Showing posts with label lgbt_rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lgbt_rights. Show all posts

Sunday, July 28, 2019

If you tell us we can't...

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A sarcastic funerary memorial to Li Peng, Carrie Lam, lawmaker and general douchebag Junius Ho
and other anti-democracy political figures

Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Dupre

Recently, Banqiao Senior High School in New Taipei decided to allow male students to wear skirts (most Taiwanese students wear uniforms). Female students are already allowed pants or skirts.

Some parents and parent-adjacent angry people spat out a few meaningless statements such as:

“Children like to do something wacky, to be different from others, so that people pay attention to them,” he [Hung Chih-ho, who leads a Kaohsiung-based parents' association and whose opinion on what happens in Banqiao does not matter] said, “but now boys are allowed to wear skirts to school, with the school attributing the change to respect for students’ right of autonomy.”

Yeah...and?





Apparently their main complaint is...you know what? It doesn't matter.

What matters is this: with the new rule in effect, chances were that only a few boys would have chosen to wear skirts. It's not a norm yet so doing so is sort of a form of personal expression rather than an unremarkable choice (for now), and I don't know about you but I find shorts and pants far more comfortable than skirts.

But now, because some ornery seniors are complaining that the young'uns aren't upholding harmful gender norms to the degree that they expect because a few boys are choosing to put fabric on their bodies in ways that boys typically did not do before - OH NOES - you can be absolutely certain that more boys will choose to wear skirts simply to piss off the oldsters.


Good job, old people. You really showed them!

In highly related news, everyone's talking about the "illegal" protest in Yuen Long yesterday - illegal in quotes because the word implies doing something wrong when this protest was absolutely morally right. 


It's not just that I think Yuen Long 7/27 got more support locally and internationally because people dared to show up despite the rejected protest application, but that these protests would in fact be far more peaceful if the police - and police-adjacent angry people - would just allow them to be peaceful. Think about it this way: if you don't throw tear gas, hire gangsters, beat people bloody, kill a guy with water cannons, put jubilee clips on your batons, protesters will assemble, march and go home. It's inconvenient, but not nearly as inconvenient as the world seeing that you either hired thugs, are thugs, or both.

And as a result, more people are showing up. Hong Kongers are getting angry. If they ever trusted those in charge, they no longer do. Occupy Central wasn't universally supported, but with the current spate of protests, all the police and government are doing is hardening the stance of more Hong Kongers against them and against China. They're showing up and demanding democracy exactly because they have been told they cannot have democracy. 


They're doing it creatively too - told that they could not assemble there, a few people figured out that activities such as large-scale Pokemon hunting and religious celebrations are not bound by restrictions on assembly, and claimed those as excuses to gather. There was even a call to hold a sarcastic memorial for Li Peng - the Butcher of Beijing who presided over the Tiananmen Square Massacre - complete with a planned attempt to try to resurrect him.

Would protesters in the West be so creative (and sarcastic)? I don't think so, but then typically we don't have to find ways to protest when we're told we're not allowed.






Good job, Hong Kong police (and hired gangsters - same thing really), the Hong Kong government, and China! You really showed them!

Eventually things would have escalated anyway - as I've said, the problem isn't the extradition treaty but China's plans for the endgame of One Country Two Systems and how incompatible that is with what Hong Kong wants. But it might not have mattered: though there are people who want full independence for Hong Kong, I gather that most would settle for being part of China but having democracy. Most of the time they'd probably have voted for boring, centrist politicians anyway and the few firebrands that would have gotten into office would have their say, but the status of Hong Kong as 'part of China' would not have been seriously disputed.

So if China had just let them have democracy and not made a thing of it, not insisted on half-assed fake democracy, not tried to force through terrifying extradition bills etc. etc., though decisions in Hong Kong might not have always gone exactly their way, China could have had almost all of what it wanted.

Of course, they can't do that, because of their absolute terror that letting people have a say in their government anywhere in China would lead to people in China wanting a say in their government everywhere. This is probably true, but then "the CCP could never allow that as they might lose power!" is not an ethically defensible justification. I don't think it matters though - if the CCP let Hong Kong have what it's demanding, they'd come off looking like 'the good guys', everyone would go on as usual, the bad international press would have never materialized and the real threats facing the CCP might have actually been held off longer, or at least with a lot less international scrutiny. People condemning them now might actually be defending them.

Whether or not it's a good thing for the CCP to stay in power - and I absolutely do not think it is - it might well have been in their own best interest to choose the slow-burning democracy threat over the "we look like murderous thugs to the international community" threat.

The same is true of Tibet. Though he doesn't speak for all Tibetans, the Dalai Lama has been clear that Tibet would settle for autonomy, and does not need independence. All China ever had to do was let it be - stop sending in Han Chinese settlers to change the population demographics (and making sure those settlers got all the best jobs), not trying to erase Tibetan culture or religion, not threatening monasteries and not insisting the CCP could choose who the next major lamas would be. If they'd done that, Tibet would be a lot better off, and China would have gotten almost everything they wanted. (I can't speak for Xinjiang, I'm less sure about that.)

Instead we have re-education camps, an internationally popular Dalai Lama, monks on fire, international celebrities sympathetic to the Tibetan cause and a province in near-lockdown. 


Good job, Chinese government! You showed them! 


Of course, with that comes the terror that Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and other provinces with distinct non-Han cultures would want a similar degree of autonomy. Again, that's probably true, but I fail to see why it'd be a bad thing. I don't even think China would necessarily cease to exist. 


And, of course, Taiwan.

This one is trickier as it involves straight-up independence, but if China allowed Taiwan to declare formal independence as the Republic of Taiwan, perhaps with a few acceptable concessions, and then said "you know what, we speak the same language and inhabit similar cultural spheres. Wanna be best friends and have tons of economic cooperation?", Taiwan probably would have said yes.

The way things are now, I don't know that I personally would trust such an offer, but the point still stands the CCP could probably have most of what it wants if they would just let go and stop being such assholes. There would still be a few hardcore China-haters around, metaphorical boys going to school in skirts no matter how much the CCP hated it, but I suspect the average Taiwanese voter would be quite fine with a close relationship with China as long as their autonomy, freedom and democratic rights were permanently assured through de jure independence.

I bet more Taiwanese would even claim Chinese ethnic identity alongside Taiwanese national identity, if doing so weren't a rhetorical point that Beijing is using to try to force its claim on Taiwan.

But no, a dogged insistence on fabricated boundaries (if they really cared about the pre-1911 boundaries, Beijing would claim Mongolia as well) and a desire for total control once again makes it harder for them to actually get the thing they want. Instead, Taiwan remains stubbornly free and quite rightly mistrusts all overtures from the CCP (and CCP-adjacent angry people), and  a close economic relationship thwarted thanks to Beijing's own hubris.

Because they've convinced their own people that Taiwan is of vital national importance and letting Taiwan 'get away' would be a disaster for China, if Taiwan does in fact get away, some provinces of China might decide they want independence, too. If they hadn't manufactured such a potential crisis, I doubt that territories actually under Chinese governance would care nearly so much about a territory not under their governance formalizing its place in the international community.

And thanks to Hong Kong as well as changing international winds, the world is finally starting to notice.

Great job, CCP. Absolutely fantastic. You really showed them!

