While the world observed the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Sunday was even more meaningful to Taiwan, as it was the first anniversary of the nation’s legalization of same-sex marriage. Humanity has come a long way since the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders 30 years ago on Sunday, and Taiwan is at the forefront of the LGBTQ rights movement in Asia, but there is still a way to go.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday expressed support for the issue, highlighting a “small change” to the Presidential Office’s Web site that means newlyweds applying for an automated congratulatory letter no longer have to choose from gender-specific titles. It was a sweet, but mostly symbolic gesture toward the inclusive society that the government has championed, and Tsai acknowledged that there are many government measures that still need to be adjusted.
LGBTQ groups are still fighting a number of issues such as transnational marriage and adoption, both of which should be addressed soon, as they are indicators that same-sex couples do not enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
Meanwhile, there is also much work to do on the social acceptance of LGBTQ people. Groups opposed to same-sex marriage have long warned that legalizing same-sex unions would lead to the collapse of the traditional family structure and values, and they continued their campaign in the lead-up to January’s legislative elections to dissuade people from voting for candidates who support same-sex marriage. From “we will all die without descendants” to “stop teaching our children to be homosexual,” these groups continue to repeat the same tired slogans and show no sign of going away any time soon.
It is also too early to celebrate that 93 percent of respondents to a poll released on Friday last week by the Equal Love Taiwan coalition said that they have not been affected by the legalization of same-sex marriage, with only 3.7 percent citing negative effects. It is easy to turn a blind eye and ignore the issue on a personal level, but Taiwanese society focuses much less on the individual than Western societies.
When it comes to legalization’s effects on society, 30 percent of respondents said that legalization has created a negative effect, demonstrating the continued social stigma against LGBTQ groups.
One of the biggest issues LGBTQ people face is coming out — many said before legalization that they could not get married because they were afraid of revealing their sexuality to their parents. On this front, the survey showed that 65 percent could accept a family member, classmate or coworker being homosexual — but when it comes to their own children, this number drops to 49.3 percent.
Another survey released earlier this month by LGBTQ groups showed that only 30 percent of respondents would come out to coworkers in higher positions due to worries about workplace bullying or losing opportunities for advancement.
On the bright side, the number of people who are open about their sexuality in the workplace grew from 27 to 38 percent, while “discriminatory work environment” has since 2016 dropped from the top factor of work stress for LGBTQ people to third.
The results feel like a mixed bag, but progress takes time and education, an area that has also improved — after a majority voted against LGBTQ education in elementary and junior-high schools in 2018, 53 percent of respondents, particularly those aged 30 to 49, in the Equal Love Taiwan survey said that they would not mind if their child learned about such issues.
Year one is just the beginning. As Tsai has said: “We have allowed more people to have happiness,” and Taiwanese society should not stop there.
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