Image: Focus Taiwan
On October 30th, I am presenting on the topic of “Gender and Immateriality” at the 29th Annual Conference of the English and American Literature Association in Taiwan and, funny enough, Taiwan is currently awash with news of sex self-identification. Gender identity ideology has ripped through Western society at full force, bringing out tired old stereotypes and misogyny disguised as progressive thinking, and is now extending across the globe.
But, this isn’t a human right.
1988 : Two doctors defined the surgical requirements to change one’s legal sex in Taiwan as the removal of reproductive organs and the completion of so-called “sex reassignment surgery” (SRS), including vaginoplasty and phalloplasty.
Other criteria for legally changing sex in Taiwan included:
- Living as opposite sex for at least two years and adapting well
- Having the support of parents and family
- Being aged between 20 and 40 years old
- Patient intelligence above mid-range, an IQ score of between 85 and 115
- Ruling-out patients seeking to perform surgery due to mental disorders, paraphilic disorders, or excessive mental stress
For 20 years, this remained the only way to legally change your sex in Taiwan.
November 2008 : As SRS is often expensive and quite risky, human rights organizations and various activists worked with the Department of Health (now called the Ministry of Health and Welfare), to change the 1988 criteria to the following:
“Application of trans-identified individuals requires two certificates of diagnosis from two different licensed Taiwanese psychiatrists, and a certificate of diagnosis from a licensed Taiwanese medical institution stating the removal of breasts, uterus, and ovaries in women, and penis and testes in men.”
The difference being that now, no vaginoplasty or phalloplasty was required after the surgery.
October 2013: The Office of the President Human Rights Committee held a meeting and decided the Executive Yuan should coordinate with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health to come up with a better policy for legal sex changes.
December 2013 : The Ministry of Health held a conference on sex change registration requirements. The conference agreed on the following conclusion:
“The legal change of gender registration should not require ANY medical requirements or prerequisites.”
The conclusion also stated that details should be discussed further with affected agencies and ministries. No women’s organizations were mentioned or consulted.
January 2017 : The Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry published the following statement on their website:
“It is not recommended to allow the change of legal gender solely based on Psychiatrists’ Certificates of diagnosis. We recommend that the government should form a special agency dedicated to this specific purpose instead, to ensure and protect the rights of the affected individual.”
September 2021 : Taiwan court rules to allow a male identifying himself as “Xiao E (小E)” to change his legal sex to “female” without surgery.
The Chinese language news outlets that covered this case (UDN News, ET Daily, Apply Daily, LTN Liberty Times) all did so with no comment on how these changes would impact women in Taiwan. Across the board, they printed copy and paste statements from groups representing trans activist interests, and offered no counter opinion or discussion of potential harm to women and girls. The two English language news outlets to discuss the case — Focus Taiwan and Taipei Times — provided the barest of details and also failed to discuss negative impacts on women.
According to an anonymous source I spoke with who works for the government, the research is strongly biased towards requiring only self-declaration of identity. This research is costing the Taiwan government upwards of 1.3 million Taiwan Dollars (roughly $37,000 USD). The survey seems, almost by design, very difficult to find online — a government official who reached out to me had trouble finding the Google form, and, unlike the general public, he actually knew what to search for. Searching online for information on the research being conducted — or the survey itself — only reveals the institutions who bid to conduct the research. The only actual links to the form are found on transgender or LGBTQ related forums. The organizations behind the research do not seem interested in including the general public and are heavily biased, only seeking out participation from a few select groups within the LGBTQ community.
There are many trans people around the world who acknowledge that surgery cannot actually change one’s sex. Not all of those who have had sex-change operations and/or identify as “transsexual” or “trans” push to enter female spaces, or force others to use incorrectly sexed pronouns. Trans is not a monolith, and many with dysphoria are under no illusions about their biological reality. Yet, trans-identified individuals who deviate from the preferred narrative are not being included in the conversation. It appears as though the Executive Branch already knows what they want to include in their bill, which, if passed, will ensure one need only self-declare an inner sense of “gender identity” in order to legally change sex. They are promoting what is called a “legal fiction,” which is created when the law acts as if something is the case, for certain defined legal purposes, when in fact it is not. Humans cannot change sex, but we are being coerced into an immersive fiction by Taiwan’s government into believing they can.
This graph shows the increase in trans-identified men and women over the years in Taiwan. Note the disproportionate increase in trans-identified males. This graph was published by the National Yangming Jiaotong University using information provided by Taipei Veteran General Hospital. (According to the Taiwanese calendar, which counts years starting from the creation of the Republic of China, the numbers 85–102 refer to the years 1996–2013.)
Even the term, “gender identity,” is a misnomer — in fact, gender identity legislation requires others to identify you as a member of the sex you proclaim.
Material facts about the way women are treated in society — and the protections and spaces we require — must be acknowledged in consideration of this issue. Allowing men to self-identify as women and access women’s spaces and resources causes harm to the original members of the category “woman.”
Feelings of being born in the “wrong body” are unverifiable, no matter how strongly felt and expressed. They do not constitute scientific evidence of objective material reality. “I think I am a woman, therefore I am a woman” cannot be the basis for the legal definition of a woman. It legally disenfranchises women to remove biological sex from the definition of womanhood, or to have it superseded by gender identity.
I have always loved people who rejected gender stereotypes: David Bowie, Boy George, Marlene Dietrich, Annie Lennox, Grace Jones, and every member of BTS — women who dared to be what we deem masculine and men who choose not to be. The idea that women should be “feminine” (soft, submissive, subservient) and the idea that men must play sports and guzzle beer, or that they shouldn’t wear makeup or show their emotions, are gender stereotypes. I support rejecting gender. Given that I support gender non-conformity and breaking apart stereotypes, you might think I would be happy about today’s gender ideology. But I am not. That is because rather than reject gender stereotypes, gender identity ideology says we must define ourselves by them. It is a step back, and it has been skillfully sold as progressive.
A pamphlet distributed on social media in Taiwan explains the harms of gender identity legislation.
January 2022 : The research currently being conducted will be summarized into a report and the Executive Yuan will then write a bill based on the results. The time to act is now. Contact your local legislator and make your voice heard.
*Note that in Mandarin Chinese, there is no distinction made between the words sex and gender. In Taiwan, when terms like “gender registration” and “legal gender” are used, they are referring to biological sex.
Prior to 1988 there was no regulation or law regarding changing ones sex in Taiwan
Jaclynn Joseph is a Hawai’i born — now Taiwan based — PhD student and university lecturer.