The legislature on Oct. 24 held a public hearing on a draft amendment to the Enforcement Rules for the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法施行細則), and the discussion on how to provide adequate gender equity education to students of all ages made me recall the era before such education.
As a 34-year-old man, I was born in the same year as “Rose Boy” Yeh Yung-chih (葉永鋕), a junior-high student who had been constantly bullied by schoolmates due to his effeminate behavior before he mysteriously died in 2000.
During my junior-high years, LGBT-related information was not available at school, while the rigid and intimidating affective education was all about opposite-sex relationships. In the heterosexual-dominated educational setting of the time, I only knew the word “gay” as a word used to smear others, but did not know what it meant.
Even so, when I had a crush on someone at school for the first time, I could clearly sense that I was a boy who likes boys.
However, this pure affection gradually forced me to face my fears and concerns, which were certainly not caused by my sexual orientation. Rather, they were caused by an inability to find an existence that fit me in the textbooks. Due to the lack of gender equity education, I could not see a possible future in class or at school for me.
When I first received gender equity education years later, I could not help but wonder: Would I be living a happier life if schools had provided “courses on affective education, sex education, different gender, gender characteristics, gender temperaments, gender identity and sexual orientation,” as stated in Article 13 of the enforcement rules? If they had, would those LGBT people who suffer greater fears and concerns than me live more like ordinary people?
According to a survey on sexual violence against LGBT people by the Garden of Hope Foundation, more than 40 percent of LGBT respondents had experienced sexual assault, most frequently in the form of violence and bullying on campus.
Given this problem, the Ministry of Education’s draft amendment to the enforcement rules precisely highlights the areas in which the law should be urgently put into practice.
By clearly defining the coverage of gender equity education, the proposed amendment could reduce the distortion of the enforcement rules caused by rumors, parental concerns and ambiguous gender equity education.
At the same time, it would carry out the intent of the law as defined in Article 1 of the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法): “This act has been formulated in order to advance genuine gender equality, eliminate gender discrimination, safeguard human dignity, and soundly establish education resources and environments that epitomize gender equality.”
For the sake of protecting the human dignity of every child, everyone should be given a correct understanding of the issue from childhood to gradually eliminate gender discrimination, and learn how to embrace themselves and respect and empathize with people’s differences.
By doing so, when children are hurt by the outside world because their gender temperaments and personal behavior do not comply with the stereotyped gender framework, we can catch them when they fall and say: “You did nothing wrong — it is those who hurt you who are wrong.”
We should tell them to be who they are, that we will always be there for them, that they will grow up and that people will love them, because they deserve to be loved.
Chang Ming-hsu is a project manager at the Gender Equity Education Coalition.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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