Personal attacks unproductive
After questions arose about Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) education history, celebrity TV host Li Ching (利菁), who appears to have been Han’s classmate at university, was kind enough to come to his rescue and clarify that Han had in fact attended a course he said he had attended.
As a result, Han’s team pulled some strings and arranged it so that the Kaohsiung Tourism Bureau would invite Li to become one of the city’s tourism ambassadors.
However, in a subsequent interview touching on this series of events, Han, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, inadvertently used the name by which Li was known before her sexual reassignment surgery, an error that has caused quite an uproar.
After online commentators discovered that Li had been offered the chance to be a tourism ambassador for the city in September last year, they unleashed a barrage of negativity about Han and his state of mind, and completely ignored what Li might want to do for Kaohsiung or what she would be promoting, or indeed any other discussion about what is to happen next.
Neither did they ask whether she approved of the mayor’s recent behavior and what he had said. Instead, the focus went straight to attacks on Li’s gender.
Apart from comparisons with Han’s daughter, Han Bing (韓冰), they cast aspersions about Li’s gender and even made jokes about her genitalia and ability to procreate. No attempt was even made to conceal the blatant bullying that was going on.
Personal attacks are not the way forward.
If Han continues to refer to Li by her old name, even after understanding the context of the situation, then there would be reason to accuse him of having an antiquated attitude toward gender issues.
That said, the online commentators showering bile on Han also need to check themselves. Irrespective of one’s politics, Li’s sexual orientation and gender identity should — in a democratic, free Taiwan — be given unconditional support.
It is right for people with different political stances to try to get to the truth of what is going on, but they should also be mindful of the methods through which they do this: They might be the very thing that others have had to fight against their entire lives.
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