Showing posts with label marriage_equality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marriage_equality. Show all posts

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, December 23, 2018

Chthonic performance in Hong Kong cancelled, showing again that authoritarians have bad taste in music

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Sexy Legislator and Chthonic frontman Freddy Lim, performing at the Taipei pro-marriage equality rally on December 18th in support of three pro-LGBT referendums 


Hong Kong continues its unwilling slide into authoritarianism at the hands of China with the cancellation of a performance by Taiwanese black metal band and all-around great musical act Chthonic. There had been talk on Facebook by the band that it might perform without its frontman/vocalist, Freddy Lim, but even that plan seems to have been cancelled.

Update: apparently Freddy's visa was denied because he lacks "special skills" that are "not available in HKSAR". Freddy responded by saying he was "practicing cartwheels and backflips" (to be better qualified to work in Hong Kong).


This is obviously nonsense. Chthonic has performed in Hong Kong before; being denied now points to growing CCP influence there, not any 'lack of special skills'. I personally remember Hong Kong as being far more open just a few years ago. Since then, political parties not aligned with China have been targeted and banned, with activists and elected legislators from those parties jailed. While technically freedom of speech remains a right that Hong Kongers may enjoy, in practice that's no longer the case: remember all those bookstores that sold reading material banned in China, specifically books critical of the CCP and its top officials? Those are gone now (though you can still buy the books from street vendors).

It also points to the growing political clout of Chthonic frontman and sexy legislator Freddy Lim, who (according to the article above) was denied a visa to Hong Kong after becoming an elected member of the legislature through the New Power Party. Lim had been to Hong Kong before, as well.

And that brings me to my main point: authoritarians have crap taste in music. I'm sorry, they just do. Chthonic was denied because of what they stand for: they are very pro-independence, and their music is steeped in Taiwanese history and folklore. They don't even sing in Mandarin, and they stand for a number of progressive causes including marriage equality. This scares the CCP - no music that makes any sort of real political statement (Communist propaganda music...doesn't count as music) is terrifying to them.


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But music - good music at least - is fundamentally political. It makes a statement, or at least stands for something. Good bands stand for something, even though that might not be evident in individual songs (for example, what Ani DiFranco stands for infuses all of her music, even her love songs which don't have anything directly to do with politics. You could say the same for Joni Mitchell or even groups not immediately identified with political music like The Talking Heads.)

Music under authoritarian regimes, however, can't ever stand for anything. Only - as a friend put it - "Canto-pop and Mando-slush" are acceptable in China. Context-free gunk about only the few topics that can be rendered apolitical - mostly love songs, and a few others including absolute nonsense music - can be allowed. They all sound kind of the same and they're so lightweight, they'd blow away in a light breeze. They tend to be earworms (that's how they hide their lyrical empty calories) but are also interchangeable and, to be frank, forgettable.

So, you wonder why "Mando-slush" all sounds kind of the same, with lyrics you could literally change out for anything because they just don't matter, it's not because people in Mandarin-speaking societies aren't good at creating music or are somehow culturally uncreative. I've heard that before and it's simply not true and frankly kind of racist. It's because in China, they risk their actual lives by being truly creative and writing songs that actually mean something. Outside of China, if they want to be allowed into the lucrative Chinese market, they have to churn out the same kind of tripe. Music with meaning will simply not be allowed in.

To be fair, people tell me that China, and especially Beijing, has a thriving underground hip-hop scene, and I guess I believe them? Maybe? But unless these underground artists are actively risking being 'disappeared' by the government, I can't imagine that what they sing stands for anything, either.

As such, I've noticed that the Taiwanese music I like tends to be banned in China, by artists who don't care if their music is allowed in the market there. They make music to make music, not primarily to make money. All the Taiwanese music I don't like - the love ballad gurgling, the motivational "you can do it!" crap that thinks it's edgy because there's an electric guitar played by a guy with spiky hair, the K-pop imitators, Jay Chou - is allowed in China, and hugely popular there. And it is, to be frank, terrible. All of it. (Yes, I know other people like that stuff. I don't care.)

