Indigenous people and the LGBT community share one thing in common: the search for identity. Both struggle in that search of the self. LGBT people are afraid to come out of the closet due to family disapproval; and indigenous children are similarly afraid of admitting their identity due to social and peer pressure.
Both the Taiwanese indigenous people and the LGBT community have long lived in an environment that discriminates with a smile. The indigenous people are told: “you already have subsidies, why be greedy and ask for self-governing rights?” Similarly, LGBT people are told: “you are now free to choose your partners. It’s greedy of you to ask for marriage equality.”
The society makes us a rapacious group of people, but we are only trying to reclaim the rights that are naturally ours to begin with: land ownership, self-governance, mother tongue instruction and the right to express and interpret our own culture. In the same way, the LGBT community deserves the rights to marriage, inheritance, adoption and surrogacy. These are all rights that should be returned to us.
However, when we take to the streets, we are seen as kids whining for candy, and our rights are interpreted as benefits. Yet, we just want to reclaim the rights that are wrongfully deprived from us.
You already do well enough
With indigenous people oppressed by Han Chinese cultural supremacy and LGBT community boxed in by traditional heterosexual chauvinism, we live in a society that assumes, “You already do well enough. Why are you asking for more?”
Marchers at the Gay Pride Parade today held signs declaring the undeniable existence of the LGBT community in Taiwan. But the story of Yeh Yung-chih (葉永鋕), a high school boy who died after being repeatedly bullied by his peers, tells of the hostile environment in Taiwan just less than 20 years ago. More recently, we hear the heart-wrenching news of Yang Yun-cheng (楊允承), another student who committed suicide in 2011 for being mocked and labelled by his peers as sissy. Then just last month there was Professor Jacques Picoux, who committed suicide because he could not legally marry his same-sex partner. Numerous incidents as such remind us of the fact that Taiwan is yet not friendly to the LGBT community.
We also see that the push to recognize the Pingpuzu are accused of being no more than greedy Hans pretending to be indigenous to grab subsidies. Indigenous people are banned from hunting due to the Wildlife Conservation Act. The indigenous cultures in Taiwan are constantly being appropriated and manipulated by so-called “cultural promotion” efforts. All of which indicates that indigenous people are still regarded as the odd group in Taiwanese society.
Diversity needs protection, not consensus
Three years ago, the Indigenous Youth Front urged, “in traditional indigenous communities, there has long been diverse family structures. To us, diversity needs no consensus but respect. As young indigenous people struggling to live in both a modern society and tribal culture, we cannot shout out slogans like “Respect Cultural Diversity” or “Defend Indigenous Culture” while on the other hand oppressing people that do not fit in the mainstream.”
Back then, the statement stood against the mainstream society. Three years later, it still speaks for those who are oppressed by the mainstream religious community in the name of God.
To indigenous and LGBT peoples, in fact, diversity was never about requiring a consensus. What we need is respect for our own way of life in contemporary society, and protection by the law.
We believe that the issue at stake is to identify the ones being oppressed in the structure. Gender equality and cultural equality are both important. The indigenous people should pay attention to LGBT and gender equality issues, and gender differences need to be redefined in indigenous cultures to fight against the heterosexual oppression and patriarchy currently dominating our society. Otherwise, sexual minorities will remain under oppression as they have always been.
Today, we sincerely hope that we pay more attention to the indigenous, a group of people that struggle in our collective hypocrisy just like the LGBT community. Let’s stand with the indigenous people and fight the false friendliness of our times, together.
(Feature photo by Lorenzo Tlacaelel, CC)