Flying Rainbow Flag:
Drawing the Map of Gay Landscapes in Taipei City

Maurice Hong-Cheng Chang

It was the [Rousseauist] dream of a transparent society, visible and legible in each of its parts, a dream of there no longer existing any zones of darkness…, zones of disorder.[1]
The [Giuliani] policy is, in effect, a shame punishment: it stigmatizes gay meeting places and gay bookstores, requiring them to hide themselves as if everything they signify is shameful.[2] (Emphasis added)

Introduction

When we visit big cities in the world, where can we find the gay bars, gay café or so-called “gay village” in the cities? Answer: follows the rainbow flags. The rainbow flag, which composes six colors to present gay spirits, now is the symbol of gay communities in the globe. Besides, each sub-cultural/fetish group in the “gay families” also obtains its own flag to represent the specific identity and solidarity. However, the rainbow flag is not flying anywhere as it could be in the cities. With the “moral/sex panic” or homophobia, the public authorities or communities intent to ignore gays exist actively or require them to hide themselves passively by using different legal instruments. In other words, the public authorities try to build a specific space for the society to “imagine” gay population. How the policies change the gay landscapes in the cities? How the space affects gay identities?

This essay will develop two hypotheses about gay spaces in cities.

First hypothesis: The boundary of gay space within an established gay area is the outer edge of that space. The boundary not only suggests margins and borderlands but also suggests permanence, stability, and fixity. The developing of Gay communities or gay neighborhoods becomes “a kind of laboratory for experimentation with alternate ways to live.” The gay space reflects the “quintessentially American” notion that people could “start all over again from scratch,” they could make new identities by reinventing themselves. Gay men and, interestingly enough, to a lesser lesbians established gay bars/restaurants, gay choruses, gay newspapers, gay churches, gay banks and so forth. The distinctive rainbow flag designed in San Francisco in 1978 and soon flying outside residences and businesses in gay ghettoes comes to mark the territory of “Queer Nation” and welcome all “immigrants” who pour in from small, less hospitable towns and rural areas around the country. The development of gay villages draws attention not only in terms of economic, but also more abstract symbolic importance. Gay communities are identified as safe havens or sites of resistance. They also offer networks of movements and assistances. However, this idea of gay villages is problematic. Boundary is associated with exclusion; it means no straights. The fixity of gay space means it is easy to be targeted. I suggest that the boundary of gay communities may not have a privileged location. The boundary as outer edge should be mobile and multiple. It is at the edge but also at the heart of the space. Its location is produced in its installation and investment. The boundary of gay space is both elsewhere and everywhere.

Second hypothesis: The meanings of space produced within the public/private binary, as Michael Warner noted “the politics of privatization,” make the distinction difficult not only to differentiate it from, but also to imagine, alternative spatial categories. The space of gay communities builds a boundary that has sexual dimensions between subjective bodies and objective laws. However, space that is “public,” i.e. part of publicly owned facilities and /or open access to all, is not necessarily “public” in the sense that behavior in it necessarily affects non-consenting parties. The legal and social separation of public communities and private associations, moreover, contributes to social injustice. By means of their legal autonomy, communities and associations may exclude certain kinds of people and certain kinds of activities from their borders, and reproduce and exaggerate “the inequalities between places rather than leveling” or zoning them. I will argue that, when we think about the regulation of space and conduct, the good guidance is offered by John Stuart Mill’s distinction between space/conduct that is “self-regarding,” affecting only the interests of the doer and other consenting parties, and space/conduct that is “other-regarding,” affecting the interests of non-consenting others.

Visibility of Gay Space: A Safe Haven or Attacked Target?

Lavender Paradise!
Zoning and Gay Villages/Pride Parade in the Cities

Sin City?
Gay Cruising Parks/Bathhouse/Adult Establishment and Street/Sexual Offence laws

Together in Electric Dreams?
Cyberspace and Gays Anonymous

References

Moran, Leslie J.. “The Queen’s Peace: Reflections on the Spatial Politics of Sexuality and Law,” in Jane Holder & Carolyn Harrison eds., Law and Geography 85-107. Oxford: Oxford University press, 2003.
Nussbaum, Martha C.. Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.
Foucault, Michel. “The Eye of Power,” in Colin Gordon ed., Power/Knowledge 146-.


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