To sum up, if an authoritarian government finds some music acceptable, that music is probably bad. At the very least, it's the tasteless, sugary white cake of music: unsatisfying, lacking basic nutrition, and will make you metaphorically corpulent and complacent if you consume too much of it.

So, it's no wonder that of all the music in a Chinese language which is popular internationally, Chthonic is one of the best-known outside Asia, for a niche market anyway.

News reports keep calling Chthonic a well-known band "in Asia", but I'd like to point out that, in the international black metal scene, they're quite well-known outside of Asia as well. Pretty much every black metal fan I know, even if they have no connection to Taiwan, knows Chthonic. All of them say the music is top-notch, and they transcend being a 'local act' by a very wide margin. They release English versions of all of their Taiwanese-language songs, Lim has held 'ask me anything'-style live interactive videos in English.

This is because Chthonic stands for something, and they put out genuinely good music because of it. Creativity and meaning are intertwined, and cannot be separated. Without meaning, art has no weight (which might just be why so much public art is forgettable, if not terrible - when you seek not to offend anyone, you inspire no-one). And that's why the same old love ballad recycled a hundred times with lyrics that you could just make up mockingly as you go along, with the parody indistinguishable from the original, will never find as much international acclaim.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Getting over electoral heartbreak

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This post is coming late, because I took a short blogging break following my two post-election posts. The reason, dear readers, is that I was just so utterly heartbroken: every time I tried to sit down and write about 11/24, I'd get that sinking feeling in my chest and have to fight back tears. I just couldn't do it, so I gave myself permission to disengage for a bit.

It didn't help that immediately after my paper (for grad school) was due, which was immediately before the election, I got sick. I spent most of the week post 11/24 hopped up on decongestants and mucolytics. It wasn't pretty. Not even Sudafed could cut through the snot.

I can't say I'm entirely back. My heart still weeps, and I'm about to return to the US for the holidays (which I am genuinely excited about). So, the next few posts will probably be lighter "lifestyle" posts. Merry effin' Christmas.

Anyway. Before we get into hairstyles, British curry house curry and trips to the mountains, I do have some thoughts on marriage equality and political parties in Taiwan. Will populate with links later when I have more time. Taiwan Sentinel, Frozen Garlic, Taiwan Insight, The News Lens and New Bloom all deserve some linkbacks, and they will get them.

Looking at analysis of the election results, obviously I agree with the experts that Taiwanese voters rejected wonky 'policy' candidates (who were unexciting, establishment types that were heavy on experience and competence, but light on vision) in favor of "it's the economy, stupid!" talking-points-focused ones. I had hoped that this wave of electing sweet-talking, visionary-sounding, "let's try something new" populist candidates with authoritarian tendencies would be a global trend that Taiwan would have been wise to reject. Sadly, I was proven wrong. It's cold comfort to be reminded that Taiwanese voters are just like voters anywhere: no dumber, but also no smarter. They fell for it too. Damn. Time to stop pretending Taiwan is this wonderful, magical place where democracy works better. It's not.

But what this shows me is not that Taiwanese voters are "more conservative" than was previously thought (although they are not that liberal by global standards, they are still quite liberal by Asian standards), but that at least as of 2018, they're more willing to put their trust in a candidate that presents a powerful and cohesive vision, no matter how heavy that vision is on insane promises, or how light it is on actual policy details. It makes sense: when things are looking good and people feel secure, they'll vote for the wonky nerd candidate. When things are scary, they look for more of a leader. If that leader seems like "one of us", all the better. Who do you think most people want to lead them through the apocalypse: Professor McNerdington, or straight-talkin' Big Uncle Dirk?

(I want Professor McNerdington, personally - hell, I married Professor McNerdington - but I have to admit that most people seem to want Big Uncle Dirk. Nevermind that Big Uncle Dirk is a dumbass proto-fascist who can't even answer questions properly.)

