Even though the families of Alex Chio (邱亮士) and Joe Tsao (曹朝卿) have accepted their sexuality, the couple still haven’t told most of their loved ones that they are getting married.
“I have a strong sense of pride and I don’t want to get hurt by their reaction,” Tsao says. “My mother would probably say: ‘That’s your business, do what makes you happy.’”
Chio is certain that his aunt, who he sees as a parental figure, will support his decision. But he also has reservations.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
“I’m not worried that she’ll react negatively,” he says. “But accepting my sexuality doesn’t mean understanding it. I don’t want to be asked a bunch of insensitive questions. Most homosexuals are very sensitive since they’ve been marginalized from a young age, and we inevitably have higher expectations toward the ones we’re closest to.”
Eleven years after they started dating, Chio and Tsao will be among the first same-sex couples in Taiwan to register their marriage after the Legislative Yuan passed the Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748 (司法院釋字第748號解釋施行法) last Friday, setting Taiwan on the course to become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, which takes effect on Friday.
There are 254 couples who have made reservations to register their marriage, with 139 of them in Taipei. On Saturday, Chio and Tsao will attend the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights’ (台灣伴侶權益推動聯盟, TAPCPR) 160-table mass wedding banquet on Ketagalan Boulevard.
Photo courtesy of TAPCPR
“It still feels a bit ridiculous to get married just because we can,” Tsao says. “But I’m upset that my human rights were denied for so long. Part of why I’m doing this is so that the government sees the numbers and knows that there is such a need.”
Chio and Tsao say their decision to marry was largely pragmatic; neither of them had anticipated a romantic wedding simply because it was never an option.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
“People often ask me if I’m an activist because I want to get married so badly,” Chio says. “The point is to obtain the right to do so, and enjoy legal protection and benefits as a married couple. At this point, the romantic notion of getting married to prove our love ... is a totally separate issue. Of course, we recognize each other as ‘that person,’ but I’ve never felt a need to get married to prove it. In any event, we couldn’t in the past anyway.”
Though Chio and Tsao are happy to be getting married, they think that promoting gender equity education in schools is more important. While their families appear to be tolerant, they feel that tolerance is not enough.
Tsao’s mother rarely invites him to family functions out of fear that relatives will ask him why he isn’t married. While he came out to her long ago and she’s met all his long-term boyfriends, she’s refused to meet Chio’s aunt. She also turned down his invitation to the mass banquet.
Chio says that most people who don’t come in contact with the LGBT community only see the flamboyant costumes and behavior during the gay parade. It’s important, he says, to show them that there are homosexuals from all walks of life.
His aunt completely changed her attitude after his god-sister, who worked with him at banking giant JP Morgan, explained that the company has many LGBT employees and holds events to support equality.
“There’s no point talking human rights,” he says. “You show that even such a prestigious corporation supports LGBT rights because it’s natural. It’s not shameful, nor will it affect my career. Celebrities coming out and corporations supporting the cause is crucial,” he adds, noting that a gay friend’s mother suddenly changed her views after watching popular talk show host Kevin Tsai (蔡康永) crying on television after discussing his experiences as a gay man.
Tsao understands that his mother comes from a different era, but even his elder sister believed at one point that homosexuality was a choice. These days, he’s been sharing more with his other sister, who is a high school teacher.
“She’s the one who can influence the next generation. That’s what really can change society’s opinion and reduce discrimination,” he says.
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