This year, Boston Taiwanese for Equality marched in the Boston Pride Parade for a second year. The diversity, love, resilience, and solidarity displayed at the parade reaffirm our individuality, and inspire us to continue to build a more fair and inclusive world. This spirit applies not only to supporting our LGBTQ community, but also to supporting our beloved country, Taiwan.
Boston Taiwanese for Equality is a group comprised of students and professionals from Greater Boston who support equal rights of minorities in both Taiwan and the US. Last year, members gathered petitions from Taiwanese residents in Boston to support referenda strengthening LGBTQ rights in Taiwan. Members also volunteered in the “Yes on 3” campaign to advocate for transgender rights in Massachusetts.
On May 17, 2019, Taiwan made history in Asia by becoming the first country in the continent to legalize same-sex marriage. This happens to be exactly 15 years after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, the first state in the U.S. to do so. This makes our attendance at the Boston Pride this year especially meaningful. In addition to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the group also is celebrating Taiwan’s monumental victory. Like in every other country, this achievement was a result of persistent outreach, dialogue, and advocacy. We as Massachusetts residents are keenly aware of what “equality” could look like, and how work must continue to enshrine values that are important to us.
The first of its kind in Asia, Taiwan’s landmark legislation has started a ripple effect and reinvigorated marriage equality movements in Japan and Korea. While we applaud this accomplishment, we must recognize that such a change would not have been possible outside of the liberal, democratic, and free-thinking environment that currently exists in Taiwan because of its de-facto independence.
As a nascent democracy that only held its first direct presidential election in 1996, Taiwan has made impressive strides in human rights over the last thirty years, from the decriminalization of political dissidents to a major push in transitional justice, making reparations to victims of past political persecution. Taiwan has demonstrated progressive thinking on gender issues in ways that the U.S. could use as an example. 38% of legislators in Taiwan’s parliament are women, compared to 24% in the current U.S. Congress. Buildings equipped with breastfeeding rooms are commonplace. The current Taiwanese president is female. Despite being excluded from participating in international organizations including the UN, Taiwan has voluntarily committed to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include gender equality and equal access to health, education, and employment for all. However, this progress continues to be threatened by the fact that the People’s Republic of China, whose regime suppresses dissent and activism of any kind, falsely claims Taiwan as its own territory. China also pressures other countries to deny Taiwan a voice on the international stage.
Current mainstream media discourse on U.S.-Taiwan relations has focused on trade, arms sales and military cooperation, portraying Taiwan narrowly as a strategic ally in the heightened US-China economic and political competition. But for people who live in Taiwan and those in the US who care about progressive values, our connection with Taiwan runs much deeper. The current narratives do not reflect what Taiwan, on its own, stands for. What makes Taiwan unique and deserving of our support is not just its geopolitical importance or its purchasing power, but rather a resilient spirit of an open, vibrant society striving to be visible, be heard, and assert its identity. The US currently has laws stipulating mechanisms to maintain peace and stability in Taiwan, to us, this should extend beyond military support. Just as important is protecting freedom of expression, the right to dissent, and the right to self-determination.
If you consider yourself a progressive, take a moment to learn about the issues facing Taiwan and see how closely they align with your vision of a fair and equitable world. If you do not want to see social progress rolled back in Asia, stand with Taiwan—recognize Taiwan as a partner in equality and not just as an appendage of U.S.-China relations.
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