like for LGBTQ people in Taiwan?

In terms of LGBTQ equality, Taiwan has been seen as one of the most progressive countries in Asia. Taiwan Pride attracts huge crowds, and a 2017 ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court set Taiwan firmly on the path towards marriage equality.

However, in a referendum held in November 2018, aspirations for marriage equality took a backward step, the most voters supporting a definition of marriage that restricts it to being a union between a man and a woman.

In its 2017 ruling, the Constitutional Court gave Taiwan’s parliament a maximum of two years to amend or enact laws so that same-sex marriage was legally recognised. According to the court ruling, if the Parliament failed to do so by 24 May 2019, same-sex marriage will automatically become legal.

The good news is that Taiwan’s parliament bit the bullet and enacted the legislation required to make marriage equality the law of the land.

Taiwan’s LGBTQ Pride celebrations are held on the last Saturday every October. It’s believed to be the largest gay pride event in East Asia.

Reader's Comments

1. 2023-01-02 11:56  
Even though Taiwan same sex marriage law is passed, the Taiwanese gays are still staying behind the veil . They still do not dare to come out to the parents especially. the youngsters. They do not want to use Kinsey Scale Test to challenge the anti homosexual people.

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