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2019 Taiwan Pride: Queerness in Asia

Taiwan’s Newlywed Same-Sex Couples Prepare for Landmark Pride Parade

2019/10/16 , News
Rik Glauert
Photo Credit: Rik Glauert
Rik Glauert
Rik Glauert is a freelance journalist and student based in Taipei. He specializes in politics and human rights and has previously reported from China, Hong Kong, and Myanmar.

After nearly five months of marriage, Gabriel Lin, a 34-year-old scientist who lives in Taoyuan with his husband, shares a number of small, yet significant changes to their life.

In May, he and his husband became one of the first couples in Asia to legally wed and proudly updated their Facebook profiles to reflect their married status. Lin also explained how his mother-in-law once feared her son might have to face a future alone because of his sexuality. Now that he is legally married, her fears are put aside.

On October 26, Lin will join the hundreds of thousands expected to march in Taipei pride and celebrate Taiwan’s victory in becoming the first Asian country to recognize same-sex marriage earlier this year.

Lin said the upcoming pride brought feelings of relief and affirmation. "It's a feeling that we finally can be equally-treated, what we have strived for such a long time,” he told The News Lens.

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Photo Source: Gabriel Lin
Gabriel Lin (right) with his husband (left).

Huang Mei-yu and You Ya-ting, who are both 38, famously held a Buddhist wedding ceremony in Taoyuan in 2012. The pair demonstrated their commitment to each other in front of loved one.

But, according to Huang, after they officially registered their marriage in May, their extended family and wider society took their relationship more seriously. The formal recognition of spouse means no one can regard her partner as a mere “friend,” she explained.

Instagram stars Marc Yuan and Shane Lin were the first in line to get married at the Xinyi Household Registration Office in Taipei on May 24.

Shane Lin told The News Lens that he feels Taiwanese society has become more accepting since the law as he sees more same-sex couples holding hands on the street.

The two influencers took to Facebook to share a story of encountering three burly men, who stared at them as they walked along holding hands in a night market. They expected the men to make a homophobic comment, but instead they offered words of encouragement.

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Photo Credit: Rik Glauert
Shane Lin (left) and Marc Yuan (right) are the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Asia on May 24, 2019.
Battle-hardened Newlyweds

In spite of the recent progress, Gabriel Lin was incredibly nervous this time last year. He wanted to counter misinformation spread by conservative groups ahead of the November 2018 referendums on same-sex marriage.

He knew he had to reach outside of his social media echo chamber. Although he couldn’t come out to his parents as gay, he spoke to his sister and other family members to convince them to support LGBT rights.

Despite the efforts of Lin and thousands of LGBT people and allies, Taiwan voted overwhelmingly against changing the country’s Civil Code to grant same-sex couples equal rights in the referendums.

"I was very disappointed and [felt] hopeless,” Lin said. "I didn't dare to ask my parents about their votes.”

Taiwan’s Constitutional Court had in 2017 declared it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, and gave lawmakers a two-year deadline to legislate.

Lin described this ruling as a “beacon in the darkness” that guaranteed rights as Taiwan saw protests, counter-protests, foot dragging in parliament, and toxic referendum campaigns on the issue.

Just in time for the court deadline, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) pushed a same-sex marriage bill through parliament in May 2019.

In line with the referendum results, it introduced a separate law to recognize same-sex unions, rather than changing the Civil Code. The bill included compromises such as minimizing the use of the word “marriage” and denying adoption rights equal to opposite-sex couples.

On May 24, Lin and his partner finally married.. "For us, [marriage] is not just proving our love by the proclamation, but also the substantial right to decide for each other,” Lin explained.

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Photo Credit: Sean Pan / The News Lens
Public celebrations are hosted on Ketagalan Boulevard for same-sex couples who get married in Taipei, Taiwan on May 24, 2019.
Pride and Onward

Lin said that the scariest part of the journey to same-sex marriage was realizing the power of information warfare in Taiwan.

“I think the result of the referendum... showed that the pro-China media still fool Taiwanese people,” he said.

Jennifer Lu from the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan described the referendums as the "biggest challenge in the LGBT movement in Taiwan ever” and warned of its lasting impact.

The referendums exposed the LGBT community to a slew of misinformation in adverts, mainstream press, and online. Among other things, the LGBT community was blamed for falling birthrates and spreading HIV.

The results revealed 70 percent of the electorate disapproved same-sex marriage. Lawmakers and NGOs led calls to protect young LGBT people at risk of depression, self harm, and suicide following the results.

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Photo Credit: CNA
LGBT rights activist Chi Chia-wei (left) attends the first Equality Wedding on May 18, 2019 with Jennifer Lu (right). Chi said he had applied for same-sex marriage 33 years ago and only received the comment, “Homosexuals are all perverts.” Today, same-sex marriage is legalized and the LGBT community will have to keep fighting for adoption rights, cross-national marriage rights, and more.

But, in May, Taiwan’s record-breaking human rights achievement made positive headlines around the world. “After a very intense three years, a lot of our community are hurt physically and mentally, but when the law was passed, it comforted some people,” Lu told The News Lens.

The LGBT community’s hard work was cause for national celebration. In the National Day celebration video, President Tsai Ing-wen included footage of same-sex marriage campaigners to acknowledge their efforts and achievements.

But Lu and other LGBT activists said the marriage law was not the finish line. Aside from the lack of adoption provisions, the legislation also includes no avenue for Taiwanese citizens to marry foreign nationals unless their home country also recognizes same-sex unions.

That is why the theme of this year’s pride in Chinese means "good neighbor." It was chosen to show that the LGBT community is everywhere in Taiwan and, like good neighbors, people should support one another.

READ NEXT: India’s LGBT Community Keeps Fighting Social Stigma Despite Legal Victory

TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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2019 Taiwan Pride: Queerness in Asia:

In May 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, which makes this year’s pride month all the more meaningful for the LGBT community. To celebrate Taiwan's pride month, we're going to cover queer culture and LGBT progress in Taiwan and the rest of Asia.

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