Thirty-one-year-old legislator-elect Huang Jie (黃捷) said in an interview that her election win as Taiwan’s first openly homosexual lawmaker represents progress.
“I hope [my election] will bring courage to many people as I’ve demonstrated I’ve done it standing on the front line,” said Huang, who is to be sworn in as a lawmaker today.
However, she said that her journey to the Legislative Yuan has not always been easy, as she has been the target of discrimination over her LGBTQ identity and has faced distrust from voters due to her age.
Photo: Lee Hui-chou, Taipei Times
So to be elected in the Jan. 13 poll over more established rivals for a lawmaker seat representing Kaohsiung was a surprise.
“I find it incredible. I feel that politics is a field full of surprises and there are many unexpected changes,” Huang told reporters in a telephone interview.
The former journalist and legislative aide entered politics in 2018 when she was elected to the city council on the New Power Party ticket.
She later quit the party and successfully ran for re-election as an independent city councilor in 2022.
After joining the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in August last year, Huang was enlisted to replace an incumbent lawmaker who withdrew his candidacy over an extramarital affair.
“I had only 70 days to campaign after I was nominated, and I had to overcome a lot of challenges and difficult conditions,” she said. “I was not running in my own constituency and there were questions about my young age with just five years in politics.”
Some political commentators also predicted that Huang had “a very slim chance [of winning] due to my sexual orientation” as there are some church and anti-gay groups in her constituency.
Campaigning in Kaohsiung was a whirlwind of visiting temples and markets — sometimes with higher-profile DPP stalwarts such as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — to meet with voters.
Calling her win a “positive outcome,” she believes her election reflects “certain progress in Taiwan’s society.”
However, it has not always been smooth sailing since she embarked on a political career at the age of 25, she said.
“I was seen as a kid [to voters] with insufficient social experiences,” she said. “My age made people uneasy and caused distrust.”
In 2021, Huang survived a vote to oust her from the city council.
“The groups that launched the recall distributed flyers ... to vilify and mock me. Online comments were even more extreme, such as being gay is like being mentally ill,” she said.
For her legislative campaign, criticism about her sexual identity remained largely in online echo chambers, she said.
“Taiwan’s society is progressive to a certain degree that if these remarks are too discriminatory, they will... be deemed unacceptable,” she added.
Huang is among 47 women who make up nearly 42 percent of the 113-seat legislature — about the same percentage as the last legislative session.
That figure looks good on paper, but she believes there is a lot of room for improvement.
“There are many obstacles for women political workers. Politics is a masculine world and our gender is a disadvantage as ... it’s harder for women to gain trust” of supporters, she said.
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