Now...who wants to put on skirts and head to Yuen Long? 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

I didn't need to yell at those bigots

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The future

I set out yesterday with two goals: to check out the inflatable 'tank man' (the iconic protester from the Tiananmen Square massacre) that has appeared in front of Murderous Dictator Memorial Hall as this is the 30th anniversary of those tragic events, and to get some reading done for my dissertation. My route took me through Freedom Square, where I encountered some anti-gay protesters near the arched Freedom Square gate.

They claimed to be against the new same-sex marriage law because it went against "the will of the people" as laid out in that messed-up referendum last November, but in truth, they were simply anti-gay. Here's how you can tell.

A woman shouting into a microphone made points like:

"We voted against gay marriage in the referendum. But they passed it anyway. I ask you - is this democracy?"

Of course, that's not what happened in the referendum. As black metal frontman and Sexy Legislator Freddy Lim helpfully pointed out, the referendum didn't do that: it specifically (though unclearly) asked if people agreed with changing the civil code to allow same-sex couples to marry, or if that should be done by a separate law. The people voted not to change the civil code, but for 'the rights and interests of same-sex unions to be protected' (if I'm translating that right) through some other law. That is what the referendum questions said. Period, end of story, the end, buh-bye. They did not ask if we should not allow any kind of same-sex unions. 


When the government voted to allow same-sex couples to register their marriages (and make no mistake, they are marriages), they not only did so through a separate law just as the referendum asked them to, but even took out the word 'marriage' in one of the articles as a compromise in a bill that was already a compromise. The bill does say couples can register their "marriage" in another article, but...that is what they have, isn't it? What else would it even be called? What gives the anti-gay side the right to define that word?

In any case, a referendum does not supercede a decision by the highest court. When the legislators acted, they acted in keeping with the principles of democracy (as opposed to populism), in which all people are equal under the law, and no group can vote away the rights or equality of another group. I doubt those protesters were unaware of this.


So no, they're not angry about the referendum. That's an excuse, and not a very logical one. They're angry because they hate gays.

In any case, they were all over the age of 50 or so, and there were maybe 20 of them. So when that woman said "I ask you, is this democracy?" I shouted back "YES!" (all in Mandarin of course).

"Can the government do this?"

"THEY CAN!"

Her: "No they can't!"

Me: "You don't understand how referendums work!"

Her: "This isn't democracy!"

Me: "If you don't like equal rights, go to China!"


I may have also laughed loudly at them. (By "may have" I mean, I did.)



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So many more people than those angry folks at Freedom Square


Anyway, some very polite police officers came up asked me nicely not to do that, and recommended I go to Ketagalan Boulevard just down the road, where I hadn't realized there was a big, super fun, super gay banquet being prepared. I've been working on my dissertation, okay? I can't keep up with everything these days. Anyway, they were really nice about it, and didn't even take my name...probably because white privilege.

I said "but they just hate gays! They don't care about the referendum!"

Police officer: "Yeah, I know. But they registered their little protest." (translated but pretty direct quote, which I think was pretty cool.)

I did leave - the police were super chill about it and that's fine - but not because I thought it was wrong to shout at some anti-gay protesters. They have the right under freedom of speech and assembly to voice their (bigoted) views. They don't have the right not to face consequences for those views, like being told they're bigoted in public. I didn't force them to stop or take away their microphone, and I couldn't have ejected them if I'd wanted to as it's public space and that's what freedom of speech means. So, no regret there. 


I don't even regret doing it as a foreigner - they probably aren't going to be convinced that same-sex marriage is a local cause in Taiwan. They probably don't care that the anti-gay side is the one that turned to Western hate groups for funding and advice whereas pro-equality groups mostly kept their effort local (though I've heard that some foreign donations did come in late in the game). And I live here too - this is my home and what happens here affects me. As a resident, I also have the right to freedom of speech (really - look it up.)

But, I'd made my point and it was time to move on.

I passed the mass wedding banquet as it was being set up - a friend noted that it was organized by TAPCPR (the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights) and again on my way home when it was in full swing. There were photo backdrops, musical performers, a huge 'flower car' stage and some vendors selling beer, water and promotional goodies. As the banquet was an official function, people who wanted to celebrate but weren't on the guest list came and pickicked on the perimeter. A large screen showing the events on stage was set up for them. The crowd was young, vibrant and enthusiastic. They'd finally grabbed a tiny corner of the privilege to be treated equally and humanely that society had denied them for so long. They were the future.



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Picknickers - the main banquet was closer to the Presidential Office


And let me tell you - it was huge. The crowd of thousands (including the banquet-goers) dwarfed the twenty or so oldsters across Jingfu Gate screaming falsehoods about the referendum. Though I didn't see it, I'm also told the oldsters had an audio recording of crying sounds and a hearse (!) at some point.

Which, LOL. Okay. I guess if you're that self-victimizing (seeing as same-sex marriage doesn't affect them at all) and imagine yourself downtrodden (despite being in the age and class that has held so much power and privilege in Taiwan for so long) you have to turn to histrionics.

So in the end, I went home thinking that I didn't really need to yell at them. Not because I was wrong to do so - I truly don't believe that I was, and don't think I actually broke any law - but because it simply wasn't necessary.

The huge crowd across the street, and all the happiness they exuded, made the same point far more effectively.

The aging protesters will look more and more ridiculous as marriage equality slowly becomes an accepted norm in Taiwan, and normal people realize that the sun is still in the sky and the Earth is still spinning and nothing has changed about their own lives, and that if they don't like same-sex unions they don't have to have one. They'll cry and weep and rend their garments, and we will ignore them. (Though let's not get complacent about 2020 - we will eventually win but they will certainly try to use this against Our Lady of Spice, Tsai Ing-wen).

The future held a much bigger party, a much younger party. They won, love won, and Taiwan won, and the angry oldsters with their hearses and black signs can die mad about it. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Despite some unfortunate headlines, media coverage of Taiwan recognizing same-sex marriage is exactly what we needed

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Pro-equality activists have been talking about the tangential benefits of same-sex marriage (or better yet, marriage equality) in Taiwan for years, most notably that it would be a massive boost to Taiwan's international visibility. Just imagine the international media coverage, all focused on Taiwan, especially if we're the first in Asia, we've been saying since...forever.

Last Friday it happened. We laughed, we (happy) cried, it was the feel-good legislation of the year.  And just like we said, the rainbow explosion wasn't limited to Taiwan. Every major media outlet around the world - not just the ones in Western nations - carried the news.

Let's put that into perspective. After 2014, when I mentioned "the Sunflowers" to my friends in the US, I was met with blank stares. I may as well have been talking about actual sunflowers that you can grow in a garden. This time, I don't think I have a friend or relative in the world who hasn't heard the news. Taiwan did something huge, and it mattered to the news cycle that it was the first country in Asia to strike a blow for equality.

Wait, what was that I just said? First country?

Reading most English-language media, unfortunately, that word has been avoided with the most, um, ductile of language choices (please enjoy some links to examples). First place in Asia. The island's parliament. Taiwan's parliament...in historic first for Asia. First in Asia.

 First what in Asia? It seems nobody is willing to clarify. Or if they are, it's a 'state' (how is that different from a country?) or a 'self-ruled island'.

