Jaeden Soo (蘇傑登) identifies as queer, transgender, nonbinary and genderfluid — but these are terms they had never heard of growing up.
“In junior high school, I already had classmates who weren’t straight. I knew about that,” they say. “But nobody talked about what transgender people were or what they go through. I never even knew it was an actual option to explore what my gender is.”
There was the term transsexual — which refers to those who desire to change from one gender to another — but that didn’t really work for Soo either: ‘I wasn’t able to identify as anything because there wasn’t the language for it, at least for me at that time.”
It was a long road of self-discovery. Soo told people for the first time they were “nonbinary” — not identifying as either exclusively male or female —- only in 2017, and changed their name and started using they/them pronouns in 2018.
Soo is excited for tonight’s Taiwan Trans March, as it may help people who once struggled like them to feel that they’re not alone.
“The core message is to show people still in the closet and those who are struggling to figure out who they are — or struggling to believe that they might be who they think they are — that they can come and be fully accepted and celebrated,” they say.
The march was started by the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association last year to bring more attention to the issues transgender people face — especially when many simply don’t understand what the term even means.
“Transgender is not just a personal identity, but it also means transcending gender stereotypes,” the event page states. “No matter what gender they identify with, or what type of gender roles and phsyical appearance they present, as long as they don’t fit into the mainstream male/female binary system, they can be a member of the transgender community.”
For those who still find it hard to understand, Soo points out that non-transgender people are also subject to pressure from the binary gender stereotypes: “When women don’t conform to the right kind of femininity, or when men show femininity, they are often deemed an inferior person of that gender,” they say.
With that awareness, “everyone can be an ally to help squash these gender stereotypes,” the event page states.
Soo says that although awareness about transgender people has grown in recent years especially with the popularity of Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳), general visibility for them is still low, which is why they need a march that is centered on them and the isues they face. They recall attending a conference celebrating “LGBTQ inclusion” following the legalization of same-sex marriage, but the entire discussion focused on the “L, G and some B,” they say.
In addition, Soo says most people’s impressions of transgender people remains fixated on the binary — men transitioning to women, or women transitioning to men. The oppression and difficulties these groups, especially trans women, face are harsh and legitimate. Social pressure notwithstanding, people who wish to legally change their gender are required to provide proof that they have undergone surgery to remove their reproductive organs, as well as undergoing assessments by two psychiatrists.
But there are so many identities on the gender spectrum that are just dismissed or misunderstood. In addition, much of the stereotypical focus is placed on the physical transitions when many transgender people cannot afford surgery or simply don’t feel the need to do so.
“I don’t expect people to understand what nonbinary is off the bat,” they say. “But I’m hoping that slowly, as more people know about transgender identities, they’ll just say ‘oh cool, that’s something i didn’t know about before’ instead of questioning it and wanting to debate it with me.”
What: Taiwan Trans March
When: Today at 7pm to 10pm
Where: March begins at Taipei Cinema Park (台北市電影主題公園), 19, Kanging Road, Taipei City (台北市康定路19號)
On the Net: www.facebook.com/events/985231155232097
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