Yuru Cheng & Amy Chang Chien 「On Taking Gay Rights From Taipei to Beijing: Don’t Call It a ‘Movement’」

Posted on January 18, 2017
Lai Jeng-jer, a gay rights activist from Taiwan, at Two Cities, the cafe he opened after moving to Beijing in 2012. Before that, he had run a pioneering gay-themed bookstore in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital.
Credit Giulia Marchi for『The New York Times』

Taiwan moved one step closer last month to becoming the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, when a legislative committee passed draft changes to the island’s civil code.

The proposed amendments have been sent to party caucuses for negotiation and possibly further revision before a final version is approved outright or goes to a vote by the Legislative Yuan, a process that is expected to take months.

Still, the development was applauded by gay rights advocates, not just in Taiwan but in mainland China as well.

Among them was Lai Jeng-jer, a leading figure in the gay rights movement in Taiwan who now lives in Beijing. In 1999, Mr. Lai, who trained as an architect, opened Gin Gin in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. It was billed as the first gay-themed bookstore in the Chinese-speaking world.

His mission was to create a space where sexual minorities could congregate openly and provide a platform to work for social change. In 2012, he moved to Beijing, where he and his business partner, Yeh Kenta, established what is now the Two Cities Cafe and Lounge. In an interview, Mr. Lai, 51, discussed the progress he had seen in gay rights, how Taipei differed from Beijing and how he dealt with the occasional visit by the Chinese police.

How do you feel about the passage of the same-sex marriage proposals in Taiwan?

Very happy. It was just drafts that were passed, and they still need to undergo a process of consultation among political parties and more readings, and we don’t know what the final outcome will be. But most of my friends are delighted because, after years of campaigning for this, there’s finally some progress.

Final passage would be a milestone. Some of my friends in mainland China have told me they might go to Taiwan. Up to now, if they wanted to get married, they had to go to the United States or Europe. I feel that the gay community in China has been greatly encouraged. Since we share a similar cultural background, they believe that if Taiwan can achieve this they can start to expect more for China.

You’ve long been part of the gay rights movement in Taiwan. How do you see it developing?

I’ve witnessed profound changes in Taiwan society since the lifting of martial law in the 1980s. I saw a lot of civic movements emerging and people taking to the streets to protest. I was quite young at the time and greatly inspired. I started to appreciate the significance of democratization.

Now, more and more people accept that, as a Taiwanese, it’s right to stand up for the underprivileged and the marginalized. Not just on same-sex marriage but on other issues, like environmental protection. Those who get involved are not always the ones directly affected, but they feel obligated to do something for those who are. That’s why, this time, we’ve also seen so many heterosexuals joining the demonstrations.

How have you adjusted to the move from Taipei to Beijing?

On Christmas Eve two years ago, we hosted a gay meet-up party at our cafe and invited about 20 people. In the middle of that, some police officers showed up and asked everyone to show their IDs. I was shocked, but our guests looked extremely calm. One after another, they took out their ID cards and showed them to the police. After the police finished checking them, they said fine and left. The party resumed, and our guests acted like nothing had happened. But I found it strange that they seemed so used to this kind of police intrusion.

Most of the people who come to our cafe are supportive. There are only a few who have objected. Once I saw a customer had commented on social media: “It turned out to be a gay bar. I won’t go there again.”

We’re not even a bar, let alone a gay bar. My colleague replied: “This is a cafe from Taiwan with a theme of cultural diversity. It’s not a gay bar, though we are in fact gay. Even if you don’t like this, please still show some respect.”

How would you compare the gay communities in Taiwan and in Beijing?

I have great admiration for any gay organizations that can survive in Beijing.

My cafe once hosted the Beijing Queer Film Festival. This is an international event that brings directors from all around the world. And when it comes to international events, there’s usually trouble. The police tend to interfere.

The Queer Film Festival has been held about a dozen times, and seven or eight times it’s been forced to shut down midway. Once they held it at Tsinghua University, and when the police came, even a top university like that had to compromise.

So when we held it, we couldn’t openly publicize it. What we did was send emails to people in which we didn’t mention what was happening. We just told them to come watch a movie on which day and at what time. It turned out that a lot of people showed up, and the police didn’t.

