Sun, Feb 06, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Lesbian publisher shuns official ratings system

CATEGORY CONFUSION Must Muster Publishing says its books have nothing to do with the issues which led the government to dream up its new measures

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Shrugging off the government's policy of rating publications for their sexual content, Must Muster Publishing, the first lesbian books publisher to join the upcoming Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) said that there wouldn't be "R" labels or seals on their books, most of which concern lesbian issues and contain sexual language.

"Our books focus on various issues of lesbianism. Sex only makes up a small part and is touched on only slightly. Since the contents contain nothing restricted, we will not label the books, nor have them sealed," said Must Muster's Director Jadehare Lin (林寒玉).

According to the Measure Governing the Rating Systems of Publications and Pre-recorded Video Programs, which officially took effect last Dec. 1, restricted publications should be sealed and carry a label on the cover reading "R rated: Not available for those 18 or under."

Drawing a deluge of criticism from the publishing industry, which described the rating system as "harsh" and "vaguely defined," the Government Information Office (GIO) has delayed the issuance of fines for violations until July 1 this year.

Lin said that they have never labeled or sealed their books since the publisher opened five years ago. Unless the GIO imposes specific censorship on gay and lesbian publications, the publisher has decided to ignore the regulations of the new rating system, according to Lin.

The publisher's decision to join the TIBE received a lot of support from gay and lesbian groups. Director of public affairs from the Taiwanese Tongzhi Hotline Association Ashley Wu (巫緒樑), lauded the move for raising awareness of gay and lesbian issues.

J.J. Lai (賴正哲), owner of Gin Gin (晶晶書店), a Taipei bookstore specializing in gay and lesbian literature, said that he admired Must Muster's courage in joining the TIBE.

"For independent publishers and bookstores, especially gay and lesbian ones, joining big book exhibitions like the TIBE require a lot of effort with limited human and financial resources," Lai said.

Besides financial concerns, Gin Gin's failure to include the term "publisher" when registering their business, has kept the bookstore, which opened in January 1999, from joining the TIBE, which limits participants to publishers, according to Lai.

Founded in 2000, Must Muster, the only publisher specializing in lesbian literature, will be the first gay and lesbian publisher ever to join the TIBE in its 13-year history, the publisher said.

Financial difficulties made the publisher shun the TIBE in the past. Although the publisher is still carrying debt, Lin said that it was time for the company and lesbians to share their publications and culture with the public in an international forum.

"Through about 40 lesbian-themed books from more than 20 lesbian writers, we aim to establish a rainbow bridge to communicate with the public, and generate academic and cultural exchanges on lesbian issues," Lin said.

Several lesbian writers from the publisher said that writing helped them to share their experience of being a lesbian and embrace themselves.

"I think as lesbians, many of us have gone through a period of self-denial. By writing down these countless struggles, I learned to accept myself and invite others to enter my world," said Echo Lin (林美貞), a freelance writer who works in a technology company.

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