Among the 10 referendums that were held alongside the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections were five connected with LGBT issues. The three “pro-family” proposals gained considerably more votes than the two pro-LGBT ones.
The results mark a setback for equal marriage rights and gender-equality education, but in the words of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙): “The work of the revolution is not yet done. Let all our comrades strive on.”
Taiwanese still have much work to do.
The African-American civil rights movement came to the fore in the 1950s, but not until 1968 did it achieve the abolition of the US’ century-old racial segregation laws.
The women’s equality movement in the US started in the second half of the 19th century, but not until 1920 did the US Congress confirm women’s right to vote.
Even today, the specters of racial discrimination and male chauvinism linger. It is a history of shifting cultural paradigms.
The gender equality movement in Taiwan could be said to have started 18 years ago after the death of “rose boy” Yeh Yung-chih (葉永鋕) or 20 years ago when the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association was founded.
In historical terms, Taiwan’s gender equality movement has only just begun.
That Taiwanese voters were able to express their opinions about marriage rights and gender-equality education via direct democracy in the form of referendums, and that LGBT-friendly proposals gained the support of more than 3 million voters — despite the two sides having very unequal resources — make this event a remarkable milestone.
As for the local government election results, they show that the issue of unification versus independence within the traditional pan-blue versus pan-green camp framework is cooling down as people start to prioritize policy issues related to the economy and livelihood.
The retreat of blue and green ideologies heralds the next round of civil issues.
A cultural war — if that is not too dramatic a term — is looming between suspicion and conservatism on the one hand, and human rights and progress on the other.
The social confrontation that has just taken place between supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, and the big differences in the numbers of votes cast either way, show that there are huge gaps on this issue between generations, and between urban and rural.
With the population tending toward conservationism, gender-equality supporters need to break out of their comfort zone.
This can only be done by fighting rumors with facts through social education, so they must keep up their efforts to communicate and persuade.
The democracy movement also began in an atmosphere of ignorance. It had to dispel layer upon layer of suspicion and obstacles so that it could march step-by-step toward today’s impressive achievements.
Social workers often say that social work aims to eliminate itself. When it no longer exists, it will mean that society is nearing a state of harmony.
The work of advocating gender equality also aims to eliminate itself by achieving an ideal state of real gender equality.
Let us thank the 3 million people who supported the LGBT-friendly referendum proposals and the nearly 7 million who voted either way.
These things will long be remembered.
“Faith” and “perseverance” are not just words.
Love and tolerance are what make us great.
Teng Ming-hung is a lecturer at Yilan Community University.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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