Congratulations Taiwan!

Growing up, I never thought much about marriage. I don’t recall having any crushes on anyone in elementary or middle school (though I’ve got pretty huge gaps in my memory the further back in time I think about). In high school, I dated one girl. She stands out in ways that my other memories do not for three reasons: we were supposed to go to junior prom together (I think that was the event) and that fell apart, her name was a variation on mon cherie, and my parents did not care for her much. During the relatively short time we dated, I think we kissed a few times, and nothing more. I never imagined myself with her, or any other woman. In fact, I wasn’t terribly interested in dating her. Or any woman. I was playing the do-it-for-survival hetero show. But that’s the show we gay people often put on so that we doing get harassed, discriminated against, evicted, abused, beaten, disowned, or killed by fragile heterosexuals who feel the need to violently reinforce gender boundaries.

This would have been back in 1992-1993, and I was juuuuuuuust starting to explore chat rooms on America Online (gods! That annoying dial-up sound!), and learn what I was. I knew no gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, intersex, or pansexual people. Hell, I didn’t have the language to describe who I was. I knew I was looking at guys around my age (and slightly older, such as some of the senior class boys at my school). I knew I felt certain physiological stirrings when I stared at one of them for too long. Of course staring happened rarely bc even though I didn’t yet know I was gay, I knew even then that it’s “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” (may that homophobic, heterosexist phrase die a fiery death). I couldn’t face the almost certain humiliation and torment from my peers that would result if I was seen staring at a guy.  And if it got back to my parents? I’d already been caught trying to shoplift a PlayGIRL (a companion adult magazine to Playboy, that features men) by my mother and that was a horrifying experience for me. So I didn’t want anyone to even suspect that I was different.  So I didn’t even think about having a boyfriend, didn’t have any clue what sex was (hetero or homo), and certainly had no thoughts on marriage other than the standard “this is what you do when you grow up”. But in my head, there was no image of the person I thought I’d marry. No ideal. No placeholder. Nothing. It was a formless, shapeless void.

Of course, even after I came out of the closet to the world (which took a few years), I still never thought about marrying anyone.  By this time (my early 20s), though still a pretty green gay, I knew enough to know that gay people were the spawn of Satan*, we were responsible for AIDS**, we were immoral monsters***, and our existence (an affront to god) threatened the fabric of society****. I also knew that gay people didn’t get married. We weren’t allowed to. I could never dream of something that was forbidden to me. Too young to yet articulate my thoughts on marriage rights, I pretty much accepted that my lot in life was to never be partnered to someone.

Then came the historic ruling in Massachusetts, when same-sex marriage first became legal in the United States.  I vaguely recall hearing about this at the time (I paid virtually no attention to the news back then), but still, that was some other state. I lived in Florida, and down here I thought, “we’ll see legalized weed before legal same-sex marriage” (I’d have lost that bet). So imagine my surprise when the US Supreme Court took up the issue of marriage equality in 2015.  Imagine my further surprise when I awoke on June 26, 2015 to learn that same-sex marriage (and I’m getting goosebumps just typing this) was legal in all 50 states in the US. I was elated. I remember wondering where and when further pro-marriage equality rulings might occur.  Today, Taiwan added their name to the list of countries that voted in favor of broadening the legal definition of marriage. Their highest court has ruled that Taiwan’s Civil Code (which define marriage as between a man and a woman) is unconstitutional:

Image is text. Taiwan in large font against a white backdrop. The colors of the rainbow flag fill in the name of the country. Under Taiwan appears ‘ Says “Yes!” ‘ Lower left appears to hashtags: FirstInAsia and EqualInLove Amnesty International logo appears in bottom right.
The Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that current laws, which say that marriage is between a man and a woman, violate the Constitution.
The panel of judges has given the island’s parliament, known as the Legislative Yuan, two years to amend or enact new laws, which could potentially make Taiwan the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage.
The island has a large gay community and its annual gay pride parade is the biggest in Asia but the issue of marriage equality has divided Taiwanese society, with thousands turning out in recent months to protest for and against marriage equality.

The first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.  I wish it hadn’t taken this long (and it’s still technically not here), but I am thrilled for the country.  It is, of course, a ruling that is near and dear to the hearts of LGB folks living in Taiwan, but a ruling such as this goes a little bit beyond that win. Given the role of homophobia and queerphobia in maintaining and reinforcing traditional gender roles, a notable event such as this chips away at the stranglehold of patriarchy.

Oh, and don’t worry. Even if the Taiwan Parliament does not amend or enact new laws within two years, same-sex marriage will still be legal in 2019:

“This explanation is a step forward in the history of Taiwan’s same-sex marriage,” said Yu Mei-nu, a Taiwanese legislator.
Yu said the court’s explanation means that even if lawmakers do not pass legislation allowing same-sex marriage in the next two years, gay couples will still be able to marry by this time in 2019.

I am thrilled that just as we moved one step closer to equality in June of 2015, so too has Taiwan’s LGB population taken an important step forward. I imagine they’re feeling every bit as elated as we were (despite the possibility of a two year wait). Especially 59 year old Chi Chia-wei who, since 1975 (the year I was born), has been a gay rights activist fighting for marriage equality.

Sadly, just as the  Status Quo Warriors, the Opponents of Modernity, and the Crusaders for More Conservative Times did not close up shop when marriage equality was achieved in the United States, so too will those enemies of social progress do their best to hinder any further achievements as well as fight to roll others back.  I’m sure Taiwan’s activists will stay vigilant though, especially if they have half the persistance of Chi Chia-wei.

 

 

* There is no evidence such a being exists.  Moreover, I despise the fact that an imaginary being, treated as pure malevolence, is held up as a boogeyman to frighten young children with. Children who are legitimately experiencing emotions and feelings that are not wrong simply bc a collection of works written by men and purported to be the word of a deity (that no one can even prove exists) says “you are an abomination”. That’s a great way to fuck with your kids’ heads. Parents, guardians, religious people CUT THAT SHIT OUT.

**we were never responsible for AIDS. It was never a “gay disease”. It didn’t even originate in human beings. It was seen as a gay disease bc at first it seemed isolated to the gay community. In the eyes of the medical community, that changed by 1982. For the rest of the country, that change took a bit longer has yet to take full effect.

***no one is harmed by the existence of gay people (or any member of the queer community) simply by virtue of our existence. In addition, there is no moral component to one’s sexuality. Questions of morality may arise when an individual explores their sexuality, but not from simply having a sexuality.

****In conjunction with terrorizing kids with the possibility of going to hell for being gay, there is the belief that if you’re a good and do right by what your parents and church officials tell you–be straight, not gay–you’ll get to go to heaven. And these people treat heaven as a glorious, luxurious, place of eternal happiness and sunshine and long dead family members and I fucking want to gag bc there is no truth to any of this bullshit.

Interestingly, we are at once powerful enough to topple ancient empires and be the cause of devastating acts of nature, but also be powerless to prevent any of the innumerable horrors that have befallen members of our community at the hands of murderous heterosexuals.

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Congratulations Taiwan!

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