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Gay people in Taiwan subject to several types of stress: poll

2012/04/17 20:08:13

Taipei, April 17 (CNA) Gay people in Taiwan are under many different forms of stress caused by factors that range from isolation and fear of family rejection to societal expectations, according to a poll released Tuesday by a gay rights alliance.

The online poll of 2,785 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other individuals showed that 79 percent of respondents worry that their family would not accept their sexual orientation.

In addition, 68 percent of homosexuals feel pressured by family expectations that they will enter into heterosexual marriages, said Chien Chih-chieh, a member of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights.

Other pressures result from negative media reporting of gay issues (57 percent), the public's expectations regarding gender roles (49 percent), the expectations of older generations and company bosses (44 percent), and verbal and physical abuse (39 percent), the poll shows.

More than 20 percent of the respondents also said they did not have any gay-friendly friends, classmates or teachers, nor had they been exposed to gay-friendly books, websites or media before the age of 18.

This means that homosexual youngsters grow up feeling helpless and isolated, according to the alliance.

In addition, 58 percent of the respondents said they had been subjected to some forms of violence, with verbal abuse being the most common (91 percent), followed by social exclusion (54 percent), physical violence (14 percent) and sexual abuse (3 percent).

Most of the violence occurred in junior high school, but was also reported in senior high and elementary schools, according to the poll.

One of the respondents, 21-year-old Lun Lun, said that he had been mocked and verbally and physically abused in school because of his identity, since at the elementary level.

He said his classmates would gather to see him go to the bathroom, and if he hid in a toilet stall, they would drop things and pour water on him. One time they even poured hydrochloric acid into the toilet stall, he said.

"I am glad I did not end my life then," he said. "I have survived on my own strength. But, how many children like me are still enduring these pains at the moment?"

Over half of the poll respondents said they had tried to hurt themselves in junior or senior high school, while 15 percent said they had made such attempts in elementary school.

Moreover, 29 percent of respondents admitted to having had suicidal thoughts at some point, and 18 percent said they had attempted to kill themselves.

Wang Ping, secretary-general of the Gender/Sexuality Rights Association, Taiwan, criticized the Ministry of Education for failing to follow through with a decision to include gay issues in elementary and junior high school curriculums last year after a self-proclaimed parents group protested against the plan.

Wang called on the ministry to quickly do what "should have been done"-- put gay issues on the curriculum-- as stipulated in the Gender Equity Education Act.

The Act, passed in 2004, bans gender discrimination in schools in Taiwan and stipulates that school curriculums should include gender equality education.

"We hope that students can learn about gay issues as early as in elementary school," Wang said.

Not only do gay students need to gain a sense of self worth during their school years, but all students should be educated on the issue, she said.

"Why do some students bully others, unaware that their behavior is hurting others? Because they have not had the opportunity to learn otherwise," Wang said.

"Without the opportunity for students to learn, the discriminatory environment in schools will not change," she added.

The average age of the respondents in the poll was 24.3, with 35 percent identifying as lesbians, 39 percent as homosexual males, 20 percent as bisexual, 2 percent as transgender and 4 percent as uncertain about their sexuality.

The poll, which began April 3, is ongoing and the results released Tuesday were based on analysis of the data collected April 3-13.

(By Christie Chen)