On May 24th, 2017, a Taipei court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, paving the way for Taiwan to become the first nation in Asia to legalize same-sex unions.
Besides being a milestone for Taiwanese LGBT activists who have been fighting for decades for marriage equality, this will inspire other activist in the region to fight for their rights. For too long, the argument against same-sex relations was that it was a “Western” thing, a product of foreign influence and something that is not compatible with centuries of tradition. But as we look back into our histories, we found out that LGBTs in our histories do exist. They have merely been hidden (sometimes deliberately), rewritten or forgotten.
But this is not about the history of LGBTs in Asia. There are countless articles written by scholars and rediscovered by activists who want the regular person to know that they have existed all along.
Why this is important for the United States? Isn’t same-sex marriage legal already?
The Census in 2016 showed Asians as the fastest-growing racial group in the United States. Ignoring the problematic fact that this umbrella group includes a geographic area that covers 70 percent of the Earth, there is a significant amount of LGBT Asians who have come of age in the United States, living in the intersection of their Asian and LGBT identities.
I have had the privilege of working with Asian parents of LGBTs through the work of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance by hosting Family Acceptance workshops, spaces where these amazing parents can share the stories of their journey towards acceptance of their children. Their conflicts do not just include crises of faith like many other PFLAG parents. They also include crises of heritage – the idea that back in their “motherlands,” their children would not be accepted for who they are.
In 2012, a report came out that one in five of the Taiwan’s LGBT residents have attempted suicide. In 2017 in Shanghai, parents of LGBT singles were kicked out by police from a notorious “Marriage Market.” In Indonesia, a gathering of 3000 hardliners called for the stoning to death or flogging of the waria, or transgender.
Marriage is one thing. Changing hearts is another. My hope is that as there are more wedding banquets for same-sex couples, and greater visibility of the issues affecting LGBTs “back home,” hearts will change to accept same-sex couples and marriage as part of their way of life, that yes, it can be complementary, instead to contrary, to the centuries-old way of life.
Stan Fong is an Atlanta resident and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. To submit an editorial to Georgia Voice, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.