Gender Education. Stop Bullying. Give Our Children A Better Future- Joint Press Conference by NGOs
Date: Mar 20, 2017, 10am
Venue: Outside the Judicial Yuan
Host: Jennifer Lu 呂欣潔（General Convener, Marriage Equality Platform 婚姻平權大平台總召）
鄭智偉（Director of Social Work, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline 台灣同志諮詢熱線社工主任）
翁麗淑（Board Member, Taiwan Gender Equality Education Association台灣性別平等教育協會理事）
徐鶯慈（Families for Progressive Values進步教育家庭聯盟）
蔡同學（Volunteer of Education Department, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline台灣同志諮詢熱線教育小組志工）
In an article published in the JAMA Pediatrics this February, researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School found that the legalisation of same-sex marriage in US states has been linked to a drop in suicide attempts among teenagers. Suicide attempts among high school students were found to fall by an average of 7% following the implementation of the legislation, with a 14% drop in suicide attempts among LGBTQ+ teenagers. The authors of the paper concluded that the implementation of same-sex marriage policies reduced adolescent suicide attempts and suggested that policymakers should consider the mental health consequences of same-sex marriage policies.
In Taiwan, the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association and Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association have been on the front line of gender equity and equality education for years, and have seen numerous young lives tormented, bullied and discriminated because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Director of the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association, 鄭智偉, pointed out that in an island-wide survey (《台灣同志壓力處境問卷》) conducted by several LGBT groups in 2012, around 29% of the interviewees had contemplated suicide due to their sexual orientation and 18% of them had attempted suicide. The period of self-harm is concentrated during middle school (59%), and high school (53%). Even in elementary school the number is 15%. Such percentages demonstrate that LGBTQ+ individuals are deprived of information on self-identification during their adolescence, and are powerless in weathering these tough times.
For the last 20 years, the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association has been conducting more than 600 conferences and talks annually. Volunteers from the LGBT Rights Education of the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association have been going to schools all over the island, sharing their own stories and experiences in the hope of reaching out, and encouraging those who felt discriminated against, bullied and isolated, to embrace life. Unfortunately, in these past few years, the Association has been facing an increasingly tough battle due to the strong resistance from some educators who were misinformed and misunderstood about gender equity education, and parents who continue to treat the issue of homosexuality as a taboo. Fearful of parents protesting, many schools and related authorities asked their teachers to not talk about gender equity education. How can this be allowed to happen in a country that has always prided itself on being the most progressive country in Asia in terms of gender equity? The Director stressed his hope that Executive Yuan would see the importance of the issue of marriage equality and demonstrate to the next generation that gender (identity) equality is an important value.
In 2011, a middle school student, Yang, from Lujiang Junior High School took his own life when he was severely bullied because of his gender identity. A teacher from the same junior high school, 翁麗淑, felt deeply that even though the Gender Equity Education Act has been enacted,and even though all students now have to undergo 4 hours of the gender equity education program, this is still insufficient to atone for the loss of a life. After 13 years of the Gender Equity Education Act, this is one bitter truth that we have to confront. Unless the value and acceptance of gender equity is elevated to a national level (rather than just within schools and campuses), we can’t save all the children who were hurt with all those empty gender-friendly figures. In view of the current discussions on marriage equality in the legislature and constitutional domain, Teacher 翁 hopes that both the legislators and constitutional interpreters are mindful that the creation of a civil partnership law will only further alienate and divide the society. In addition to emphasizing that the country should amend its civil law as soon as possible so that the same-sex marriage can be legalized, the Taiwan Gender Equality Education Association also urged the government to remedy the sufferings of the sexual minorities, either through school or societal education, and to re-examine the 12-year compulsory education syllabus to incorporate real and tangible resources to ensure gender equity education.
Currently doing her Masters in Soochow University’s Human Rights Program, 蔡 does not conform to a binary gender expression, and identifies as queer. The bullying that she faced growing up was neither physical nor verbal. It was isolation. “No one wanted to be in a group with me for assignments. I didn’t get any support when I voiced my opinions. Sometimes I was even boycotted. No one wanted to share a room with me during my graduation trip. During arguments, no one would stand by me whether I was in the right or the wrong. I didn’t have any friends. I had only myself.” As she grew up, she began to know and understand herself better. Only then did she manage to free herself from self-condemnation and self-blaming. Through the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association, she now devotes herself to helping other children from ever feeling lonely again. Yet during these times, many people have trivialized and discredited the struggles and sufferings of those conflicted with their sexual identity and/or sexual orientation. Rejecting Gender Equity Education in the name of protecting our children, they are causing pain, over and over again, to these unprotected children who are different from their peers. The government’s inaction is the straw that finally broke the camel’s back in Gender Equity Education. Based on the falsehood and misinformation propagated by anti-gay groups, the National Academy for Educational Research, who oversees the development of educational materials, has even asked textbook publishers to remove almost all information of the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT) Hotline Association, which is the lifeline of most LGBTQ+ students. By not lifting a finger, the government is the willing accomplice of discrimination and bullying, and inflicts damage far more maliciously than through ignorance.
徐鶯慈 from Families for Progressive Values said that she never really thought about the issue of LGBTQ+ rights before having children. After she had her child, she started to think about the pain her child might suffer if they were LGBTQ+, and the discrimination and bullying her child may have to endure. For the love of her child, she decided to stand up and work with parents who support pluralistic education to form a group called Families for Progressive Values. Through this group, they hope to reach out to those in society and parents who are mobilized by fear with the following message: To be really good to our children, we need to provide them with a safe haven that is our home. We need to create a society that does not discriminate or segregate. A society that lets them be free to be who they want to be. Thus, they hope that the government and constitutional interpreters who will be ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage could recognize the effect such laws have on society, and allow the marriage equality law to be passed.
Organized by 婚姻平權大平台 (Marriage Equality Platform), many professional opinions and papers supporting marriage equality will be presented to the Judicial Yuan at the end of today’s press conference, before the start of the Constitutional Court session. In several of the professional papers that were completed, including those from the field of clinical psychology, psychiatry, and psychology, they pointed out the damage and misery inflicted upon sexual and gender minorities by the spread of homophobic speeches, and the segregation caused by civil partnership. These papers will be presented to the Judicial Yuan with the hope that during the judge’s deliberations, they will be mindful of the social responsibility the law has and the impact it may have on society. The public will also be able to read these professional papers online (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3VCSlNa6ze7ZEFJejh0SnNCV0k?usp=sharing).
News contact person:
呂欣潔 General Convener, Marriage Equality Platform 0912-214-321 firstname.lastname@example.org
鄧筑媛 Legislation Lobbying Project Manager, Marriage Equality Platform 0919275115 email@example.com
(Translation: Alexis Goh; Editing: Marika Tait)
(Photo credit: Hannah Fazio)