TaiwanFest celebrates overseas LGBT heroes with portrait and poetry exhibition on Granville Street

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      On May 24, Taiwan made history by becoming the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

      And the news was greeted with joy by many Taiwanese expats, who took it as a sign of the country's civility and open-minded thinking.

      In honour of this momentous occasion, Toronto artist Tong Zhou created six portraits of people in Taiwan who've made major contributions to LGBT rights.

      They were Chi Chia-wei, Josephine Chuen-juei Ho, Yu Mei-nu, Hsu No-sheng, Victoria Hsu, and Lai Cheng-che—all important ambassadors for equality.

      In his exhibition called The Courage, Zhou includes a poem, in which he discusses how he was different and how his upbringing, traditions, and culture "had pitted me against myself".

      The portraits are in the 700 block of Granville Street between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on all three days of TaiwanFest, which winds up on Labour Day (September 2).

      "I didn't want to be different," Zhou writes in his poem. "I denied my own identity to embody what they said I should be for my parents and society, to please others."

      This left him feeling lost, defeated, and feeling that he would never love anyone and no one would love him.

      But then, he writes, there came a moment when he didn't have to question his identity.

      He finally felt he had the courage to shout out the words that were buried in his heart.

      "Taiwan," he writes in his closing line, "Thank you for the courage."