Of course, a few incompetent dipclowns (like the World Economic Forum) kind of soured it by calling this country "Taiwan, China", The Guardian called Taiwan a country on Instagram then issued a correction that it was a 'state', and now seems to have taken the post down (I can't find it to link it), and of course the Chinese media gonna Chinese media and whatever.

I propose, however, that the good reporting on this issue (and reporting that is good for Taiwan) has far outstripped the few geographically-challenged dumbos.

First, plenty of media did call Taiwan a country. USA Today called Taiwan a "country" via the Associated Press. The Chicago Tribune used it in their headline too, as did QuartzThe New York Times didn't use that word in their title, but they managed to find a quote to help them slip it in, and CNN did too. Bloomberg managed to stick it into three separate quotes the day before the vote (good job!), and a Bloomberg-affiliated video on Youtube uses the word "country" and so did DW. ANI (from South Asia) called Taiwan a "nation", Bustle called it a "country". Here is The Economist using it in their first paragraph and The Washington Post using "nation" towards the top of the article. There are surely more - there are only so many articles on the same topic that I can read.

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That's a lot of major media calling Taiwan a 'country' or a 'nation' and a lot of readers who will now understand that Taiwan is indeed a country. Nothing at all to sniff at.

Look beyond the English-language media, and it gets even better. On Twitter, Pierre Baubry noted that most French media called Taiwan a country:





...and that lines up with my admittedly shallow research (the sub-headline in Le Monde called Taiwan a 'country'). It's the same in Spanish. No really. There seem to be very few outliers, and even this one references the word "country" within the first paragraph.

But you know what? That's not even the best part.

The best part is that almost every single one of these stories, whether they called Taiwan a 'country', 'nation', 'place', 'state', 'island' or nothing at all ('first in Asia!'), focused on Taiwan itself. 

Not its relationship to China. Not what China thinks about Taiwan. Not China's reaction. Taiwan. The deliberations of Taiwan's legislature. What Taiwanese voters and demonstrators think. What President Tsai did. Taiwan's domestic political situation. China was a non-entity, as it should be, seeing as it's a totally different country. I mean, our buddy Ralph "I hate Taiwan but still write about it" Jennings framed his piece in relation to China but...well. Who cares - at least this time - if one guy buried the lede?

What I mean is, for once, the international media mostly reported on Taiwan the way they should have been all along.

When China was mentioned, it was either in passing without any of that 1949 claptrap, or it was to compare Taiwan favorably to China. Yay!

From the Washington Post:


In neighboring China — which asserts sovereignty over Taiwan — popular LGBT microblogs were censored online in the wake of Taiwan’s 2017 high-court ruling. The social media platform Weibo was criticized last month for restricting LGBT hashtags. 
Taiwan has shown that “traditional culture is not against LGBT culture,” said Jennifer Lu, coordinator of the rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan. “That’s the message we want to send to the world.”

Another great thing? All of the amazing soundbites from Taiwan being reported around the world, which focus specifically on the progressive conversation happening here. From the Washington Post:

Tsai, the president, voiced her support of the legislation in a Twitter post, saying that Friday marked “a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an Asian society.”

And another one from WaPo correctly pointing out that this has long been an issue in Taiwan, correctly delineating Taiwanese activist history as continuous and robust:


Chi Chia-wei, a gay rights activist for more than 30 years, said he was “very, very happy” to see Taiwan legalize same-sex marriage, calling the process “a strong demonstration of our democratic spirit.” 

From the New York Times:

“Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage,” it said, “successfully striding toward a new page of history!” 
Human rights activists said they hoped Taiwan’s vote could influence other places in Asia to approve same-sex marriage.

From The Guardian:


“What we have achieved is not easy,” said Victoria Hsu, the founder and executive director of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights. “The law will not be 100% perfect, but this is a good start and this is a major step to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now the law says everyone should be treated equally no matter who you are, who you love.”

In another Washington Post piece, properly situating Taiwan as a progressive leader in Asia:


The vote in Taiwan helps “signal it’s not an East-West thing or global North global South thing,” Knight said. Officials in Brunei will have a hard time defending such harsh anti-homosexuality legislation, he said, “when the map of the Asian region is moving clearly in the opposite direction."

From The Economist:


In Asia, Taiwan has long stood out as a bastion of gay rights. The annual gay pride parade in Taipei, the capital, draws tens of thousands, many from overseas.

You guys, this is the kind of reporting that gets the world to wake up and notice Taiwan. This is how we show everyone not only that human rights are not an east-west issue (or a Global South/Global North one, though I would not say Taiwan is in the Global South developmentally), but that Taiwan is a bastion and a leader in Asia. This is how we show them how vibrant Taiwan's democracy really is, and that in fact a lot of interesting things take place here that they probably had no idea about, because the media never bothered to report on it.



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For that, I'm willing to overlook a few weaklings who wouldn't dare to just write "country" (and a few purposeful jerks like the World Economic Forum).

Overall, this is a win for Taiwan. Taiwan the country, Taiwan the regional leader, Taiwan the bastion of progressivism (at least by Asian standards).

Now, how do we get all those journalists to keep it up?


Saturday, May 18, 2019

What it meant to be an ally when Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage

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I wrote a longer reflection yesterday in which I wandered through many thoughts and emotions on yesterday's historic legislation. For this post, I want to highlight one thing that I think is important when you support an issue or social movement, but aren't a part of the group that that movement affects most deeply. That is, I want to talk about what it meant to be an ally standing in the crowd yesterday (yes, there is a little repetition between the two posts). Let's start here:

The level of civic engagement continues to impress me so much, and proves that Taiwan cannot be grouped so easily as a stereotypical 'Confucian', 'collectivist' society with wholly conservative values. It may be true that many young Taiwanese won't engage with their more conservative elders on these issues, but it's not true that they won't find other ways to oppose the old order of unfairness and inequality and a million -isms and phobia that those elders represent.


One of the arguments of the anti-gay camp is that ideas like marriage equality are 'Western' or 'foreign' and go against Taiwan's 'traditional culture' (they say 'Chinese' but I won't.) You know, all that Confucianism and collectivism and filial piety and what not. It's not that those aren't real facets of the culture, it's just that the whole culture cannot be reduced to them, nor can the actions or beliefs of any individual be explained wholly through them. People are not slaves to whatever aspect of their culture someone has decided explains their motives, and culture isn't static anyhow. 20 years ago you could have said the same thing about American culture. 

Of course equal rights have been a part of Taiwanese culture for some time now, and there is no incompatibility with Taiwanese culture (any incompatibility which seems to exist has been invented for political purposes).

So it really mattered that the people in the front rows and on stage, the crowds on camera were overwhelmingly Taiwanese. If 'marriage equality' is not compatible with 'Taiwanese culture', what were all those people who are Taiwanese and exist within a Taiwanese cultural milieu doing there?

Or as President of Taiwan and my current crush Tsai Ing-wen put it:




This movement was started by Taiwanese, carried by Taiwanese and the success they brought about yesterday was done by Taiwanese. There was no 'Western infiltration' about it. (In fact, the anti-gay side is the one that had to look to the West to figure out how to spread its hate, bringing in foreigners like Katy Faust to speak against equality and justice.)

