Love Wins in Taiwan, the Heart of East Asia – Yu-Jen Dai

This, our first post for Pride Month, is a dazzling mix of LGBTQ and gender issues, Asian Christian identity, global Lutheranism, as well as education about one of the world’s most distinct cultures and nations: Taiwan. To say much more would be to give away too much, so we will just end with a sincere ‘thank-you’ to our author, Evangeline (Yu-Jen) Dai for her time – and all the rest of you? Read, comment, and share!

Francisco Herrera, PhD student and Interim Blog Editor


lutheran queer

I do not like politics, but I have to say this:

My home country, Taiwan, is an independent country that has been oppressed by the Chinese government on many international occasions.

Taiwan has its own government, president, currency, and constitution; people in Taiwan can vote; the passport of Taiwan is green, not red (scarlet) as China… Taiwan is an independent country, not a province of China.

Why does this matter for the PRIDE Month?

Because Taiwan is the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage (see: Wikipedia, PBS, or Google it for more).

map asia

I would say the climax of its legalizing process came along the way of my first year of seminary.

Not only for same-sex marriage, but Taiwan has also been working on gender equity as well. In my first semester of seminary, I took a Christian Ethics course, and my group presentation topic was “cisgender privilege” and how to interrupt the systemic injustice of that privilege. Through my research, I found out that during the 5 years since I left Taiwan, radical movements for gender equity in Taiwan were vigorous – most importantly because of the government’s support.

All-gender restrooms were set in many public places. The Gender Equity Education Act has been revised many times when a new need emerged. I have to say, to faster confront systematic injustice, my government’s ruling would be sufficient. Taiwan is a democratic country, but individualism is not a thing, most people will follow the rules even unwillingly. Wearing uniforms in school is a tradition in Taiwan, binary one as girls are forced to wear skirts; now some schools break that tradition and allow boys to wear skirts, and they really did, in order to show inclusion for gender diversity.

senior high
New Taipei Municipal Panchiao Senior High School, Taiwan

On 24 May 2017, the Constitutional Court of Taiwan ruled that the then-current marriage law was unconstitutional and that the constitutional right to equality and freedom of marriage guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry as well (Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748). Political opposition to this legislation tried to fight and request a popular vote, then in November 2018, the Taiwanese electorate passed referendums to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriages in the Civil Code and to restrict teaching sex education with LGBT issues. I remember I was so sad and hid myself in the room crying. My classmates understood I was having a hard time and they were very supportive for me.

gay taiwan

The sad part of it was that many groups oppose same-sex marriage using the Bible and Christian faith to support their ideas. They made most people believe Christian = anti-gay. But this creates hatred and is not helpful in bring people to Christ… Thankfully, there are still some affirming Christians who work very hard to show the real inclusive love of God to people.

After the vote, the Government responded by confirming that the Court’s ruling would be implemented and that the referendums could not support laws contrary to the Constitution. On May 17, 2019, the Legislative Yuan approved the same-sex marriage bill; on the same day, after heavy rains, a rainbow showed up in the sky, people posted the rainbow photos and said even God approves the bill. The bill took effect on 24 May 2019.

presidential
Presidential Office Building of Taiwan with the rainbow on May 17, 2019. From Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen‘s Facebook page

However, this did not bring the fight to an end.

The legislation for same-sex marriage only applies to the couples that all both from the countries permit same-sex marriage. Many same-sex couples have a partner in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, etc. these couples are still not able to get married. So the next level of activism is to advocate change for full inclusion, so the partners of Taiwanese citizens from other parts of Asia can get married and apply for naturalization in Taiwan.

gay protest

Now, allow me to share something interesting from my cultural background. There are different Chinese characters and phrases for the English word “marry” shows the gender roles in ancient Chinese tradition:

1. For females’ action to marry a man is 嫁 (Jià), which is combined by two words: 女 (, means female, girl, or woman) at the left and 家 (Jiā, means home, family) at the right — for a woman to get married is making the woman have a new home. Another explanation is “a woman can only form her own home after she gets married.”

woman

2. For males’ action to marry a woman is 娶 (), which is combined by two words: 取 (, means to obtain, to acquire, to receive, etc.) at the top and 女 (, means female, girl, or woman) at the bottom — for a man to get married is taking a woman.

man

3. A common phrase for all genders is 結婚, which means to establish/conclude a wedding/marriage. However, the first word 結 (Jié) is the verb, that means to establish/conclude, the second word 婚 (Hūn) is a noun, which means marriage. Most same-sex couples will use this phrase as the verb for their marriage.

The Chinese characters for marriage “婚” “姻” content the element 女 (, means female, girl, or woman). What could that mean? Is it a good thing or a bad thing to emphasize women in the “traditional marriage” (a term frequently used by Chinese users)? Actually, similar to ancient Israel, in ancient China, women have no right of themselves, but as goods that men would take the women home.

As a result, I found it problematic for same-sex gay couples to use these words for marriage. I asked some gay friends in Taiwan that how do they feel about it, they kind of just accept it; unless they want to use restrained classical Chinese to say “get married”: 成親 (Chéng Qīn) which literally means “become relatives/in-laws” but have been used as “get married.” But this phrase only exists in historical dramas and novels, we don’t use it in contemporary speech.

From this example, we can see how heterosexism has dominated the world and how women have been suppressed in this culture for so long, and we know better that there are more cultures and traditions which think similarly.

We are lucky to live in a world that is more open and just for gender equity and sexual justice, yet we have a lot of work to do. In some corners of the world, our siblings are still being discriminated against.

We shout, we pray, and we hope. One day, there will be no more tears…

For Taiwan, the first female president was elected and served since 2016; she was just re-elected for the term of 2020 to 2024.

Let us pray:

Eternal God, we thank you for the multi-colored rainbow that reminds us of your covenant with all. Help us learn to see the beauty and dignity in the colors of all people, as we see the beauty in the colors of the rainbows. Let all the world celebrate every person you created in your image; with faith, not with fear; with hope, not with despair; with love, not with hate. Heal all who are wounded, grant us the courage to continue proclaiming the gospel with diversity and inclusion.

We pray in the name of Christ, Amen.


evangeline

Evangeline (Yu-Jen) Dai is a MDiv student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of CLU, a candidate for Word and Sacrament ministry with TX-LA Gulf Coast synod. She was born and grew up in Taiwan, converted to Christianity in 2013, moved to the US (Houston) in 2014, joined Faith Lutheran Church, Bellaire, TX in 2015, and moved to Berkeley for seminary in Fall 2018. Evangeline likes arts, graphic design, and crafting. She has a YouTube channel as a side ministry for music videos featuring ELW hymns sung in Mandarin; she also translates contemporary hymns from English to Chinese or vice versa. Embracing diversity and advocating for minority are her passion; except gospels, her favorite Bible verse is Galatians 3:28.

2 thoughts on “Love Wins in Taiwan, the Heart of East Asia – Yu-Jen Dai

  1. Deborah Whittington

    This is a beautifully written essay on progress in Taiwan for marriage equality. So many people consider learning new, more inclusive words just “political correctness.” But this is the talk of “dominant-culture privilege,” and is a deflection designed to avoid understanding or compassion for the marginalized of society. It is a very good time to have these discussions, since we seem to be at a crossroads in America. There is a vast movement of people from the dominant-culture finally willing to listen and to see the “othered” as their anguished siblings, and who are willing to advocate for the changes that will heal us all.

    Liked by 1 person

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