Taipei is a Haven For Same-Sex Couples, But What about Trans Visibility?

Words by Seb Morgan

We’re here. We’re queer. But do we all feel accepted? 

Ever since Taiwan first struck out in its fight for marriage equality, it’s been seen as a regional leader in gay and lesbian rights. Last year’s successful passage of Asia’s first same-sex marriage law has allowed activists to turn their attentions to issues like transnational relationships and adoption rights. But while attitudes may be changing toward the LGBTQ+ community, the experiences of people within the community vary considerably. 

“People have a lot of misconceptions about the trans community,” explains Olivia Tsai of queer support network Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, who this week will hold Taiwan’s second-ever Trans Pride March. “Many still don’t recognize the Chinese word for trans (kuà xìngbié 跨性別), or the assume that all trans people want to go through sexual reassignment surgery, which isn’t true.”

In 2010, Tongzhi Hotline set up a dedicated hotline for members of the trans community together with Taiwan Transgender Butterfly Garden. “We’ve seen that over the past decade far more trans people have started coming out in Taiwan,” Olivia explains. “Still, there’s still a lot they have to navigate on a day to day basis.” (You might also like: Here’s the Tea on Taipei’s Sickening Drag Scene)

Many aspects of daily life in Taiwan remain gendered, from public bathrooms to university dormitories to school uniforms. Trans people in Taiwan cannot change their legal gender without undergoing sexual reassignment surgery, which makes these spaces particularly problematic. Seventy percent of Taiwanese trans people feel uncomfortable using a public bathroom, according to Tongzhi Hotline.

“On a day-to-day basis, I think if only people could think differently,” says Chen, a 26-year-old trans woman. Despite being arguably the most liberal-minded country in Asia, traditional gender roles continue to remain embedded in Taiwanese society. ” A lot of people don’t realise that we can all benefit from challenging these gender roles,“ says Olivia.

Changes like that may take some time, but the recent election of Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s first transgender minister, is a sign that real change is starting to happen in Taiwan. “Because of her, people are taking us more seriously,” comments Chen. “She’s demonstrated to everyone that our appearance shouldn’t matter.” (Read more: Gay Couple’s Fatherhood Dreams)

⬆︎Audrey Tang, the current digital minister in Taiwan, is the first transgender minister in Taiwan herstory.

“Audrey is very inspiring and a great supporter of the hotline,“ said Olivia. But for those outside of the trans-community to become more accepting, she argues, it needs far more role models and far greater exposure. 

That’s the logic behind this week’s Trans Pride March, which will be held under the theme “Trans with Us.” In addition to giving trans-people the visibility that they need, Hotline wants the event to show people outside the community that they can express themselves in any way they like, regardless of where it falls on the gender spectrum. (Read also: Nymphia Wind Shares Her Thoughts on Taiwan’s Rising Drag Scene)

“In the long run I’d say Taiwan is definitely headed in a positive direction,” says Olivia. It will likely be some time before the gender-related problems in Taiwanese society are fully addressed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t begin by empowering people to proudly share their authentic selves. “You begin by having vocabulary to express yourself,” says Chen. In that sense, the Taiwan Trans March is setting Taiwan on a journey toward a more loving, more truthful future. 

Support Transgender Event in 2020 in Taiwan

This year’s Taiwan Trans March will take place on Friday October 30, leaving at 7:30pm from 19 Kangding Road, near Ximen MRT station. 

– Route for Taiwan Trans March : Trans With Us

Taipei Cinema Park  臺北市電影主題公園 → Emei Street 峨眉街 → Kunming Street 昆明街 →Hankou Street Section 2 漢口街二段→ Xining South Road 西寧南路 → Chengdu Road 成都路 →Kangding Road 康定路 → Taipei Cinema Park  臺北市電影主題公園

– Dress Code: Pink/White/Blue

More About Taiwan 2020 LGBT Pride

(cover photo: Lena Balk)