It's important to keep repeating this, because that same opposition keeps accusing the pro-equality movement of doing the same, when it emphatically has not. The side that stands for equality has allies who stand with them. The side that stands against equality has foreign actors trying to help manipulate a certain outcome in Taiwan. And they are the ones who invented that 'goes against traditional Taiwanese culture' nonsense.

Marriage has meant many things in Taiwan over the centuries, including plural marriage, family-alliance marriage (that is, not love marriage) and marriage to ghosts. In China, there is a clear cultural tradition of homosexuality (at least among the upper classes).

It's actually a reductive neo-essentialist perspective - which is inherently Western - which turns so-called 'traditional values' into culturally static and immutable obstacles, a view one tends to take of cultural facets viewed from afar without full understanding. That almost every young person in Taiwan is pro-equality and yet still just as Taiwanese as their grandparents, however, shows that this outsider essentialist view of Taiwan is wrong. 


As an American who was in Taiwan for most of the culmination of the marriage equality movement in the US and so unable to participate (again as an ally - I'm straight and cis), it felt important to be a part of the support to make it happen in Taiwan, because it's my home. I have a place here too. What happens in Taiwan affects me.

And that place was being part of the crowd. Not onstage like a reverse Katy Faust, not a key part of the movement or even vital to it, but a participant who adds her physical presence to the movement. Foreigners were there lending their support too, but it's Taiwanese who led this, Taiwanese who made up the majority of that crowd, and Taiwanese who won. We just stood by them, and that was a meaningful place to be.


As an ally, I've reconsidered my own feelings on the Executive Yuan bill which passed yesterday - after being initially upset and disappointed, it became clear that Taiwanese LGBT groups and the local LGBT community were supporting it, and to be a good ally, I should follow their lead.

Let's stop telling Taiwan what its culture is, while we're at it. Let's quit it with the "but Taiwan is like this" or "Taiwan can't do that, because culture and reasons" or "but Taiwan is so Confucian and collectivist". Pish. Instead, let's be allies and let them tell us. 



It's a humbling, meaningful and impactful place to be. I recommend trying it. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

The sky is brightening: personal reflections on Taiwan recognizing same-sex marriage rights

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During the Sunflower Movement, Taiwanese rock band Fire Extinguisher sang that "the sky is brightening" (“天色漸漸光”)in their hit song "Island Sunrise".

Five years later, as several thousand people or more stood outside the legislature for hours in the pouring rain, clad in damp rainbow gear under beleaguered umbrellas to watch legislative proceedings on same-sex marriage, the sky brightened again, both literally and figuratively.

First, a rundown of how the legislative proceedings went (for a summary of goings-on at the rally, check out New Bloom, and here's my summary of what's happened over the past few weeks). The morning was a bit chaotic, with proceedings kicking off late, and every legislator being given three minutes to voice their opinion, time which many (though not all) legislators took. Freddy Lim and You Mei-nu spoke particularly articulately in favor of equality, while anti-equality legislators, as usual, voiced concerns that defied logic. These "concerns" included points such as "if we pass this, then referendums have no meaning!" (when the reason why this bill creates a separate law rather than changing the civil code is due to the referendum results) and questioning whether the legislature actually had to listen to the court (...uh, yes).


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Then the Executive Yuan bill went through a line-by-line reading and passed every article in turn, with some 'controversial' amendments. The crowd cheered and proclaimed victory as Article 4, which specifically uses the term 'marriage' in relation to same-sex unions, passed with a narrow majority of 66 votes. Reviews continued into the afternoon as legislators skipped lunch. Notably, KMT legislators Jason Hsu and Chiang Wan-an voted for it, with DPP anti-gay legislator Lin Tai-hua voting against.

At that point, I was curled up under my rainbow umbrella with my butt perched on a rain-drenched half-wall outside an entrance to NTU Hospital. I was shunted with much of the crowd to Jinan Road, as the main rally on Qingdao Road was at capacity. Around me, scores of young Taiwanese were following live feeds on their phones of the legislative proceedings nearby (a jumbo screen on Qingdao Road had a live feed for people on that side).



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I ran into a friend and we grabbed coffee together as the review dragged. The rain continued to pummel the attendees still outside the legislature. But you know what? Most of them stayed. Hours it dragged on, and let's be honest, legislative proceedings are kind of boring. Connectivity was awful. Everyone was soaked despite having umbrellas and rain ponchos. There was nowhere to sit. But they stayed - thousands, maybe tens of thousands - to watch legislation drag on together on a screen most of them couldn't actually see.

By the time I made it back to the legislature, the rain let up. The sky brightened.



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A few more controversial things happened - a last-minute motion by the NPP to deal with the international marriage issue (so that foreign nationals from countries that don't recognize marriage equality would be able to marry their same-sex Taiwanese partners) failed, with the entire DPP voting against it...for no good reason. The clause that would allow people to adopt the biological children of their same-sex spouse, but not to jointly adopt an unrelated child, remained in place (with no changes to the lack of access to fertility treatments for same-sex couples, and no surrogacy services in Taiwan).


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But the sky brightened nonetheless. The proceedings dragged on. The people stayed as the rain dissipated and the sun came out, turning puddles of cool rainwater into humid vapor. I ran into another friend and we stood on the now somewhat-less crowded Qingdao Road, steaming in our clothes as the final articles passed review, and hopeful young activists clad in rainbows counted down each one.


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Then it was time for the final countdown - the vote on the overall bill. A flawed bill that does not grant true marriage equality, but a form of same-sex marriage (using the word "marriage") nonetheless. When it passed, the crowd erupted. Some screamed, some cried. The sun shone bright as Taiwan became the first country in Asia to give same-sex couples access to their right to marry: a massive shift in the mood and the weather from morning to afternoon.

The wait from the beginning of the session until the final vote was about 6 hours - approximately 10am to 4pm. But those activists had been standing in the metaphorical rain for far longer than that. The battle for same-sex marriage in Taiwan has been shorter than in many other countries: it wasn't  an issue being discussed widely just 5 years ago, when the sky brightened for the Sunflowers (though dedicated activists had been working on it in smaller numbers for some time prior to that). The fight, however, was as vicious and all-consuming as this morning's rain, and it's not over yet.



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All I can say is that I am just so impressed with Taiwan today. If you thought the dedication of the Sunflowers was a thing of the past, I submit humbly that it continues in a different form, through a different kind of adversity.

I don't imagine there are many countries that would end a marriage equality rally with a performance by a black metal band, as Taiwan did. I don't think there are many where 10,000 or more people would stand resolutely and unflinchingly in the soaking rain just to be physically present for an interminable legislative session. The level of civic engagement continues to impress me so much, and proves that Taiwan cannot be grouped so easily as a stereotypical 'Confucian', 'collectivist' society with wholly conservative values. It may be true that many young Taiwanese won't engage with their more conservative elders on these issues, but it's not true that they won't find other ways to oppose the old order of unfairness and inequality and a million -isms and phobia that those elders represent.

One of the arguments of the anti-gay camp is that ideas like marriage equality are 'Western' or 'foreign' and go against Taiwan's 'traditional culture' (they say 'Chinese' but I won't.) 

But of course equal rights have been a part of Taiwanese culture for some time now, and there is no incompatibility with Taiwanese culture (any incompatibility which seems to exist has been invented for political purposes). 

