The Founder of Asia’s ‘Gay Netflix’ Has Been Named One of the Top Innovators of 2019
The 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos has officially come to a close, and in response to this year’s focus, “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Newsweek has announced “The Creative Class of 2019,” praising 15 individuals who have contributed new solutions to the fields of technology, economics and human rights. Four Asian innovators made the list, including Jay Lin, an LGBTQ rights activist from Taiwan and founder of GagaOOLala.
In addition to his work starting GagaOOLala, Asia’s first LGBTQ film streaming platform, Jay Lin is co-founder of the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival. He has been promoting LGBTQ diversity on the big screen for years, and his work has won him numerous awards, as well as funding from Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture. A well-known gay figure in Taiwan, Jay Lin tells Newsweek, “The reason to start the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival and GagaOOLala is that I hope LGBTQ people can find stories and characters not available in traditional media platforms that can resonate with them.”
GagaOOLala was launched in 2016 and has over 150,000 registered users, including straight people. “Mostly they come to be entertained by good movies, TV series and documentaries they can’t see anywhere else,” Jay Lin says. “But many also watch to learn about the community, to learn that underneath the LGBTQ labels there is a group of people with diverse roles beyond their sexuality. They are someone’s son, partner or parent. Only when this idea is completely normalized, can we be seen as equal.”
Upon reviewing Jay Lin’s milestones over the past five years, it’s easy to see the parallels between his own career and the movement forward for LGBTQ rights in Taiwan.
In 2014, he founded the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival. The next year he co-founded the Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance, made up of over 30 film festivals in which members share resources to bring more awareness to queer films. In 2016, Jay Lin held the first ever Queermosa Awards, a gala celebrating Taiwan’s LGBTQ activists. By the end of 2016, he poured all his efforts into building an online ecosystem that included the news and lifestyle sites GagaTai and LalaTai, meant for gay men and lesbian women respectively, to share and promote LGBTQ events, news and stories.
And then there’s GagaOOLala, the epicenter of queer cinema in Asia.
In 2017, when Taiwan’s marriage equality movement came to a turning point, Jay Lin and his partners at the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan organized Light Up Taiwan, which allowed legislators in all districts to connect with citizens who supported same-sex marriage and education on gender equality.
The New York Times once wrote, “For Asia’s Gays, Taiwan Stands Out as Beacon.” And it might surprise you to know that Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore — where gay acts are still considered illegal — are among the 13 Asian countries where GagaOOLala is currently available and popular. “The existence of GagaOOLala is even more important in those forbidden countries,” Jay Lin says. “There’s only so much we can do. Until the decriminalization of homosexuality is carried out throughout Asia, we should take on the responsibility to show that being LGBTQ is not wrong in these countries.”
In 2018, GagaOOLala produced the first season of Queer Asia, a transnational docuseries that connects the LGBTQ communities and filmmakers of four nations to reflect on the difficulties queer people in Asia face today. Compared to other streaming platforms, GagaOOLala — dubbed the “Gay Netflix” — bears added social responsibility.
Discussing what’s next for GagaOOLala, in addition to expanding the platform to more countries, Jay says, “We kept considering how to import more foreign gay films for TIQFF in 2014; in 2016 GagaOOLala was born with the purpose of bringing LGBT stories to everywhere in Asia, even to some areas where homosexuality is still a crime. This year, we are announcing GOL Studios. It’s a film production platform to support queer films. You can upload your project and we will help you find the necessary shooting resources, funds and connect with the right people to make that project come true. We are taking the concept of community to the next level — you can be set wherever in the world and find the right team and resources in other countries to finally release your film for a global audience. GOL Studios plans on launching in March 2019.”
Clearly Jay Lin is taking the concept of “Globalization 4.0” and running with it, dedicated to giving a niche market the global scale it deserves and needs. And way beyond mere content creation, GagaOOLala and his upcoming GOL Studios could have real, lasting effects on LGBTQ rights throughout Asia.