It has been over two years since the closing of the third edition of the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival, after which I stepped down from the festival’s directorship, and of the first Queermosa Awards, where we honored the LGBTQ heroes of Taiwan. Instead of taking a long beak to recover from this hectic time and redirect my focus towards my newborn twin boys, I became one of the 5 core members of the Marriage Equality Coalition.
Taiwanese singer 陳嘉樺 (Ella) and LGBT activist 祁家威 (Chi Chia-wei) at the Queermosa Awards gala
During that time, the end of 2016, Professor Picoux's death captured the heart and attention of the whole nation. A longtime foreign partner of a Taiwanese man, Picoux was denied any medical decision rights over his partner’s health by his partner’s family. The family also denied him his de facto "community" property with his partner, which would have been automatically his if, and only if, they were legally married. Unfortunately, even after being together for almost 40 years, they were not allowed to do the most basic thing a loving couple can do, something the majority of the world’s population take for granted. Heterosexuals couples can step into city hall and get married in half an hour, immediately obtaining legal recognition and its ensuing protection. A gay couple together for more than 40 years was stripped of any rights. The repercussions of this discriminatory system are well-known to all of us.
Professor Picoux and partner.
Fast forward to today, November 19th. Even after the Constitutional Court ruled that the denial of same-sex marriage in Taiwan a violation of the Equality Clause of the Constitution, after the countless public hearings, rallies, articles, videos, tears and laughs, we still face the absurd referenda on the issue of whether two people can become legally married and received an equal treatment as the rest of society.
Unfortunately, we are hearing a lot of voices and arguments that are half-truths at best and malign and degrading at its worst, casting the ugliest type of stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people. The arguments that I have heard over and over again are as ridiculous as children being unable to call their parents "mom" and "dad", but instead must address them as "Parent 1" and "Parent 2"; or that if we allow gays to marry, then HIV patients will desperately arrange fake marriages to come into Taiwan and access our national health insurance, terrifically taxing our social welfare system. Finally, of course, if gays marry, then Taiwan will eventually go extinct as a society because gays cannot have children. All arguments feed the fears and anxiety of people, and attempt to brainwash them to vote against humanity, human rights, rationality and even life.
What children call their parents is up to each household, whether to address them as mother, mom, mama, or anything else, is up to each family and no law is going to legislate this. There are several dozens of countries who have legalized same-sex marriage, many of them with national healthcare systems, and we have not heard one single piece of news of them experiencing an avalanche of HIV people going over there to get married. And, certainly, many gay couples want to settle down and start a family, yes, including having kids of our own. Several hundred gay parents in Taiwan and I are the living example, as well as the at least 300,000 kids under 18 who are living under gay households in the US, according to the UCLA Law School Williams Institute. We are only here to contribute to Taiwan’s society.
We have six days left, six days to make history, to declare everyone equal. A lot of people have fallen prey to the anti-gay propaganda through social media, peer or family pressure, or just due to a lack of exposure to LGBT people, their allies and their points of view. It is now our turn to reverse this sad trend: over the past two years, platforms like the Marriage Equality Coalition, our platforms GagaOOLala, GagaTai, LalaTai, and countless of other filmmakers, directors, KOLs, actors, or just people who has felt it was the time to act, have produced a substantial amount of content that can and should be now used effectively to engage society, to take away their fears with our most powerful resource: the truth.
250,000 people show their support for marriage equality!
They might think that the LGBT community is making too much noise, that the country has so many other important economic, social, and political issues to worry about, and I could not agree more. We do have a lot of problems to solve, and a lot of challenges to overcome together, as a country. But it must be a country that is based on equality. Only if every Taiwanese person enjoys the same universal rights, including the right to marry your loved one, we can overcome the rest of the obstacles ahead of us, together. If the people our nation is divided into first- and second-class citizens, our future is nothing but bleak.
In these last few days, I urge everyone to make an effort to reach out to your colleagues, your family members, your classmates, your neighbors and discuss with them marriage equality. Engage and ask them what makes them so fearful about gays getting married, about schools teaching kids to be respectful to each other regardless of their differences, about everyone having the same chance to love.
Rainbow flags hang from the Taiwanese balconies.
If you are "fortunate" enough to be added into those anti-gay chat groups on Line, Facebook or elsewhere, please do not retreat. Add in more friends and allies to these groups so that the members can start hearing different opinions and point of view. Share with them pictures, films, articles and information already available on the web, and please ask me if you need any further information. Every post can make a difference.
No matter the result of the referenda, society will go on and family will still be family, but it is up to us to decide the way we move forward. Let's use this opportunity to bring everyone closer together and expand our family values to include all our colleagues, friends and classmates, to include all the people of Taiwan.
You can also support and donate to the Marriage Equality campaign for a better society (tax deductible): bit.ly/2DOvaXx
Rally and concert in support of same-sex marriage last Sunday (November 18th) / Source: New Bloom
Jay Lin is the Founder of Portico Media, the company behind GagaTai, LalaTai, HahaTai, and GagaOOlala, Asia's first and the world's largest LGBT online movie platform. He is also the Co-Founder of the Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (TIQFF), and father of a couple of 2 year old twins.