So it really mattered that the people in the front rows and on stage, the crowds on camera were overwhelmingly Taiwanese. This movement was started by Taiwanese, carried by Taiwanese and the success they brought about yesterday was done by Taiwanese. There was no 'Western infiltration' about it. (In fact, the anti-gay side is the one that had to look to the West to figure out how to spread its hate, bringing in foreigners like Katy Faust to speak against equality and justice.) It's important to keep repeating this, because that same opposition keeps accusing the pro-equality movement of doing the same, when it emphatically has not. 


As an American who was in Taiwan for most of the culmination of the marriage equality movement in the US and so unable to participate, it felt important to be a part of the support to make it happen in Taiwan, because it's my home. I have a place here too. And that place was being part of the crowd. Not onstage like a reverse Katy Faust, not a key part of the movement or even vital to it, but a participant who adds her physical presence to the crowd.



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And it may be true that the DPP will suffer for this in 2020, but somehow I doubt it. They may lose, but I don't think it will be because of this. That they managed to get it through despite absolutely vicious opposition might just win back the young voters who were talking about abandoning them. Besides, people talk about the 2018 KMT sweep as though it had anything to do with conservative 'family values', when it didn't. It was about local governance - and we know that because the NPP drastically expanded its electoral reach despite being wholly pro-equality. They would have suffered the way the DPP did if marriage equality were truly the wedge issue that opponents and pessimists say it is. Most likely scenario? By 2020 same-sex marriage will be normalized, and no longer an issue for the DPP. After all, something had to be done after the 2017 ruling. Best-case scenario? This will actually work in their favor as the progressives who were disenchanted with them come running back.

Besides, in every country where same-sex marriage or marriage equality has been passed, it has simply ceased to be an issue (unlike, say, abortion, which remains contentious in the US because some people hate women.) The party that passed it has generally not suffered electoral losses as a result, as people learn fairly quickly that their gay fellow citizens are indeed normal human beings who deserve equal rights and what was all the fuss about anyway? I can't imagine Taiwan wouldn't go the same way.




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And if you think this has nothing to do with the spirit of the Sunflowers, this guy is here to tell you
that you are wrong. And he wasn't the only one. 

If they do lose in 2020 over this, then they will have stood for what was right in the face of a tyrannical, hateful majority. True liberal progressives won't forget that, and it will come back to them someday. It would be sad to see if that's the case, but the solution could never have been for them simply not to stand for what was right.

As a Facebook friend posted regarding the anti-equality referendum result last year (kept anonymous as the post is not public:

"And yet, the government went ahead with the law. Why? Well, this is what distinguishes democracy from populism. Democracy is not merely about majority voting: it is also about adhering to basic principles protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority."

But they did, and the future leaders of Taiwan did as well. We stood in the rain for hours...for years.

The fight for full equality is not over, but the sky is brighter now, and the future is too. 



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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Come support marriage equality this Friday!

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This Friday morning - that's May 17 - the Legislature will vote on the three 'same sex marriage' (not marriage equality) bills currently under consideration. People I know are saying that the Executive Yuan's bill - that is, the least bad of the three - will come up for a vote first, as it was introduced first. If it passes, the other two get thrown out. There was some attempt to 'reconcile' the three bills into one thing the Legislature could vote on, but that, uh, didn't happen, because one side keeps stating facts and making good arguments that take the needs of LGBT citizens into account, and the other side can't even get their facts straight and don't care about LGBT citizens' rights.

Although it's not great, it would be best for everyone if the Executive Yuan bill passes for a few reasons. First, it'd mean that bills which protect the rights of LGBT citizens least would not be considered, which is especially important in the case of the so-called 'compromise' bill, which would (horrifyingly) allow relatives of either member of the couple to sue to stop the marriage from being legally recognized. (Edit: this provision has been stricken from the bill.)

It would also mean that there would be a legal framework for how to implement same-sex marriage now, with a fairly clear (though legally tiring) path to actual marriage equality. If we just let the interpretation of the Civil Code take effect on May 24th, nobody really knows what will happen and very little about the actual rights of married same-sex couples will be clear. Finally, this is the bill that LGBT groups support. If we want to be good allies, we should let them lead, and support it too.


And the DPP will need all the vocal support it can get, seeing as it has handled this issue disastrously from the start.

This is the final scheduled vote before the Civil Code interpretation changes automatically, as per the ruling of the Council of Grand Justices, on May 24th. Basically...this is it.

So, there's a rally planned that starts at 8:30am outside the Legislative Yuan. Pro-equality advocates are hoping for a good turnout, even on a Friday morning. I'll be there, wandering around, taking photos, generally adding my physical presence to the crowd.

If you care about equal rights and human rights, I ask that you come too. Take time off if you have to. Tell your friends. Not just the foreigners (though it's easier for a lot of us to be free on a random morning), but your Taiwanese friends. Apply for half-day leave now.

Plus, you can be sure the anti-gay folks will be there too. We need to outnumber them just to show the legislature that equality is the only real future for Taiwan.

If the best of the three bills passes, we still won't have marriage equality, but we will have something on the road to it, and if we show up in numbers that will make an important statement going forward.

See you there.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Mayor Ko is a Gay-hating, Misogynist Turd

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doctored image (test and arrow mine) from Wikiquote



So, I've tried to be a Very Good Blogger these past few months by keeping my swearing and general foul-mouthedness in check, so I think I've earned this one.

Because I think it's most appropriate to the story to do an end-run over the serious-faced analysis about what it means and what are Ko's intentions exactly and just call it like it is without any of the wannabe pundit BS, I'm just gonna say it straight: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je is a homophobic, sexist buttclown.

The misogyny has been amply covered, because there is a lot of it. I won't re-tread on that - links to his previous comments about women are covered in the link.

The gay-hating, though? That's new, so let's rumble.

According to Liberty Times (link in Mandarin), while in the USA - which was its own whole drama thing - Ko commented that he voted against marriage equality referendum in the last election, but that he "allowed Taipei to hold the Pride Parade" which shows that "Taipei City is very tolerant".

Don't let his talk about "tolerance" and Pride fool you. First, that's a basic human right (the freedom of assembly) in Taiwan. Oh, thank you so much, Mayor Ko, for giving LGBT people the right to freedom of speech that they already had anyway! Barf.

Second, "tolerance" is not enough. Equal rights and tolerance are both necessary: without tolerance, equal rights can ring hollow as people, even when exercising their rights, may face discrimination. But without equal rights, merely "tolerating" someone else's existence doesn't confer upon them the dignity of actual equal status.

Voting against marriage equality is an anti-gay, anti-equal rights act. Simply put, if you do not think same-sex couples do not deserve the same rights that opposite-sex ones enjoy, you do not believe in equal rights, and you specifically want to deny them to LGBT people. That is a fundamentally anti-gay viewpoint. There's no other way to put it. The two cannot be reconciled. You can talk all you want about "being tolerant" but if you want to deny a group a human right, that is not "tolerant". You are telling opposite-sex couples that they shouldn't be alowed to inherit from each other, make medical decisions for each other, have visitation or next-of-kin rights, adopt, be on each other's insurance or any of the other things opposite-sex couples can do just because they have different junk.


That's anti-equality. Period. There is no "loving" or "decent" way to interpret this.

