Friday, November 23, 2018

Whatever Happens Tomorrow


I'm back, just in time! My last pre-dissertation paper is in and I've caught up on sleep, so hopefully it'll be less of a wasteland in here while I get back into writing (though I have a backlog of things I need to write for other people, so it may not be the frenzy that was October).

So, I awoke from my post-academic-writing stupor to realize, oh crap, the election is tomorrow! I can't vote so it shouldn't matter to me, but it does.

I don't like...any of the candidates, just about anywhere. So I'm not even bothering - the major races are a mess and that's that. Taipei especially has no good options. Sooo, whatever. Most of all, I'm worried about marriage equality. And pissed, because while I understand that the DPP wussed out in part because their more conservative supporters weren't having it on changing the civil code, if they'd acted swiftly and just pushed it through, we would not be in this position now, with a vote coming up on people's basic human rights.

This is related to my worry about the candidates, though: the KMT candidates are anti-equality, and anti-gay groups are apparently showing up at their rallies according to friends of mine who have attended (I've been too busy to attend, because I'm a cut-rate blogger.) I have to wonder if the KMT cut a back-room deal with the pink-shirted church jerks: bus your sheep parishioners to our rallies and get them to vote for us, and we'll make sure there's no change to the civil law. We don't actually care, but we want your votes so we'll throw them under the bus for you if you show up for us. 

It doesn't seem likely that the two pro-equality referendums will pass, simply because although at least 25% of the voting population supports them, a fair number are young and can't return 'home' to vote either because they can't afford it or they have to work. Of the big, soft center of Taiwanese society of decent folks who aren't opposed to equality, but aren't passionately for it, I worry that many just won't vote, or will vote for the anti-equality referendums because they've been tricked by those horrible church people.

But, if we do win, the church people aren't going away. We won't have really beat them until we change the civil code and normalize equality to the point that they won't be able to get support for changing it back.

If we lose, there are a few things to take comfort in.

First, that the old out-vote the young, because the young are busy and broke. Even if the anti-equality referendums pass and the pro-equality ones don't, that won't be a complete reflection of Taiwanese society.

Second, they may be trying to put a barrier in our way - ironically making life more difficult for the next generation while braying about how they are trying to "protect" the youth - but the youth of Taiwan overwhelmingly support marriage equality, and while people may grow more conservative as they age, that's never struck me as a view that tends to change once someone realizes equality is right. Those old church people will die - some of them soon, because they're old - and their legacy will not live on. It's too late for that. This particular arc of justice may be long, but its trajectory is pretty set.

Third, even if we do lose, there will be some form of civil partnership by May next year. That doesn't satisfy me - inequality is still inequality and it's not good enough - but it's a step, and then we keep fighting.

What worries me on this end is that politically, Taiwan stands to benefit a great deal from equality: think of the headlines once it actually goes through! It's been great PR for this country already, and started to wake the world up to the ways in which Taiwan is a bastion of (comparative - in certain ways only) liberalism in Asia. The longer we delay that, the worse it will be for Taiwan. And if we delay too long and are not, in fact, the first country in Asia to pass actual marriage equality, we'll lose a huge opportunity to make massive global headlines. All those pro-independence greens who say they want the world to notice Taiwan as Taiwan, but who are conservative and maybe even Christian (the DPP has strong ties to the Presbyterian church) are shooting themselves in the foot, and they don't even seem to realize it. We not only need to do this soon for the sake of LGBT people, we need to be the first in Asia for Taiwan's political sake.

And finally, it's not particularly clear to me that the results of any of these referendums are binding (I've heard people say they are, and that they aren't, and I've been too mired in school work to research it on my own.)

So, whatever happens tomorrow, the march toward equality in Taiwan continues, and there will be progress. There has already been progress: from a few years ago when the anti-equality side was trying to stop any sort of civil partnership for LGBT people and attempting to paint them as moral degenerates, to now when even the anti-gay camp being forced to support some sort of civil partnership law, the conversation has changed. If we lose, we can't accept the bottom line of the church people, but we have shown that the conversation can keep changing.

