Renowned Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee has photographed nearly 200 LGBT couples and individuals for a series of black-and-white stills called “Out in Taiwan.” The 14-hour marathon photo shoot featured a host of Taiwanese LGBT figures from veteran activist Chi Chia-wei to drag queens. When asked why he shoots in black and white, Kee said: “It’s a symbol of equality, which goes beyond skin colour, nationality and carries an everlasting quality.”
Taiwan is set to hold ten referendums on November 24, five of which are related to LGBT issues.
Chi Chia-wei. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Veteran gay rights activist Chi Chia-wei petitioned the Council of Grand Justices to examine the constitutionality of denying same-sex marriage in 2015; last year, the top court ruled that the existing marriage law was unconstitutional, paving the way for Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.
Chi said: “It is never too late to come out. Safety is not a guarantee, but it is more dangerous not to.”
Philip (left) and Huy (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
Philip, a news broadcast host, said: “Last year, Huy came to Taiwan for the pride parade. My friend had met him before and he told him that he wanted to introduce us. In the end, we didn’t get a chance to meet, but Huy asked my friend for my name and messaged me on Facebook to say sorry we couldn’t meet. We chatted for a few months until he came to Taiwan again in January this year and we met in person for the first time. But about a year before all this, there was a photo essay that was being passed around Taiwan of a Vietnamese guy and his Thai boyfriend that I had seen and thought the Vietnamese guy was really cute. It was only after chatting with Huy for a week or two that I realised that he is that guy in the photo essay! By the time I met Huy, though, he had already broken up with his Thai boyfriend.”
Ho hsiang (left) and Vic (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
Ho hsiang, retired, said: “Make coming out as natural as breathing. Walk out of the dark closet and face the bright sunshine.”
Dada. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Dada, a freelancer, said: “Do not worry about coming out of the closet. It is only a process of sexual revolution.”
Mars (left) and Phil (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
Mars, a hair stylist, said: “After coming out, I thought I would never be able to share the same happiness with my beloved family. I was so lonely. I was desperate, desperate to be accepted and understood. We are no different. I was frightened that I might lose my family. Now I have their blessing. This is the kind of joy I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. I thank myself for having the courage back then which made me who I am today. It has given me more love to cherish, respect, and accept. Love is like a strong ray. While you are glowing, you are also shining on others.”
Phil, a marketing professional, said: “You will realise the [things] you were worried about do not even exist. I felt like I was suddenly reborn. I am faced with a brand new world. The courage I had made me who I am today.”
Asma (left) and Lego (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
Asma, a team leader, said: “How I met my partner: we both have a shared love of pets and dogs. We met, started dating, and after a while, decided to adopt a Shiba Inu-Bichon mix. Furry children will never leave you. Adopt, don’t shop!”
Andrea (left) and KK (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
KK, a student, said: “I have never defined myself. I only knew that I like people no matter what their gender is. This person happened to be a girl. I lived an uncomfortable life before coming out of the closet. I ask myself what it means to have self-acceptance every day.”
Chalynn (left) and Log C (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
Chalynn, Marketing Manager for the LGBT Equal Love Organisation, said: “We knew each other from secondary school. We have been supporting and accompanying each other growing up. We decided not to waste any more time and held each other’s hand at the age of 29.”
Log C, a freelancer, said: “Being out or not isn’t the point, but rather, what is the best choice you can make in the moment.”
Rob. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Rob, a financial journalist, said: “Only when we break free from the shackles of society, the workplace, and the family will we finally be able to achieve true freedom.”
Miao Po-ya. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Miao Po-ya, a politician, said: “In this vast universe, we can warm up to each other.”
Feilibing the Ice Queen. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Feilibing ice queen, a drag queen and performance artist, said: “Bravely and confidently be yourself. Cherish yourself, love others, and have courage!”
Patrick/Cha Fung. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Patrick, a government worker, said: “My name is Cha Fung. I am gay and also gradually becoming visually impaired. With only a faint sense of light perception, I’m slowly learning to adapt to the world through sound and touch, as well as spatial awareness.”
Tina. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Tina, an internet celebrity, said: “Live your life truthfully; your soul and your behaviour will eventually be one. It is a great feeling to face the world in [an] honest way.”
Yei. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Yei, a finance sector worker, said: “I came out to my dad via email and he actually responded. I only remember one thing he said: ‘the future might be difficult, but dad supports you. You are always my child, try to work hard, no one cares about gender.'”
Katherine Tseng. Photo: Leslie Kee.
Katherine Tseng, a retired teacher, said: “I have more confidence now that I’m living publicly as transgender. I live more freely in life. I am able to hang out, go shopping, travel, and share my life with my best friends. I regret not doing it earlier.”
Gareat (left) and Vincent (right). Photo: Leslie Kee.
Vincent, a radio recordist, said: “Nobody can negate you. Embrace everything about yourself and take happiness into your own hands.”
Gareat, a government worker, said: “Whether you decide to come out or not, do not forget to fight for the equal right of [the] LGBTQ community. What you contribute now will lead to equality in society. From there, you’ve completed your benevolence in the mortal world.”
View the entire “Out in Taiwan” exhibition here. Visit their Instagram for behind the scenes shots.