Spotlighting one of Taiwan’s most influential leaders in the LGBT+ rights movement both locally and globally, Hive Life celebrates this Pride Month with the compelling force behind Taipei’s Pride Parade of the World and an organiser of WorldPride 2025, Darien Chen.
Two years ago, a monumental event took place in the heart of Taiwan, as many gathered to celebrate a movement larger than themselves. Darien Chen, gay rights activist, the first Mr. Gay Taiwan at Mr. Gay World, and an influential figure within the queer community, founded the Taipei Pride Parade of the World, an event that is seen as one of the most progressive moments for the LGBTQIA+ community in Asia, paving the way for Taiwan’s first WorldPride, set to be hosted in 2025.
Since his first encounter with the community, Darien has been devoted to transforming the LGBTQ movement in Taiwan, Asia, and the world. Actively championing and enforcing diversity and inclusion. He began his journey in advocacy as the co-chairperson of the first Taiwan LGBT Pride March held in 2003 and later ventured into many other initiatives before organising the widely celebrated Taiwan Pride Parade for the World 2020, in hopes to maintain high spirits within the community during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hive Life sat down with Darien as he shared his journey to personal freedom, and how he found liberation through pride movements in Taiwan, and around the world!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Darien Chen, a Taiwanese native, and an active part of nurturing the LGBTQ community in Taiwan and internationally.
I moved away from my hometown to study Electrical Engineering and while I was there, the engagement within the LGBTQ community had amused me, with dedicated clubs and societies voicing issues and just having a good time together. It was an amazing learning experience, and from there I developed a strong passion to advocate and build on LGBTQ rights back at my hometown, taking away great inspirations for my future movements.
My experiences back at school shaped me into the person I became and had a significant influence on my life choices. I kickstarted my career working at some of the well-known LGBTQ inclusive companies, through which I was able expand my knowledge and resources, eventually putting them into good use the for progression of the local community.
How did you first get involved with the LGBT+ community?
When I moved [for university], I had my very first encounter with the community, and interestingly met my first boyfriend then! In a series of small serendipities, I got introduced to the school’s LGBTQ society, and eventually was the co-chairperson. Being a part of the community space was truly where I could express and be my authentic self, and deep down I would hope to create similarly positive experiences for others.
This, alongside other intriguing incidents, became my way of navigating the gay rights movement back at my hometown, and a stepping stone to lay the foundations of my work in the LGBTQ community.
Feeling all that compassion, inclusion, and love from outsiders likewise, made me realise the significance of small acts of kindness, as well as having a community to share it with. Which made me really reflect on what I could do and how I could be of service to all, best to my capabilities.
Could you share your coming out story with us?
To me the most crucial part was coming out to myself, which in my opinion had been rather effortless.
I was in junior high when I began to understand that I might be gay. As a quite the academic, I went to a bookstore and found a lighthearted book explaining homosexuality, I consolidated my thoughts and confirmed how I felt. The following nights, I immersed myself in processing my presumptions, experiences, as well as knowledge of the diversity of the LGBTQ spectrum, which only solidified my understanding and acceptance of my sexuality.
I would say my coming out had been quite straightforward and informative, yet an important journey in embracing myself.
What message do you hope to share with people through your story?
That we live in a beautiful and diverse world, and that everyone’s experiences are different and unique. Quoting my favourite lyrics, “change a heart, you change the world,” understand the real impact your stories will make, and how your experiences ought to change others’ perception of your sexuality.
Most importantly, the story that truly matters should be your coming out to yourself. As change begins with one’s self, learning to be comfortable and accepting of your personal journey will allow those around you to see things from a fresh perspective, and build better understanding and acceptance, together with compassion and love.
What was it like competing as the first Mr. Gay Taiwan at Mr. Gay World?
Overall it was an interesting yet intense experience for me to put myself out in the spotlight. I remember prior to the event, having rushed our decision and kickstarting our preparations for the competition, I knew what this meant for the local gay community and felt overwhelmed, thinking about the representation this would bring.
I took the opportunity primarily because I believed it was the right time and an ultimate way for Taiwan to be involved and represented in an international event.
What is something you wish to share about the LGBTQ+ community as a whole?
Putting aside all our differences, the LGBTQ+ movement is much larger than a simple “you and I,” or a particular community! It all comes under the Human Rights Movement as a crucial component, and so, humanity should celebrate the uniqueness and diversity presented in our communities.
While people still struggle to view freedom of sexuality as a basic human right, it is nevertheless an ongoing process of inclusion and understanding, and that is the initial step into acknowledging human diversity, in regards to one’s race, gender, sexuality, and more.
Being different doesn’t mean we are any less, rather individuality, our uniqueness, and the freedom of self-expression is what make our community a vibrant, inclusive, and prosperous space, welcoming all with an open heart!
How are you working to break barriers, through your advocacy?
