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Remarks by Director Oudkirk at AIT Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

October 13, 2022

Remarks by AIT Director Sandra Oudkirk
at AIT Pride Flag Raising Ceremony

October 13, 2022

(As Prepared)

Jennifer, Poya, distinguished guests, I am incredibly proud today to invite you to witness the AIT community raising the Pride flag for the first time at our facility.

This is a momentous occasion.  This display and those at U.S. missions around the world pay tribute to the long struggle of LGBTQI+ employees within the United States government.  For decades, gay and lesbian employees were actively investigated, denied security clearances, shamed, harassed, and driven out of public service.  Today, we honor them as important members of our community and celebrate their perseverance in the pursuit of equality.

While nothing is ever perfect and we must still make strides to achieve true equality, proudly displaying the rainbow flag for all to see is a public commitment that we will do better – as a workplace, as a community, and as a country.  We strive for full respect and inclusion for all our staff and family members regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.  This reflects our values and identity as an inclusive democratic nation, and our society is stronger, more vibrant, and truer to itself when every individual can live freely and authentically.

This is not only true in the United States or in Taiwan.  The United States is committed to advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons everywhere around the world.  I was proud to see President Biden last December appoint the first openly lesbian Special Envoy for LGBTQI+ Rights, Jessica Stern, and thrilled she participated via video link in a Global Cooperation and Training Framework workshop on ending gender-based violence this past May.

Taiwan has meaningfully advanced LGBTQI+ rights and equity, including through the landmark achievement of marriage equality in 2019.  Across much of the Asia-Pacific region, LGBTQI+ persons continue to face open discrimination, legal persecution and harassment, and even state-sponsored violence.  In too many societies, equality and inclusion – particularly but not exclusively for LGBTQI+ persons – remain labeled as foreign, Western concepts.

As we welcome Taiwan’s reopening its borders, let’s remember that this island’s achievements offer practical lessons on how equal treatment of LGBTQI+ persons is an essential feature of inclusive democracy.  Here, almost uniquely, we have seen respect for LGBTQI+ rights advance in lockstep with Taiwan’s democratization.

I have vivid memories of Mr. Qí Jiāwēi (Chi Chia-wei) handing out condoms and HIV/AIDS literature to commuters outside Taipei Main Station three decades ago.  His determination to be heard against the crowd, to stand up for his rights, and his refusal to be cowed even after being detained by the police are reflective of an indomitable spirit.  His brave actions moved us then and continue to inspire us today.  I understand “Qí Dàgē” (“Big brother Chi”) is unable to be with us today, but I wish him good health and hope to see him later this month at Taiwan Pride.

On the eve of the march in Taipei, AIT will partner with the Executive Yuan’s Gender Equality Department, the European Economic and Trade Office, and the Taiwan LGBTQI+ Hotline Association to convene a regional conference on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.  Earlier that same week, hundreds of activists from all over the world will gather in Taiwan for the Global Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy.

To LGBTQI+ persons, activists, and advocates, Taiwan not only inspires change, but also offers safety, encouragement, and an opportunity to learn and grow.  Taiwan’s LGBTQI+ community has blazed trails towards equality, and you have created a new paradigm for the world to follow.  We stand with you in solidarity and in partnership.  Happy Pride!