Taipei Film Activity – January, 2017
Taipei Film Activity – January, 2017 - Taipei Film Commission
Taiwanese Filmmakers Speak Out on Polarizing Marriage Equality Issue
(Article/Kevin Chang; translation/Master Translation Service Co., Ltd)
As the end of 2016 draws close, marriage equality continues to be the most hotly debated and most polarizing issue in Taiwan. On November 28, producer Lee Lieh attended the marriage equality hearing held by the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee, Legislative Yuan, where she presented her case for same-sex couples to have the right to marriage. On November 30, Yee Chih-yen, director of Blue Gate Crossing and Meeting Dr. Sun, came out as gay on Facebook and became one of the few openly gay filmmakers in Taiwan.
At the hearing, Lee Lieh stated that she wanted to speak out for the LGBT community as a straight person. She only met her first gay friend when she was 21, and was once confused about how people could be attracted to the same sex. However, as she came to know more gay friends, she realized that they were the same as her, and therefore she could not believe that there are groups of people who oppose the marriage of two persons in love. She stated that it is unfair to the LGBT community, who pay taxes as do other citizens, to be denied certain rights. To sensational statements from anti-gay groups about same-sex marriage bringing the end of humankind, she responded, “Only humans can doom humans. Our survival is the responsibility of all of us, and gay people are not to blame.”
Singer Deserts Chang also presented her support of same-sex marriage, saying that it had been less than 30 years since the period of martial law ended in Taiwan, and that the Civil Code, held sacred by some, is meant to be challenged and amended. She stressed that she did not come on a personal agenda, but for all the people she knew and may meet in the future. She quoted a saying from the American legal circle, which states that although it is difficult for laws to sway prejudice, laws must not serve prejudice. Therefore, laws need to be defined by each generation, so that they serve the quality of life for all.
To the surprise of many, this hearing led to unexpected reactions. On the same night, director Yee Chih-yen posted on his Facebook page expressing disappointment in Lee Lieh and Deserts Chang’s statements at the hearing, saying “We don’t want you hipsters. You are all outsiders.” On the following day, he posted again on Facebook to apologize for his statements, explaining that he was too agitated by some anti-gay rhetoric. On December 30, he published a meditated long-post on Facebook explaining how he was disturbed by the smears during the first two days and how he engaged in reflection after reading an article by senior journalist Fan Chi-fei calling for middle-aged members of the LGBT community to come out. He revealed that he came out to his parents when he was 29, yet seeing how the news devastated his parents, it was never brought up again in the family, and he continued to conceal his identity in front of his parents for 20 more years, until they passed away. When his parents were ill, he had to take care of them alone because he could not have his partner involved, and he therefore lost the chance to introduce his partner into his family.
He also discussed how he received letters from many young people regarding their struggle in coming out to their family. “I always reply to them with encouragement and telling them that they must be prepared for the difficult road ahead. I am not used to talking about myself. A director is always behind the camera. I write this with hesitation and reservation, but all I want is to do more, to assure LGBT friends and their family that they will pull through. This is my reflection and response to Fan Chi-fei. The most important thing is for LGBT friends and their family to seize the chance to understand the people they love because we have a limited time on this earth.” He further commented on the marriage equality movement with great earnestness, “Look at the people around you - those who are disenfranchised because of their political, economic, ethnical, and gender positions. They receive less attention because they are disenfranchised, and they become increasingly disenfranchised because they receive less attention. Understanding them is our first step toward empathy, although we are late in taking our first step.”