2020 is the first anniversary for Taiwan's marriage equality but also the 20 years memorial for the death of Yong-Zhi Ye (葉永鋕) who was bullied in school. We got to meet uncle Wang (Tien-Ming Wang) and uncle Ho (Hsiang Ho) who were activists for Taiwan’s marriage equality, through them we found hope and love for the future. They both lived through the 80s' cultural revolutions and student movements in Taiwan, and still fighting for the next generation.
Even there are laws try to protect the LGBTQ+ communities but without the proper education and communities’ voices, there is still a dark cloud overshadowing it. Like the referendum of same-sex marriage created traumas are left for the communities to face alone. For LGBTQ+ communities, equality is not the only thing we have to face, but the pressure from family and society.
LGBTQ+ becomes a commercial product
Under an accidental opportunity, Uncle Wang and uncle Ho got a television commercial in Taiwan. At first, they didn't know it was going to use their real name and the final script turned out to be different from the original. But after the advertisement, they become the spotlight for LGBTQ+ communities. It’s extremely hard to find elderly couples that are willing to come out and be vocal about their relationship. Uncle Ho shared with us that he almost lost his friend because the friend didn't know how to tell the wife that uncle Ho is gay. To face the pressure of abandonment is something LGBTQ+ communities often have to face alone after being used by the media.
During the marriage equality campaign, many LGBTQ+ communities are being treated as a commercial product for many corporations especially in Taiwan; using the images of a typical representation to sell more of their products. By doing that, the real voices from LGBTQ+ communities are being silenced and manipulated. Uncle Wang said during the public opinion poll in 2012 show more than 50% agree on same-sex marriage, but the number completely shifted to more against same-sex marriage in two years.
How to stay healthy
Uncle Wang and uncle Ho had exceptional work experiences when they were younger. Uncle Ho worked in a garment factory and then to be a dealer in Las Vegas. Uncle Wang went from publication editor to working at a sauna. In 2016, uncle Ho got diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. In 2019, uncle Wang went into the hospital because of a heart problem. Western medications were giving uncle Ho side effects that damage his body. In 2017, they got in touch with Dr Ying-Chieh Tsai from National Yang Ming University in Taiwan. Dr Tsai gave them PS128 Probiotics and according to the research paper it says, "daily intake of the L. Plantarum strain PS128 could improve anxiety-like behaviours and may be helpful in ameliorating neuropsychiatric disorders".
Surprisingly, Uncle Ho has a dramatically improved after taking this for just one week. After 6 months, the doctor told them they can stop taking western medications because of the recovery of Ho's situation. We don't know if this will work for everyone or if it has enough scientific proof. But the fact is from 2017 to 2020, Uncle Ho hasn't been taking any western medication and he is much healthier than before. They also mention to stay healthy, the other key factors are staying young at heart, exercise and staying social.
The future for uncle Wang and uncle Ho
We don't know how uncle Wang and uncle Ho's health will be in the next 10 or 20 years. There might come a time when they need a fulltime carer to look after themselves. For many years, Taiwan is still facing the problem of not enough beds for the elderly in the age care facility or people can't afford to pay the facility. To have a foreign carer, there are problems such as cultural differences and language barrier. For LGBTQ+ communities, we also face the problem of acceptance in the age care facility.
There are going to be many unresolved social issues they have to face even the marriage equality has passed, but the society still hasn't fully accept who they are. Life can be complicated but at the same time, we can make it simple too. In their life, we see hope and compassion that touches everyone around them and overcome all the judgements and hate.
You can watch uncle Wang and uncle Ho's stories that featured in documentary Taiwan Equals Love. Now available on GagaooLala streaming platform.
This interview and article are not sponsored by any company, nor to promote any particular product.
Biochem.ym.edu.tw. 2020.蔡英傑 - 國立陽明大學生化暨分子生物研究所. [online] Available at: <https://biochem.ym.edu.tw/files/15-1256-15940,c22-1.php> [Accessed 8 June 2020].
Liu, W., Chuang, H., Huang, Y., Wu, C., Chou, G., Wang, S. and Tsai, Y., 2015. Alteration of behavior and monoamine levels attributable to Lactobacillus plantarum PS128 in germ-free mice.Behavioural Brain Research, 298, pp.202-209. [online] Available at: <https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0166432815302588?token=8A70E8F3E4222BDCBC192BCD84B7E3D00AD9B1CB9A5E4679D815933A20806803C4162AE40E879393D6249E35FE28EADE> [Accessed 8 June 2020].
Photographer and Organiser: Kai-Tung Tam 譚棨茼
Interviewers: Kai Lin, Fiona Kuo, Lucie Wang and Benson Wu
Interviewees: Hsiang Ho and Tien-Ming Wang
Writer: Benson Wu