Indigenous drag queens face stigmas in Taiwan

Vilian starts their Friday night gig in Taipei, Taiwan, painting on a full face, with makeup and eyelashes -- then, pulls over a wig and a silver fringe dress.

The nightclub is packed when they perform to "On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez, but Vilian faces a double stigma in Taiwan.

They're LGBTQ+ and also ethnically Bunun, among the island's historically oppressed indigenous minority.

Though, the first part is getting easier in one of the most liberal places in Asia.

"I think the situation has changed quite a lot, to be honest. Especially in the last two years, there are a lot of heterosexual people among our drag fans. I think it's probably because everyone talks about these topics quite often, like gay marriage, homosexuality, and bisexuality. It has already become a part of life."

Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year, a first in Asia.

Thousands of people are expected to attend Taipei's annual Pride parade this weekend, which will likely be one of the world's largest this year because of coronavirus restrictions elsewhere, but the island remains divided over related issues like same-sex parenting and gender diversity.

And while it has made strides in protecting the two percent of the population that's indigenous, LGBTQ+ people are a sensitive topic for those groups where Christianity and traditional values play a role.

Draggy Boo Boo is from the Paiwan tribe in Southern Taiwan.

"I carry on working as a drag queen because it suits me very well. Through the performance, I can express what I want to say, my identity and the qualities in me which are rejected by others. I believe there are a lot of people like me, and their situation is much more difficult than mine. I'm really lucky that at least in my family, my mother and my brother are able to understand what I am doing and they're being very supportive. For me, this is already a huge relief."

Video Transcript

- Villian starts their Friday night gig in Taipei, Taiwan, painting on a full face with makeup and eyelashes-- then pulls over a wig and a silver fringe dress. The nightclub is packed when they perform to "On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez, but Vilian faces a double stigma in Taiwan. They're LGBTQ plus and also ethnically Bunun, among the island's historically oppressed Indigenous minority. Though, the first part is getting easier in one of the most liberal places in Asia.

INTERPRETER: I think the situation has changed quite a lot, to be honest. Especially in the last two years, there are a lot of heterosexual people among our drag fans. I think it's probably because everyone talks about these topics quite often, like gay marriage, homosexuality, and bisexuality. It's already become a part of life.

- Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year, a first in Asia. Thousands of people are expected to attend Taipei's annual Pride parade this weekend, which will likely be one of the world's largest this year because of coronavirus restrictions elsewhere, but the island remains divided over related issues like same-sex parenting and gender diversity.

And while it has made strides in protecting the 2% of the population that's Indigenous, LGBTQ plus people are still a sensitive topic for those groups where Christianity and traditional values play a role. Draggy Boo Boo is from the Paiwan tribe in southern Taiwan.

INTERPRETER: I carry on working as a drag queen because it suits me very well. Through the performance, I can express what I want to say, my identity and the qualities in me which are rejected by others. I believe there are a lot of people like me, and their situation is much more difficult than mine. I'm really lucky that at least in my family, my mother and my brother are able to understand what I am doing and they're being very supportive. For me, this is already a huge relief.