This isn't to say that Taiwanese voters are dumb or ignorant for electing Big Uncle Dirk. They're anxious. It's not the same thing. They're no dumber or smarter than any other voters, and frankly although I don't agree with their choices this time, I kind of get it. 


The key, however, is that when it comes to voting for these types of candidates, it isn't necessary to agree completely with their platform. Do you think that most Kaohsiung voters agreed with their city government recognizing the 1992 Consensus despite national policy? Hell no! When your lizard brain is scared and wants to vote for the person with the most visionary talking points, it's fairly easy to justify the things you don't like with "well, I don't agree with everything he says, but we need to rejuvenate the economy and Big Uncle Dirk will do that! Professor McNerdington doesn't care about average folks like me!"

This matters! It means that embracing marriage equality was not - not not not not not - the reason why the DPP lost. Had they run better, more visionary campaigns that played to their and their candidates' achievements and strengths, conservative DPP voters would have shrugged their shoulders and thought "well, maybe I don't like it when dudes kiss, but this person is the better candidate". They don't have to agree with everything you say, they just have to buy into your overall vision. Super deep greens, no matter how conservative, are not going to vote for the KMT. And playing to conservatives who aren't committed to the DPP - some of whom would never vote DPP, including all those members of deep-blue anti-gay churches - was never a winning strategy. What they needed was a vision strong enough to allow voters predisposed to choose them to shrug their shoulders at marriage equality (which most Taiwanese seem to do, with the majority not expressing a strong opinion for or against) but vote for the overall idea of Taiwan's (or Kaohsiung's, or Taichung's) future.

Even better, if they'd enshrined marriage equality in the civil code back when the Council of Grand Justices issued their ruling, it would have been normalized by now, and they wouldn't have felt the need to present the conflicting message of a new, internationalized, outward-looking Taiwan, but...oh no, we're not sure what to do about the gays, um, uh...maybe we could...uh...duh...vote for us!

Then the deep-green conservatives and DPP Christians would have shrugged, figured the civil code change was a done deal, and voted for them anyway. They could have even spun it as "look at all the international publicity Taiwan is getting for this! Look at how we've differentiated ourselves from China! Taiwan stands for human rights, and that means equal rights for all!" The progressives would have had more faith in the DPP in that case, and turned out for them, too. That this was allowed to become the issue it did shows not how badly the DPP misunderstood conservative voters, but how badly the DPP got played. It became a problem because they let it become one.

And I do believe that marriage equality having been a done deal, or a part of a stronger overall vision, would have allowed the progressive column of DPP supporters to make up for whatever conservative votes they lost. But I doubt they would have lost as many as some believe, for two reasons: first, the NPP came pretty close to achieving its electoral goals (the News Lens calls their gains "modest", but many didn't even think they'd win what they did. I call it a victory). That shows that voters both want fresh faces and will vote for a cohesive platform, whether it's a liberal or conservative one. Dark blue Da'an voted for two openly gay Third Force city councilors. I realize that Da'an, heart of wealthy 天龍 Taipei, can't speak for all of Taiwan, but it does tell me that the marriage equality "issue" did not have to be the issue it was. Second, aside from the fact that the only reason the anti-gay referendums passed was because the benchmark for passing is far too low (and therefore it is not actually a particularly strong indicator of sustained public consensus), the only way the anti-gay groups were able to get their referendums passed was to change their language from "homsexuality is evil and brings disease!" to "let's have a separate law to protect 'their rights and interests'!"

That the left managed to push the issue that far shows not only that Asia is not a monolithically conservative place, but also that (and I'm quoting a friend here), the values being discussed are not "Asian values". That implies they are static and somehow inextricably tied to being "Asian" - that to change them means to change what it means to be "Asian". This is not true: these values are traditional. Values do change, in all societies. If you don't believe me, consider that 100 years ago in Taiwan, marriages were arranged and often involved actual sales ("I'll sell you my daughter as a maid and when she's 15 she can marry your son!") or multiple wives/concubines. That doesn't happen anymore. Cultures change. 100 years ago, many Western societies were not that different from Asian ones. My great aunt had an arranged marriage...in the United States. My great-grandfather asked to marry my great-grandmother when she was, like, 10 (in a stunning show of liberalism for the time and place - around 1900 in southern Turkey - my great-great grandfather told him that she'd have to agree to the match, which she eventually did.)