What's more, "but I allowed Taipei to have Pride!" is a weak-kneed cop-out. Tolerating someone's existence without open comment or harassment and letting them march down the street, but wanting to keep them second-class citizens, is simply not good enough, and is not actually tolerant. Tolerance means accepting that people who aren't like you are human too and therefore have the same goddamn rights you do, period.

Anything less - oh it's so nice, we're so nice to you, you can march and walk and wear your costumes! - is not good enough. There is no excuse. There is no cover. There is no sappy, manipulative "love the sinner" or "acceptance" or "lifestyle" rhetoric.

Either you believe in equal rights or you do not, and Ko Wen-je does not believe in equal rights.


I also wonder what he hoped to accomplish with these comments - his most supportive base are the youth, who are also overwhelmingly pro-equality. Did he expect that he could say this to win older anti-equality voters, but keep the youth with his comments about Pride?

I hope not, because that would mean he thinks the youth are stupid. I certainly hope they don't let this go.

Confusingly, this comes after addressing the right-wing Heritage Foundation touting Taiwan's social values as akin to those of the West (marriage equality is common in the West now) and talking about elections as social movements toward change. To a bunch of right-winters. Huh.


Which...okay, if you think that, why did you vote against the goals of the biggest social movement since the Sunflowers, and arguably the most progressive and Western-aligned, which asked for the most evolution from Taiwanese society?

Because you're a jack-bucket who says whatever and doesn't care, that's why. You proved that with women; now you're just adding LGBT people to the roster. Screw you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Evolving thoughts on the same-sex marriage bill

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Metal star and Sexy Legislator Freddy Lim hands out rainbow flags with the New Power Party


Here's a quick recap of what's going on with the same-sex marriage bill (I'm sorry to say I can't call it marriage equality), which moved to the Legislative Yuan recently. 

From Facebook friend Michael Garber quoting Yahoo! News Taiwan (link in Chinese):


This morning, the draft marriage equality law, “The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748” received enough votes in its first reading to skip committee and proceed straight to second reading.

Next, comes a month of inter-party deliberations, and then a final vote (I don't think the law will require a third reading).


All parties let their members vote as they please, and in spite of 5 DPP legislators voting against it, the bill had enough support to proceed.



Edited: I mentioned that NPP legislator Hung Tzu-yung didn't vote and wondered why. It turns out she's in the hospital about to give birth but does support the bill. Good reason, and good tidings to her!


There's also an anti-marriage equality bill that has very little support (it doesn't have the support of the KMT caucus whip). From Taiwan News:


Despite pleas from marriage equality opposition group Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, Kuomintang legislators will not introduce a draft bill that would see same-sex unions defined as non-marital [ed: meaning that words such as 'marriage' would be reserved for opposite-sex couples, though same-sex couples would be able to form unions] during Tuesday’s legislative session.

The group called on the KMT caucus at the Legislative Yuan Monday to help put the proposal into action. Legislator John Wu (吳志揚) told CNA the party would not yet be introducing the bill as it has not been viewed by enough of the caucus, and opinions on same-sex marriage differ among members.


CNA reports the bill is still likely to make it to parliament on March 12, but not necessarily under the name of the party caucus.



What this means is that the Executive Yuan bill - the "Enforcement of 748" one - is moving more quickly than the legislation aimed at blocking it/shooting it down, and that the former seems to be better supported overall. The general sentiment, outside of the People First Party, is that they want this through and in effect as soon as possible (probably just as much to minimize its impact on the 2020 elections as to actually ensure that same-sex couples can marry as soon as possible, and surely to get it through before the May deadline when the civil code interpretation will change if nothing else is done.)

I've had a lot of thoughts spinning around in my head regarding the "Enforcement of Interpretation 748" bill on same-sex marriage, and still can't say my I support it with a full heart.

But I do want it to pass, and that's close enough. I think you should too.

The clearest reason is that the LGBT community is backing it, and if we straights want to be good allies, it would be smart to follow their lead. To prove my point, here's a post from a popular pro-
equality group, asking people to contact their legislator to ask them to support the bill:





Plus, I have it on very good authority (not revealing my source, but just trust me) that the Executive Yuan worked with LGBT groups to make sure they crafted something that the LGBT community could ultimately accept, while also trying to craft legislation with an apolitical title that wouldn't overly inflame or demonize conservative groups (it doesn't do the latter at all, though they took offense regardless).

So if the LGBT community can accept this, so can I. If they want it passed into law, so do I.

Second, conservative groups are so mad that the government did an end-run around their anti-gay rhetoric. And I love that. Their anger is a good measure of whether a bill is suitably progressive for the moment - if they like it, it's probably terrible. If it makes them mad, there must be something good about it.

Third, it provides a clear path forward, avoiding the mess that could ensue if we let the May 24th deadline pass with no law. It also renders impossible the chance that, if the DPP loses in 2020, that the KMT will appoint more conservative judges who may reverse the Grand Justices' decision. We need more than a court interpretation in place.

And finally, the more I think about the ways that the draft bill is unequal, the clearer it is that the Executive Yuan is basically telling LGBT groups, "we're putting this in here as an olive branch to anti-equality groups, because they sure do love to scream 'won't somebody think of the CHILDREN?!', but we know perfectly well that it doesn't line up with the spirit of interpretation 748, which specifically references equality. That means you can challenge it legally and you have a good chance of winning, as same-sex marriage becomes normalized in society in the meantime. Keep fighting!"

Basically, they're handing them a fighting chance while making it look like a concession, and that's just brilliant. Something tells me LGBT groups in the know are aware of this (no source; just my intuition).

So perhaps it's not time to celebrate just yet, because the fight will continue.

But we can support the path that LGBT groups have decided to accept, and hope that this law passes. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Government Proposes Marriage Inequality

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While everyone is celebrating the draft same-sex partnership law that has been announced and will move to the legislature for debate, here I am - as always - sucking vinegar and taking names.

That's not to say there's nothing good about the draft law - just that it isn't marriage equality and we can't rightfully call it that. And I wouldn't say I oppose the law, but you won't find me shouting my support from the rooftops either. I hope it passes, but if you want my enthusiasm, well, sorry to disappoint. 

Therefore, while we can say that Taiwan will be the first country to offer some kind of same-sex "marriage", and they even call it  "marriage" in the draft, it's not equal, period.

There are some positives: next-of-kin rights (medical visitation, making medical decisions, inheritances) seem to be included, so previous real-life situations in which someone was in the hospital and their same-sex partner could not visit or make decisions for them, or when someone died and their estate went to their blood family and not the person who was their spouse in all but legal name will be averted. That's a very important big win. We can also assume that this will include the ability to buy insurance together, be on the same medical insurance plans etc. - not as big a deal in Taiwan given the NHI system, but still important.

And, of course, the proposal specifically uses the word "marriage", which does matter. Words mean things; they imply a definition of truth. The Executive Yuan didn't have to use that word - they could have called it something more like "union" or "partnership" but didn't, which sends a strong message. Good.

It is not, however, equal marriage.

At the risk of angering some people (though I'm not at all sorry), some other aspects of this draft law are some big fat Jim Crow bullshit.

Same-sex couples will not gain the right of co-adoption; one spouse may adopt only the biological offspring of the other. That means no adopting orphaned children, and it also creates some very difficult barriers.

