TAIPEI TIMES 2011/6/15
The rainbow flag that just won’t fly
By Wang Ping 王蘋
Draft amendments to the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) completed their third reading and were given final approval in the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday last week. The amendments explicitly define sexual bullying as verbal or physical attacks, or other forms of violence, to deprecate, assault, threaten or harass others in non-sexual ways on the basis of their gender characteristics, gender disposition, sexuality or gender identity.
Therefore, in the future, people could be accused of sexual bullying if they call someone a “damn homo,” a “sissy” or “butch,” or say that someone “talks like a girl.” The act also stipulates that if a school staff member fails to report within 24 hours any suspected cases of sexual assault or sexual bullying at school, they will be fined between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000 for the first offense, and if they don’t report a case when a similar incident occurs a second time, or they attempt to conceal it, they will lose their job.
There is no hurry to feel overjoyed about the passage of this sexual bullying legislation, because although it superficially appears to protect the rights of the vulnerable, it is actually based solely upon authoritative parenting, which attempts to teach and guide children with “house rules,” telling them not to speak in vulgarities or behave badly. Once this occurs, all transsexuals, masculine females and effeminate males will eventually become “vulgar,” and schools will be turned into comprehensive monitoring systems that supervise everyone’s speech and conduct, reducing schools to policing agencies. These amendments have already been passed and are likely to have negative consequences.
The True Love Alliance has submitted a petition calling on the Ministry of Education to cease teaching about homosexuality in schools as required in the Gender Equity Education Act. The ministry let itself be bullied on this one, by public opinion, putting the brakes on its plans to introduce lessons on homosexuality in elementary and junior-high schools. The legislature, however, persevered with the sexual bullying legislation. Now people found calling others “sissies” will be liable to a substantial fine and required to attend gender education classes.
How ironic this is, because as the situation stands, schools will not be educating pupils about homosexuality, but if they are found to sexually bully homosexuals, they will be fined and forced to take gender education classes in which, presumably, homosexuals will never even be discussed.
Issues relating to homosexuality must be taught properly so children are not led to believe that the terms that have been stigmatized are dirty words. The lessons should promote an open-minded attitude that embraces the beauty of diversity in such a way that it can be practically applied in everyday life. Teaching about gender diversity is far more important than banning specific words. We certainly should not allow public opinion born of prejudice to obstruct schools from teaching children this.
The best way to combat sexual bullying is to heighten understanding about homosexuals, to demystify them. Otherwise, we are simply pushing homosexuals further into the proverbial closet and creating taboos around them.
Discriminatory language derives its power from its usage: the more we shy away from using it, the more powerful it becomes. Thus, if we want to reverse stigma and dissipate discrimination, we must make it part of everyday vocabulary, so that it is no longer taboo and finally loses that i-ndefinable -power to terrorize.
Destigmatization and self-empowerment are not going to come from shutting people up in a sanitized reservation. Placing something out of sight and out of mind is not the same thing as removing the stigma surrounding it. It is just hiding it away.
Everyone has something to offer, the masculine females and effeminate men, and the transsexuals are no exception. When they feel they can look people in the eye and be proud of themselves, then we can say that society has at long last developed the ability to embrace and appreciate beauty in all its diversity.
We will not accept a society that prevents people from expressing themselves in what they say and how they act, or one in which people refuse to listen to or see what they don’t want to hear or see. We hope that people of all genders can behave naturally in schools without fear of being treated maliciously and without the need for special protection of any kind. It will be at that moment that the rainbow flag, a symbol of the coexistence of sexual diversity, can finally fly freely.
Wang Ping is the secretary-general of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association Taiwan.
TRANSLATED BY KYLE JEFFCOAT