100,000 or so people showed up to Ketagalan Boulevard this past Sunday for a pop-and-metal-star filled afternoon of music and cheering, when estimates had been for a far smaller crowd. It was bigger than the rally for any of the Taipei mayoral candidates, and bigger than anything the anti-equality crowd has been able to put together. Interestingly - from my perspective anyway - the way marriage equality has been approached in Taiwan feels unique. I can't imagine, before it became a nationwide law in the US, a pro-equality rally featuring a black metal band as one of its most famous acts. I guess in the US we just don't Metal For Our Rights (to quote a friend). I sat through the whole thing writing my paper while splayed out on the pavement, protesting and doing my homework at the same time...and I have never felt more Taiwanese.

In any case, we draw crowds. We change conversations. We push forward. The generation that is on its way out is the last generation that will keep us from marriage equality in Taiwan. Even if they win this battle, they have emphatically lost the war.

That doesn't make me happy per se, but it's keeping me away from the bottle tonight.



WeAreChange said...

The Christian church in Taiwan makes up 2% of the population - 1,5% of which is nominal Catholic, who don't really give a rat's arse either way. The fact that you can't bring yourself to face is that gay marriage goes against Confucian and Buddhist values, which are held by most Asians and which is why no other Asian country has legalized it. You see - by making your argument anti-Christian, you are effectively masking the fact that you are imposing Western values on an Asian culture that doesn't want them. Stop your imperialistic smoke screen or perhaps admit for once that you are a cultural imperialist.

Jenna Cody said...

If marriage equality "goes against Confucian and Buddhist values", why do 80% of Taiwanese youth support it, and why is the only major mobilization against it from the Christians? Who are these 100,000 Taiwanese who went downtown? The 137,000 who went to Pride? The 200,000 who went to the pro-equality rally? Are they not "Asian" enough for you?

I also suspect you're mixing up Confucianism with Neo-Confucianism, which is far more conservative and was essentially forced on Taiwan by the ROC (who had by then mostly abandoned any pretense of carrying on the liberal ideals of the May Fourth Movement and had gone full-on Neo-Confucian), and you're forgetting the influence of Daoism, which is not anti-LGBT values-wise. You're also forgetting that cultures are not static. They change. Yes, even in Asia. And that if human rights (marriage equality is a human right) were a "Western concept", why are they considered important in Taiwan and other parts of Asia?

I'm also not sure at all that Buddhism fundamentally is anti-LGBT. Some conservatives use it as a smokescreen for their own conservatism, but I don't think Buddha would have been all "ew the icky gays yuck" just as much as Jesus would not have been.

No other Asian country as legalized it because it only recently became a thing in most Western countries. If "Western values" (not really a thing) are fundamentally pro-LGBT and "Asian" values (which are also not a thing, Asia is too diverse to have one set of 'values') are not, why'd it take so long in the West?

Or are you a cultural imperialist by trying to force your idea of what "Asian values" must be on Taiwan, when most of the younger generation of Taiwanese think people like you are hopelessly stuck in the past?

Jeez, stop being so culturally imperialist by forcing your own narrative of what "Asian culture" means on an entire generation of Taiwanese who very much think people like you should get bent.

Jenna Cody said...

Most likely: you think any Asian person who disagrees with you - and there are a LOT of them, enough to get two referendums on the ballot - about what is and isn't acceptable in various Asian cultures is somehow wrong/influenced by us evil Westerners, as only you and people who agree with you get to decide what is and is not "Asian culture". No other Asians with differing opinions need apply in your world. You are the sole arbiter of what is and is not Asian. I call THAT cultural imperialism.

Whereas I'm reporting what Taiwanese people I know are saying, and they don't agree with you. If this weren't a movement in Taiwan that attracts real numbers of local people, I would not be writing about it.

Ilya said...

Jenna, please do not mind that trolling. One only has to make friends with substantially many Taiwanese in their 20s to understand that they are overwhelmingly pro-marriage equality - moreover, from what i can see these views clearly transcend blue vs green voting habits.
Also, though i'm not sure if that's true or not - I forgot the source - but from what i heard, for example the Chinese people in a more distant past looked very neutrally on homosexualism, so it's rather the anti-marriage equality views which were forced upon the Asians by the cultural imperialists.