Through my advocacy and empowerment, I hope to bridge the gap between the LGBTQ+ community and the common people.
By initiating an open dialogue through pride events and exposure within the communities, I aim to reinvent the inclusive space and actively reform people’s mindset on what pride really means to us alongside delivering a platform that provides opportunities for people to voice out their thoughts, engage with one another, and be part of something that truly appreciates their differences.
Can you share your journey in founding the Taipei Pride Parade of the World 2020 with us?
It was quite the last-minute decision and we put everything together in 10 days. During the pandemic, most of the world was left to a halt, with many cancellations of pride events occurring globally. I believed it would make for a remarkable experience for Taiwan if we could organise something special to celebrate the global pride family.
To our surprise, the outcome was far greater than we had anticipated, and we were overwhelmed by the love and support bestowed upon the community. We were presented with a phenomenal opportunity, and I will forever be grateful to have grabbed it and made it work. It was certainly a positively thrilling process and progress for Taiwan!
How did the Taipei Pride Parade of the World help raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community in Taiwan?
As our aim was to celebrate global pride origins, and since it was a more international-facing event, we managed to effectively bring Taiwan under the world’s radar, as many tuned in from around the globe.
For our local community, it had been incredible seeing people come out of their homes to show solidarity and celebrate pride together with us. Being able to draw such a diverse and massive crowd illuminated our efforts and ability to offer representation and bring awareness to pride.
Why is celebrating pride important?
To build an open and inclusive society, pride comes naturally. It is that first-hand sense of community that allows people from all walks of life to feel heard and accepted. Yet, still, there are many others out there who are unable to express themselves freely, and through this space and pride events, [can] find themselves a community that appreciates them for who they are.
Most importantly, pride is a celebration of love, the freedom to express, and embrace ourselves, without any fear or judgement. All we ask is one day, where we can all put our worries aside, and come together to educate one another, support the community, and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, a day where our voices can be heard, loud and clear over the megaphone.
If anything, I believe we do not celebrate pride enough, it should be more common and normalised within our societies.
Do you see a difference in how the queer community is perceived over the past two years?
It did manage to put certain aspects of humanity into perspective, where people are becoming more sensitive and receptive to human rights, as a whole.
It is definitely an ongoing process for all. Looking back at the past two years, the pandemic and incessant lockdowns had immensely affected everyone, and in many ways transformed our perception and ideas on life and being, as we acknowledged the imbalances in power.
As the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in Asia, Taiwan is relatively more progressive than its neighbouring states. Would you say Taiwan has come a long way?
I could not have been more grateful to feel such a strong representation of my community here in Taiwan. Having a unique advantage of years of cultural heritage from its colonial past, with rich western cultural influences at present, the republic was able to experience firsthand and influence change. It continues to evolve, adapt and be more accommodating.
Making monumental progress in regards to the political and social aspects, witnessing various movements over time, from human rights, and women’s rights to pride and LGBTQ+ rights movements, I am filled with gratitude to be part of such a community, and as Taiwan sets an exemplary statement, leveraging its full resources into driving those movements across the region.
Last year, it was announced that Taiwan was chosen to host WorldPride 2025. What does that mean for you and the LGBTQ+ community of Taiwan?
I was honoured to be able to put in a bid for Taiwan to host World Pride 2025, and we are nothing but humbled to witness such a monumental moment for Taiwan! The significant progress made within our community, along with the collaborative activism in LGBTQ rights certainly allowed us to create a welcoming environment. We were thrilled to receive a large number of votes from the international LGBTQ organisation, InterPride, having hosted some of the largest pride events in the world.
Nevertheless, it is tons of hard work and we really hope to memorialise the pride event with our grandest salutations, acknowledgement, and admiration. We look forward to framing the narrative for the future generations to come, as we make history!
Aside from organising trailblazing pride events in Taiwan, what leisure activities do you enjoy?
Outside of my passion work, I love to listen to music, and I am a huge Tori Amos fan, her music is my sanctuary.
I am quite the foodie, and I started my very own Cake Club a while ago. Basically, all we do is gather together and eat pastries and desserts, and I love searching for different restaurants to try the best cakes and French patisserie in the city.
Do you have any exciting plans coming up this year?
Most of our planning is directed toward the World Pride Parade for 2025, and it has been exuberating. As of now, we have been extremely cautious, since Covid-19 cases peaked in Taiwan, and are currently facing numerous restrictions.
However, I see a great future for all of us in 2023 for sure!
Still in the face of the ongoing pandemic, how can we celebrate pride and inclusivity this month?
One does not have to be physically present at an event to celebrate pride- every day is a celebration of yourself!
You could get involved with online LGBTQ forums and all-inclusive spaces. Become a part of a community, where you feel valued and transformative, and understand that those experiences will help you and allow others going through the same to see a fresh new perspective.