Mon, Jun 04, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Education key to end menace of homophobia

By Cheng Chi-wei 鄭智偉

After losing her 26-year-old daughter, entertainer Chu Hui-chen (朱慧珍) held a press conference on May 24, where — filled with love and sorrow — she announced her daughter, who had committed suicide, was a lesbian. On behalf of millions of Taiwanese homosexuals, I want to tell Chu: “We love you!”

Studies have shown that the suicide rate among both adolescent and adult homosexuals is high compared with equivalent heterosexual groups. However, if we interpret this as evidence that homosexuals have a higher tendency to commit suicide, we would be ignoring the oppression of and discrimination against homosexuals that is a result of modern social structures.

According to research undertaken by sexologist Alfred Kinsey in the mid-20th century, about 10 percent of men and 4 percent of women are homosexual. In addition, the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health conducted in the late 20th century showed that 7.3 percent of male adolescents and 5 percent of female adolescents were attracted to members of their own sex. An anonymous survey conducted by Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School in 2000 showed that of 3,492 valid responses, 4.1 percent identified themselves as homosexual, 7.2 percent as bisexual and 1.2 percent said they were uncertain about their sexuality.

If we assume the homosexual population accounts for 10 percent of the total, then about 2.3 million of Taiwan’s 23 million people may be gay. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has boasted that Taiwan is one of Asia’s most advanced countries in terms of gender equity. However, during his time in power, no concrete measures to promote the equal rights of homosexuals have been implemented and we lack a same-sex partnership or marriage law and an anti-discrimination law.

The term “homosexuals” refers not only to gays, but also to a diversity of lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. Due to long-term stigmatization and ignorance, many homosexuals hide their sexuality because they worry about letting down their parents and facing discrimination.

In our daily lives, we are taught about (heterosexual) love by the media, schools, literature and our families.

Take television for example. Almost all prime-time programming and soap operas focus on the love between men and women. Homosexuals mainly appear in sensational social news or in stereotypical roles.

Traditional pressure often continue even after a homosexual dies. When a transsexual person passes away, their parents often insist their child be dressed and addressed according to their birth sex. For example, dressing a transsexual woman in a man’s suit at her funeral and addressing her as “mister,” despite the fact she made every effort during her lifetime to be treated as a woman.

Despite her grief, Chu chose to make public her daughter’s sexual orientation. She also blamed herself, saying that since she had not learned the “lesson of love” well, she failed to teach her daughter. However, it was not Chu’s fault: Society as a whole, the media and our schools have never provided adequate support and resources for homosexuals and their families. Even the Ministry of Education — which originally planned to promote homosexual equity education in primary schools according to the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) last year — had to back down following protests from conservative groups.

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