“It was a weird feeling for me, as if I was going through a transition to become a female, which I genetically am. But it literally took me a year to make that mental transition,” Chiu says.
They eventually broke up, and one of the reasons his/her partner gave Chiu was that s/he was “too much like a man.”
“It made me feel that I had an unqualified body and that I couldn’t be a gay woman because I wasn’t really a woman. When I found the lesbian community, I thought ‘finally, here is a place for me in the world.’ But then I felt nowhere to go again,” Chiu says.
Then s/he saw the movie in 2008, which led her/him to the Organization Intersex International (OII), a global advocacy group for people with intersex variations.
“I knew right away that I had finally found what I had been searching for,” the activist says. In the same year, Chiu quietly set up the Organization Intersex International — Chinese (OII-Chinese, 國際陰陽人組織 — 中文版). By using the derogatory, archaic Chinese term Yinyangren (陰陽人, literally: hermaphrodite) for the intersex people, Chiu hopes to draw attention to and reverse the negative association with being abnormal and a shame to one’s family, and highlight the sense of fluidity connoted in the idea of yin and yang that transcends the male-female binary.
“We are traditionally known as yinyangren, and we have suffered as a result of that labeling. So how do we recognize our own kind if we call ourselves another name?” says Chiu, who is currently a doctoral candidate at Shu-te University’s Graduate school of Human Sexuality.
In 2010, Chiu visited several intersex advocates while in the US, including OII founder Curtis Hinkle and Hida Viloria, director of the OII-USA. It turned out to be an empowering experience. Upon returning to Taiwan, Chiu decided it was time for her/him to go public and launched the ongoing Free Hugs campaign at the LGBT Pride Parade in Taipei to make the non-intersex majority open their mind and eyes to the existence of intersex people, in an effort to raise awareness and promote acceptance.
“To us, to love and be loved doesn’t come easily. People think we are abnormal; we are kept hidden by our parents,” Chiu says.
“Many of us are afraid to get into a relationship because we are afraid to show our bodies, to be seen as freaks.”
In Taiwan, Chiu’s coming out in the public eye in 2010 marks the beginning of the country’s intersex movement. So far, less than 10 intersex individuals have joined her/his organization, and Chiu’s campaign remains largely a one-person operation. It comes as little surprise to the activist since intersex individuals probably have little understanding of their intersexuality or are reluctant to be labeled as intersex in an unaccepting society.
Nevertheless, Chiu has continued to hold lectures, talks and other events across the country in the hope of increasing the knowledge about the human rights and social situations of intersex people.
Wang Hsiu-yun (王秀雲), an associate professor at National Cheng Kung University’s Department of Medicine, echoes Chiu’s sentiment, stressing that facilitating understanding is the first step in eliminating harmful assumptions and biases.