Fertility treatments and surrogacy are not easily obtainable by single people in Taiwan; often the treatments are only available to married couples at any price (it's not an issue of these treatments not being covered by NHI; unmarried people are simply banned from accessing them). From the Storm Media piece, the "special law" says that giving these treatments to same sex couples will be "at the competent authorities' discretion", whatever that means. So it may be quite difficult for same-sex couples to even have biological children, if they are denied access by these "competent authorities".

The issue of international marriage is not mentioned in the law, and appears for now to therefore not be covered. Storm Media's link above implies that it will  that it will only be possible to marry a same-sex foreigner if that foreigner's country of citizenship also recognizes same-sex marriage. That's not quite the case, necessarily: it would be quite possible to overrule the prohibition on marrying in this case, citing it as a disruptor of 'public order' in Taiwan. My lawyer friend says he hopes that this is how such cases are interpreted going forward. 

The "religious freedom" clause, which specifically says this marriage bill will not interfere with anyone's right to practice their religion as they wish, is unclear. I'm not opposed to it on its face; if someone wants to believe in some gay-hating sky friend, I think that's kind of dumb and bigoted but I don't think they must be legally mandated to change their (dumb and bigoted) religious beliefs. Freedom of religion is a basic right after all. But, it's unclear whether that will extend to allowing employers to discriminate against LGBT employees, or businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, on the basis of religion. This needs to be clarified.

There is also a minor difference in the legal age of marriage, but it's more likely that the actual marriage law (rather than this unequal "special law") will be amended so that the age of consent to marry is the same across genders.

And, finally, this "special law" doesn't establish an official "in-law" relationship. I'm not quite sure what that means in practice, but it is a difference.

For all of these reasons, I simply cannot say that Taiwan is on the cusp of marriage equality. There will be some form of marriage with this law - which has not passed yet, by the way, it's just about to reach the legislature now and needs to be debated and voted on - but the fight isn't over.

The good news is that the unequal aspects of this law can be challenged in court, and I have to believe they were designed to be easily toppled. The Council of Grand Justices ruling in May 2017 specifically said that, as all citizens must have access to equal rights, that the right to marry must therefore be equal.

This does not confer equality, and therefore does not quite adhere to the constitutional interpretation ruling, and so is subject to legal challenge on those grounds. I am sure it will be challenged, and there's a strong foundation for making that happen relatively expediently while ensuring that the most egregious withholding of rights (next-of-kin issues) are handled.

It's a step, but I have to admit I grow tired of these half-steps. It happened with dual nationality too (allowing some special magic foreigners to qualify for dual nationality and relegating the rest of us to Garbage Foreigner status).

I know it's hard to convince more conservative factions of society that sweeping change is necessary, but real lives are impacted in the meantime, and it's tiring to be expected to compromise with Granny Bigot (age shouldn't be a factor but public opinion polls show that there is a strong age correlation) while waiting for access to rights (like marriage) and privileges (like dual nationality) that meaningfully change our lives. I get that there are political strategies to consider, but I personally am fine with letting Granny Bigot be upset.


I also don't feel all "rah rah hooray" when I know that this 'special law' is essentially an encouragement to keep fighting, not a summative victory.

The good news is that this is really angering conservative groups in Taiwan. Awesome! I hope all of their kids are gay. (That's not a punishment, it'll make Taiwan more awesome, but it'll also make them mad and make them think they're suffering...and that's great.)


So what can we do in the meantime?

To ensure that Taiwan moves toward actual marriage equality, we can donate to any number of pro-equality groups so that they have the funds to mount legal challenges, for starters. Here's a good place to start.

We can talk to relatives who disagree. Rallies are nice and stickers are great, and so are banners in hipster cafes, but the real change will happen when we start talking to the people in our lives about what equality means and why it matters for Taiwan (and everywhere). That if Taiwan stands for freedom and human rights, this is an essential part of it.

And while I won't tell others they can't celebrate, I'm holding off on my party. I will neither relax nor celebrate until we get actual marriage equality in Taiwan.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The party's starting late (or: it's your country - save it yourself)

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We are all Taiwan souls


Just some thoughts in the warm light of day. 

I'm a little hungover this morning, so I got up late and put up this flag just to remind myself that the fight's not over. 

I have less to say about the races so I'll talk about marriage equality. Honestly, I think that's the one we all cared about the most. 

First, yes, despite the deliberately confusing wording of the referendums, we were a bit too early to the party for marriage equality in Taiwan. The old folks came out and voted, and they showed that the wrong side of history still holds sway here. 

But let's remember a few things. We were early to the party, but what we heard last night wasn't the voice of eternal conservatism in Taiwan. What we heard is that the party is still on, it's just going to start later than expected. 

Young people are more disenfranchised in Taiwan's voting system: they're broke, they can't vote absentee even though they're less likely to live where they are registered, they work long hours so it's hard to travel back. Some perhaps didn't vote because they knew they'd be harangued by their elders for voting the "wrong" (actually the right) way. It doesn't change the fact that the younger generation DOES think differently for the most part, and unlike views on things like fiscal policy, this isn't a view that grows more conservative with age. They got complacent perhaps, because all their friends are pro-equality too so it seemed like the country was more firmly on their side. They thought 10, 11 and 12 would be defeated, so it didn't matter if it was inconvenient to vote. But the old folks will die and the younger ones will do better. 

Let's remember as well that the pro-equality side had far less funding - why aren't you guys donating, by the way? - and young people are too busy and broke to volunteer. You could see it in their materials: their brochures weren't as glossy or thick, or as great in number, because they didn't have the cash. Unlike the bigots, who could recruit housewives with nothing better to do, their supporters work long hours just to get by and so they couldn't get out and volunteer as much. But that doesn't mean supporters don't exist. 

People might say "Taiwan is a conservative society" and I have to admit there's some truth to that. But it is not conservative across the board: older folks still hold a lot of cultural power, but the winds of change are blowing. They were blowing in the US in the 1960s, even though most people still opposed civil rights (the majority were against the Civil Rights Act when it passed). They were blowing in the 1970s and 80s, when most people thought the participants of the Kaohsiung Incident were ruffians and 'bad elements', because the KMT dictatorship portrayed them that way in the media. Now we know better. Both the US and Taiwan still have a long way to go, but we have come some distance. 

And yes, some people were tricked. My student on Friday was talking about how a "separate law" could still be "equal", and I had to set him straight (he'd heard misinformation). A former student said the referendums were so confusing that they seemed to have been written by "an elementary-school student". A lot of people who theoretically believe in equality but are still coming to terms with this new world of LGBT acceptance thought the wording of #12 sounded tempting. A lot of people were misled to believe that the problem with sex education in schools is that it starts too young (it doesn't, by the way) - that's what the commercials said - and don't realize that the intention is to ban it from school altogether. 

While the anti-gay referendums might still have gotten more votes than the pro-equality ones had the wording been clearer, I honestly doubt they would have passed. That's what the anti-gay Christians had to do to get votes: to deliberately confuse people. If Taiwan really agreed with them, they could have written three clear proposals. It says a lot that they didn't. 