We can and are changing the script on marriage equality in Taiwan and the DPP needed to take control of that narrative, and maybe wrap up the pill in some bacon so the conservatives would swallow it. They didn't. They backed away from it in trying to please conservatives and thereby let the other side control the narrative. That freaked out both conservatives and liberals. None of it was necessary.

Further to that point, for once I agree with Shelley Rigger (I've disagreed with her in the past): this election wasn't a referendum on the DPP's cross-strait policies, which I think most Taiwanese actually support. What the voters want is to stand our ground on China without instigating anything, but also to rejuvenate what is seen as a stagnant economy (I don't know how stagnant it actually is, but wages sure aren't doing well.) That's a difficult story to spin, as in many cases voters want conflicting things. We can't have warmer relations with China and stand our ground. China makes that impossible.

On that note, the fact that voters want conflicting things - nuclear-free with reduced pollution, for example - is a key reason why referendums are a bad idea. 
But the KMT somehow convinced voters in this election cycle that they could do it, so the DPP could have, as well.

And frankly, that's just it. The DPP - to quote a friend - needed to step up and take control of the story. To render marriage equality a non-issue. To advertise their achievements better (to put a better spin on pension reform, remind the working class of the gains in minimum wage, remind their core supporters of the ill-gotten assets committee and their no-confrontation-no-backing-down stance on China, their inroads into renewable energy vis-a-vis the KMT's complacency in that area) and have strong talking points on the economy, and to campaign on their candidates' strengths. To do less talking about their policy positions and more talking to the people: Tsai recently said she was going to talk to the youth about their disappointment with the DPP (will post the link once I find it). I have to ask: why didn't she do that before the election? People are saying rural Kaohsiungers are sick of feeling as though the DPP ignores them. Why didn't the party address that earlier?

Instead, they let the KMT and their anti-gay buddies control the narrative. They let Kaohsiungers be convinced that Kaohsiung - which is a much better city to live in than it was before the DPP ran it for so long - is horrible. It's not. Or that marriage equality is some sort of horrible assault on Taiwanese values (or that traditional values shouldn't change). It isn't, and they should. Or that pollution in Taichung is entirely the DPP's fault. It's not. Or that the need to shore up denuclearization with fossil fuels is the DPP's fault. Again, it's not. Or that it is acceptable to recognize the 1992 Consensus if it "rejuvenates the economy". It isn't.

Now we live in a Taiwan that is being called "post-Sunflower". In some cases yes - I am sure some activists think that everything they've tried to do has come to nothing - but this assumes that "voting for the DPP" is the same as "supporting the ideals of the Sunflowers". This is not the case, and never was. The Sunflowers were not a DPP-affiliated movement - the DPP has always been quite a bit more conservative - and while the DPP was able to coast in on their vision for awhile, I doubt they would have been able to maintain it even in the mildest of adversity. In fact, the increasing power of independent/unaffiliated voters and candidates is very much a legacy of the Sunflowers. The electoral success of the NPP is, too. The KMT was able to co-opt the Sunflower 'we need a change' image much to the actual Sunflowers' chagrin, but I doubt they'll be able to sustain it, either. 


I know it's hard to have that kind of vision - to control that story - when you are in power and therefore all problems can be pointed to as your fault by the opposition (nevermind that the opposition, in this case, created many of those problems). I know it's difficult to market achievements when voters seem to want instant results and are more likely to vote for Big Uncle Dirk if he promises them the world, even if he's light on substance.

But it is possible, and progressive forces in Taiwan (not just the DPP) have to do it, because we've already just taken one big step backward. We can't afford to take another: China is ramping up its threat, at least rhetorically. LGBT Taiwanese are committing suicide as a result of their perceived rejection by society. This is urgent. We can fight to counteract the surge in so-called 'conservatism', but will we?