Some people joke about this situation. They say that in Taipei it’s called a “gay movement,” but in Beijing it’s “gay activities.” You can have all kinds of activities, but you can’t allow any of them to turn into a movement.

Still, it’s not that hard to live in Beijing as a homosexual, if all you want is a quiet life and you avoid participating in any movements. I’ve seen many lesbian couples kissing each other in the subway. Gays can also host parties at home. But you can’t get involved in any protests or demonstrations. Basically, if you keep a low profile, the authorities don’t interfere.

Do you know any gay couples in Beijing who want to get married?

I attended a wedding ceremony for a gay friend of mine. He’s the founder of Feizan, one of the biggest gay dating websites in China. He and his boyfriend sent us invitations for the event. But then he told guests that they should keep an eye out for a possible last-minute change of venue.

On the morning of the event, he telephoned that the site had changed. At noon he notified me that it was relocated again. That evening, they changed the site for the third time. Afterward, I learned that the police had called the first few places, which made them too scared to go through with it.

But finally there was a place near Ditan Park where they knew some people, and maybe because it was too late for the police to intervene, they succeeded in holding it. About 200 people attended. It was a very happy day.

Do you foresee the eventual legalization of same-sex marriage in mainland China?

It’s possible. But it’s hard to tell how long it might take. I’ve been living here for a while and can see the policy-making system in China is very different from what we have in Taiwan. Things can change very suddenly here. It might not take as long as in Taiwan.

This article was adapted from a feature that first appeared on the Chinese-language site of『The New York Times』.

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Author: Yuru Cheng & Amy Chang Chien/Date: January 18, 2017/Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/world/asia/china-taiwan-same-sex-gay.html

Yuru Cheng & Amy Chang Chien 「台灣同志在北京:站在兩岸看同性婚姻合法化」




90年代末,建築系畢業的賴正哲曾在美國短暫居住。受到美國同志社區的啟發,回到台灣以後, 他於1999年成立了 「晶晶書庫」。晶晶的出現改善了台灣同志只能在夜間會面的尷尬境況,也成為最早把同志議題從角落裡搬到檯面上的力量之一。

晶晶的前衛作風也曾為賴正哲招致官司 。2003年,由於書店從香港購入男性裸體雜誌在店內銷售,賴正哲作為書店負責人曾因「妨害風化」被判拘役50天。在那時,同志群體仍常常被人和負面新聞聯繫在一起。但當賴正哲和他的支持者們在鏡頭前大膽地舉出「性權即人權」的標語時,他們挑戰了許多台灣民眾對於同志群體的成見。後來官司敗訴,賴正哲就此事向大法官提出了解釋相關法條的要求。大法官對此事的回應「釋字617號」被視為台灣法律對於出版物銷售管理方式的釐清。








賴正哲:同志婚姻合法化這個話題,並不是近一兩年出現的,在台灣已經醞釀了五年以上。社會上有人會認為婚姻制度是件值得質疑的事。大家看到很多異性戀者離婚、選擇單身,為什麼同志還要進入婚姻制度?這樣的想法給公民團體「伴侶盟」(指台灣伴侶權益推動聯盟——編注 )帶來刺激,他們提出了「多元成家」的想法,包括三個法的草案:《婚姻平權》、《伴侶制度》與《家屬制度》。他們希望能將這個法案送進立法議程,過程中幾個立法委員也持續關心這個議題。最後他們提出的「婚姻平權」草案,比較接近這次修法關注的重點。其實原先的「伴侶制度」、「家屬制度」討論的範圍比這更廣,不僅局限於同志,還擴及兄弟姊妹、朋友的家屬關係。



















賴正哲:來咖啡館的客人和我們都是很相惜的。但也有人不接受。我曾見到有人上網評論說:原來這裡是一個gay bar(同志酒吧),我再也不會去了。但其實我們根本不是酒吧,更不是同志酒吧。我的同事就會回他說,我們不是gay的酒吧,我們是一個來自台灣的多元文化主題咖啡館。但我們本人的確是同志。如果你們不喜歡,還是請彼此尊重。




















Yuru Cheng是紐約時報中文網助理編輯。Amy Chang Chien是紐約時報中文網實習生。

Author: Yuru Cheng & Amy Chang Chien/Date: December 12, 2016/Source: https://cn.nytimes.com/china/20161229/taiwan-gayrights/zh-hant/