The fact that the bigots had to deliberately make the wording fuzzy and spread lies to get votes, that they had to pour so much money into their campaign, and that they had to move from trying to "portray LGBT people as morally degenerate" (to quote a friend) to "we support a separate law to protect LGBT rights and interests" shows that they had to pretend to care about equality to get all those votes. Taiwanese people did not vote "WE HATE GAYS" last night. The Christian jerks lost that battle. They voted "we're scared of change, so let's pick this thing that seems like equality so we don't feel too terrible. After all, aren't we still protecting LGBT rights if there's a separate law?"

(No, but I can see why some people were convinced that this was the case.)


Someone else I know pointed out that conservative forces in Taiwan have been studying US electoral politics, and I agree. The deep green conservatives who want global recognition for Taiwan got played with a bunch of needless 'culture war' garbage that has actually set back their goal. Marriage equality was one way to get Taiwan into the headlines, and now Taiwan looks bad. I hope they're happy. They pulled a Trump in Kaohsiung (Han Kuo-yu is not only terrifyingly right-wing populist, he can barely answer questions and never gives details, and beats people up for no reason at all). They're doing a really good job in getting us lefties to all hate each other for no goddamn reason. 

The US voted right-wing in 2016 too, and those of us who are trying to bend the arc of history towards justice realized we weren't fighting hard enough, and we weren't fighting well enough. We realized that marching around with signs is only part of the equation, and we needed to start politicking (again to quote a friend) and stop shitting all over every incremental improvement that was not the total change we wanted. I think Taiwanese youth will realize this too, and stop thinking that only 100% moral purity will do, or that anything less than 100% victory is defeat - and it's time to start politicking. 

We should have learned this in 2014, when the Sunflowers stopped CSSTA and effected a huge electoral change not because every one of their demands was met, but because they ended the occupation after a sufficient victory. Their slogan was 自己的國家,自己救 (it's your country, save it yourself) - and we should have learned from that and not just trusted politicians to do the right thing or for 10, 11 and 12 to fail.

Or we could have learned it during the Wild Strawberries, where they were broadly ignored in their time but have had a big influence on Taiwan in the 2010s. Or we could have learned this during the Kaohsiung Incident, which broadly failed in its day (many participants went to jail, some were tortured), but they kept fighting.


Culture wars work to get out the vote, and as I do suspect that the KMT cut a deal with churches to quash marriage equality for votes (I can't prove this; I just suspect it), which with the deep green conservatives, pushed the anti-equality initiatives over the top. But neither the US nor Taiwan is homogenously bigoted. We might be post-Sunflower in Taiwan now, but Taiwan is not only a 'conservative society'. Remember that it was the Christians - people who follow a Western religion - who spearheaded this. They got others to agree, but non-Christian Taiwanese were not leading the fight. 

And it's ridiculous to let Christians define what it means to be Taiwanese. Taiwan is not a Christian nation. Even if you consider Taiwanese culture to be an outgrowth of Chinese culture (which I don't), Chinese culture was not particularly traditionally opposed to homosexuality. While things may have been different for everyday people, rulers often had gay lovers and nobody cared as long as they produced heirs. There's an entire opera - The Butterfly Lovers (梁祝) - in which a boy falls in love with a girl dressed like a boy, and is conflicted (in the end she's to be married to someone else and they both commit suicide.) In the opera, his confusion over his feelings is merely described; it is not condemned. Being anti-gay is not inherently Chinese (if you think Taiwan has Chinese heritage, which, again, I don't). It may be Neo-Confucian and Christian-tinged authoritarian (the Chiangs were Christian), but it is not "Chinese". 

The 100,000+ people who have turned out for pro-equality events are Taiwanese too. The few million who did vote for equality are Taiwanese too. Those who got tricked into voting for 'a separate law' but are actually not bigoted are Taiwanese too. People say that ascribing certain 'Western' values to Taiwan makes white folks like me 'culturally imperialist', but I'm not the one doing it. I'm describing what they are doing, and they have just as much of a say in what is or is not 'Taiwanese' as the old conservatives.

I mean, when America sort-of voted for Trump, liberals didn't think "oh, I guess that means we don't have any say in what it means to be American". We re-evaluated what we thought we knew about our country, realized we needed a new strategy, and kept fighting, because we were and are just as American as anyone from Trump Country.

What's more, in the US once marriage equality was made law, it ceased to be a relevant issue. Just as with every other country in the world - and even in the US's own past with abolition, suffrage and civil rights - often popular opinion follows law rather than preceding it. That's not the typical order in Asia (generally things don't change here until popular opinion supports a change), but that doesn't mean it's impossible. In fact, I suspect in the years after May 2019 when some sort of same-sex unions become law, they will then become normalized. Then, the groundwork will be there for true equality. 


And yes, a lot of young people also voted against equality, because they grew up in conservative families. Because Taiwan is more "filial piety"-oriented (well, Neo-Confucian obedience-oriented - Confucius never envisioned 'filial piety' this way) it will take longer, but more will break free as they grow, and the ones who do not will not be the definitive voice of the next generation. 

So we need to support them - with our time, our advice from the battles we've fought in our own countries, and our money (DONATE, YOU GUYS) - so they can make this party happen for real. We need to engage with them and they need to figure out how to engage with their elders. 

Let's remember as well that the DPP may be spineless, and they don't all support us, but they didn't want marriage equality to be decided by the electorate for just this reason. They knew how it'd turn out, and they knew what the more conservative wing of their base thought. So they may lack moral courage, but we do have allies among some of them. We can't make the mistake of thinking that electing them will fix everything again: it's your country, save it yourself. 

The good news is that their conservative base is pro-Taiwan, and Taiwan stands for equality and human rights. I do believe that some of them can be convinced in the coming years, if we make the right arguments about marriage equality being good for the country's international profile, for Taiwan's economy, and for Taiwanese values, of which equality is a part.


Another bright spot as well is that the NPP won several city council seats, and Miao Poya, the first openly LGBT city councilor, was elected last night in my district. We do have allies. The old people don't get to define all of what it means to be Taiwanese. The Council of Grand Justices has already said their ruling stands. 

That shows we've already pushed the conversation a little bit in the right direction. The "gays are degenerate and have AIDS!" argument no longer works here. And no matter what, there will be some form of same-sex partnerships in May. This is not a 100% victory, but it's a step. Once that happens, and people realized that AIDS doesn't start falling from the sky, then we can actually get this party started. 

I'm here in my party dress and I have to believe it will start. 

In other words, that flag above and the people who fly it are *just* as Taiwanese as any old bigot at the polls. And we've got one thing that most of Asia doesn't: actual democracy. China says "'Chinese' [by their definition] people are not ready for democracy", but although we don't like the results, and some outcomes seem straight-up stupid, you have to admit: people were engaged and talking about the races and referendums. People turned out to vote. They didn't vote the way wed've liked, but Taiwan can still prove that 'Chinese' [again, China's definition, not mine] can and have built a democracy. We only have to hope that it stands, because there are some huge tests coming.

Well. We are all Taiwan souls. Some of us were born into it, some of us are not actually Taiwanese but this is our home. I don't get any say in what is or is not "Taiwanese", but our liberal Taiwanese friends do. We need to support them. Now. 

I am deeply disappointed in Taiwan today. I still love this country, but I don't like it very much right now. But this is my home and I may be crying and hungover, but I have to keep fighting for it.