Jenna Cody said...

They did.

I'm sure it was different for everyday folks simply because of the pressure to produce heirs and a lack of understanding about how normal homosexuality actually is, but at least when it came to anyone wealthy enough to have concubines, nobody really cared if you had gay lovers as long as you also produced an heir.

When it came to women (because only men had concubines), I suspect everyone sort of knew that women would sometimes have, um, 'special close friends' (literal bosom buddies!) and didn't really make a thing of it. Those women still had to marry and have babies, but that the gay ones among them probably did have same-sex affairs...I can't find anything in history that showed that society had a problem with this. It wasn't encouraged but...yeah, society looked more neutrally on it.

And let's remember that at least on the men's side, marriage in Asian cultures (and frankly, Western cultures until a few centuries ago) was actively non-monogamous for some classes of people. This idea of 'one man one woman' is actually really recent in most of Asia. President Tsai's own father had concubines (she is the daughter of one, if I recall). It's just NOT an Asian thing the way certain people are trying to say it is.

WeAreChange, by the way, I won't be publishing more of your comments. I won't even be reading them. Constructive, non-insulting or condescending debate is always welcome here, but you are not interested in that. Welcome to freedom of speech! I get to use my freedom to not listen to you!

az said...

That person does not understand the Buddhist and Daoist value in Taiwan at all...
I grew up being taken to Buddhist and Daoist Temples when every new year comes. Firstly, people in my generation, despite surrounded by Temple warship, are mostly non-religious.
Secondly, you do not understand that one of the most famous Buddhist value promoter in Taiwan supports marriage equality. She has stood up million times to speak for marriage equality. The Buddhist and Daoist value are actually very inclusive. My mom is not religious, but she leans toward Buddhism. She supports same sex because of the inclusive ideas she has learn from Buddhist values (according to her).
If you wanna impose the whole Chinese culture on our shoulder, I could tell you many of the deities are supporting homosexual, “rabbit god” being one.
I studied English literature in college, that’s why I got the chance to read Bible as literature and to understand how it should not be used to attack any minorities.
The so called “traditional value” of Chinese family is just an illusion. Not long ago, the norm was that a man could have several wives.
This kind of idea of “traditional family value” was emerging because of those conservatives who are against same sex marriage and the majority of them “happen” to be Christians. I do not know why these people put attacking same sex as their priority and put hate on the top of their list. I only know that they are rich. And now they are the major power swaying those who have no time to read, no patience go undersatnd, etc. They know how to manipulate people with moral panic. If you ever live on this island and get the chance to talk to the anti and support party. You will understand what’s really hindering the road to equality.

Jenna Cody said...


I mean, it is also true that some Buddhists (and a few Taoists, not that there's a huge gap between them in Taiwan as religion is somewhat syncretic) claimed their religion as reason to vote for hate. And many were convinced by those Christians.

But it simply wasn't an issue until the Christians made it one. The Buddhists weren't organizing this - the Christians did that. They won a lot of people to their side, true (many of whom were taken in by deliberate confusion and other tactics, but many of whom really are just bigots) - but those people didn't spearhead the hate campaign.

We know where the funding comes from (American religious groups). We know where the banners were hung (almost exclusively churches - I saw no pink banners on any Taoist or Buddhist temples). We know who mobilized buses to get people to protests and organized housewives to pass out pink bigot fliers.

This just would not have been a thing at all if the Christians hadn't organized it.

I don't know that everyone else has figured out yet that they just got scammed.

And yeah, biggest import from the West to Asia isn't LGBT acceptance. It's "traditional family values" of "one man one woman".

Jenna Cody said...

What also really cheese-grates my balls is that the DPP did everything possible not to anger their more conservative voters by doing nothing at all after the Council of Grand Justices ruling.

And yet they still get blamed for scaring them away by being "too progressive". They weren't. They didn't actually do anything! They were more progressive when campaigning in 2016 than they have been since, and yet they get shot down for that?

Nope. Not buying it.