Phobia is at the heart of the campaign against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Science and education can cast a light in the dark.
Today, May 17, marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). Celebrated in more than 130 countries around the world, IDAHOT is a reminder that while much progress has been made in protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQI community, much work still needs to be done as revisionist forces join hands globally to overturn some of the accomplishments that have been made in recent years.
Twenty seven years ago, on May 17, 1990, the WHO finally declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, a decision, based on scientific evidence, that helped dispel some of the myths surrounding homosexuality and that no doubt made it possible for some countries in subsequent years to legalize same-sex unions and adoption of children by homosexual couples.
And yet as we mark IDAHOT, the triumvirate of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia continues to haunt us, often masquerading as a force for good rather than what it truly is: a symptom of intolerance and ignorance.
The movement that has opposed marriage equality in Taiwan is a prime example of the detrimental impact that such views can have on the victims, society and policymakers. Ripe to become the first country in Asia to extend marriage rights to same-sex individuals, the democratic island-nation has instead been taken hostage by small, albeit very vocal, groups of people that have successfully tapped into phobia and its handmaiden, ignorance.
Notwithstanding their purportedly noble claims to wanting to protect children and society, those groups, primarily Christian, have relied on old memes to scare society to bring the process to a halt. While every single one of those claims has been debunked by science — that legalization would open the floodgates of AIDS, bestiality, rape, incest, homosexual “brainwashing” and social chaos, among other things — in some instances the fears have kept alive by pseudoscientific “evidence” manufactured by conspiracy-prone organizations that also tend to deny human evolution and global warming. Only through ignorance can such phobias continue to exist, hence the movement’s effort to deny our children the sexual education they need at school. Without ignorance, which those groups would have descend upon us like a shroud, the monsters will not have the oxygen they need to keep us awake at night.
In recent months, and as hopes soared that the Tsai Ing-wen administration would deliver on its campaign promise to enact marriage equality laws, opponents to same-sex marriage escalated their campaign of fear and joined hands with foreign groups and conservative Churches abroad to amplify their message. Vocal protests, where members of the LGBTQI community often were physically assaulted, spat upon, “exorcized” and subjected to the full spectrum of hate speech, no longer sufficed. Using pamphlets and instant messaging, the anti-camp began tapping into ignorance, particularly among the elderly in southern parts of Taiwan, to spread fear and thus give the impression to the Tsai administration that opposition is much more muscular than it actually is and therefore would cost it votes should it proceed to legalize same-sex unions. Fear—fear of losing elections — has tightened its cold fingers around the hearts of officials close to President Tsai.
Better education is therefore the solution and the means by which we can banish the demons of phobia and hatred. Those who fervently oppose same-sex marriage, usually due to their cloistered religious beliefs, do indeed constitute a small minority; surrounding them are individuals who can and would be swayed if only they had access to proper information and science-based evidence. Aware of this, the anti camp’s strategy has been to repeat and repeat and repeat its message, to bombard us with disinformation and hide the signal of reason in all that noise. Among other things, the sharing of experiences in countries that have already legalized same-sex marriage and allowed the adoption of children by same-sex couples can go a long way in dispelling the myths that have slowed down the process in Taiwan. We need more of this. The good thing for the LGBTQI movement is that its claims and demands can stand the scrutiny of scientific inquiry; the same cannot be said of their opponents.
Through education we can help reveal the campaign against legalization for what it truly is — not a noble movement to protect families and children and the so-called “bloodline,” but a worldview that refuses to accept difference and that seeks to impose itself, totalitarian like, on others. At its core, this ideology if phobic, unscientific while based on the narrow interpretation of religious texts and literature that can only flourish if isolated from the outside world. Ironically, it survives due to fear of the “other,” of beings who, for those who believe in a Creator, came into this world defective (or through free will “chose” to be so) and therefore are either to be shunned or “healed” through prayer, repentance and “exorcism.” We might as well bring back shock therapy, which no doubt would please a good number of them.
Let us therefore observe May 17 by pushing back against the forces of fear and ignorance by using the tools of reason, science, and education. Phobia has entered the bloodstream of Taiwanese society and has been steadily replicating by dint of repetition. The remedy is at hand, and the infection can be expunged.