Introducing No Self ID Taiwan – The First (and only) Gender Critical Response to Female Erasure in the Nation
My name is Jaclynn Joseph and I am an activist working in the field of women’s rights and gynocritical research. Originally from Hawai’i and now a permanent resident of Taiwan, I am a university lecturer, and a doctoral candidate in the field of Feminist Philosophy at Sofia University, Bulgaria. As a published writer featured on sites such as Feminist Current, Canada’s largest feminist news outlet, and a guest speaker for global women’s rights organizations like Women’s Declaration International, I have spent the past several years working to shine a light on the steady encroachment of gender ideology in Taiwan.
What’s Happening in Taiwan?
Taiwan’s story of democratic transition along with its awareness of liberal principles is fascinating. Over the years, this island nation has grown into one of the strongest liberal democracies in Asia. Since democratization began in the 1990s, democracy and respect for human rights have become an increasingly prominent part of the island’s identity and values. Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in May 2019. I was there at the marches, rallies, and the Pride Parades leading up to this monumental victory for equality. What marriage equality, the women’s rights movement, and the civil rights movement have in common is that they extended the rights of a privileged group to everyone.
When well-meaning people in Taiwan hear “trans rights,” they assume something similar is being demanded. But that isn’t the case. What campaigners mean by “trans rights” is the “right” to identify as the opposite sex — socially, legally, and in every other context. But, this isn’t a human right. It is not a human right to demand to be treated either socially or legally as female, if you are male. Women fought to have access to single-sex spaces, services, and opportunities — allowing males to access female-only spaces like change rooms, shelters, and prisons should not be framed as a human right. It is not a human right to endanger vulnerable women and girls. It is not a human right to require that everyone accept subjective beliefs as objective reality. It is a privilege to demand to be socially and legally treated as the opposite sex — to compel the speech and the actions of others.
What’s happening now in Taiwan is looking more and more like female erasure on par with what has been happening across North America. Starting in 2023, trans-identified student athletes can enter the Taiwan National High School Games – the largest multi-sport event for junior and senior high school players in Taiwan – as the “gender of their choice”. Meaning that male athletes who “feel” female can then compete in the female sport categories. The “eligibility rules and competition details have not yet been decided, however, as they have to be formulated by the National Sports Administration.” It has only recently come to light that a trans-identified male competed as a woman in Taiwan’s National Intercollegiate Athletic Games in 2018. Many runners and coaches from other schools knew this athlete was male, and representatives of Taiwan’s National Tsinghua University questioned his ability to compete against female athletes in track and field events, but because there were no clear rules for transgender participation in Taiwan, he was able to compete in the female division, destroying the previous record held by a woman. What does this mean for female athletes in Taiwan? As we have seen by the precedent set in North America, certainly nothing good. Scholarships, awards, accolades, opportunities, and access to a fair and level playing field are being taken away from young female athletes.
At National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) this year, the administration tried to sneak a trans-identified male student into female-only dorms. This student possessed all of his functional male genitalia and was meant to share a room with up to 5 female students in a small space with little privacy. Only after a whistleblower brought this to the attention of the mainstream media has this come under scrutiny. This marks not the first but the second time a major Taiwanese university (the first being National Taiwan University (NTU)) tried bringing a fully intact trans-identified male into girls’ dorms without informing anyone or receiving consent. In fact, the former Dean, Feng Yan, admitted that she did “secretly” assist several trans-identified students when she served as the Dean of National Taiwan University from August 2005 to July 2012. These students were housed in single-sex dormitories that aligning to their birth sex, and all students within the dormitory itself were not asked for their consent to cohabitate with members of the opposite sex.
In 2021, a biological male who had undergone so-called “sex reassignment surgery” applied for Taiwan’s menstrual leave, despite not being in posession of the female anatomy required to actually menstruate. In Taiwan, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment gives women three days of “menstrual leave” per year, which will not be calculated toward the 30 days of “common sick leave”, giving women up to 33 days of “health-related leaves’’ per year. No access to menstrual hygiene is the fifth biggest killer of women in the world. It’s extremely offensive for a male to attempt to claim to have had his “period”. Women are still dying in places where simply having your period is considered taboo. Thankfully, for now, Taiwan rejects this as impossible and irrational…but how long will they hold out? In Taiwan’s courtrooms, the battle has begun over the easing of restrictions in law for changing ones legal sex. Cases were filed in the Constitutional Court last December in an attempt to reinterpret whether the process of self-ID in the country is constitutional, and whether people should be allowed by simple self-declaration to change their legal sex.
Why is Pushing Back Important?
noselfidtw.cc is the first website in East Asia to be written entirely in English (and the only such website in Taiwan) and dedicated to pushing back against gender ideology, protecting women’s sex based rights, and tracking changes in the law regarding self-ID. The website, noselfidtw.cc, became necessary after the creation of two anti self-ID petitions submitted to the Taiwanese government through the government petition platform from October to November of 2021, as there was not enough space for all the important news related to self-ID. Both petitions surpassed the 5,000 signatures required from Taiwanese citizens or permanent residents of Taiwan in order for the government to review it and reply to it publicly. The government will now have to publicly address concerns regarding self-ID that were expressed in both petitions.
This group of activists, whom I am proud to call my friends and to work side by side with, have largely stood alone amongst Taiwan organizations in their openly-expressed commitment to maintaining single-sex services. They volunteer their time to maintain both a Chinese language and an English language version of the website and to spread awareness to as many as possible.
They have been profoundly disappointed by those so-called women’s rights groups, service providers, and second-tier organizations in Taiwan – particularly those who claim to support abused women and girls – which have failed to speak up for women or overlooked women’s needs in an impulsive, well-intentioned but ultimately unthinking attempt to appear inclusive. Gender identity is not easy to define, let alone prove, yet legislators in Taiwan are contemplating making changing your legal sex easier than ever. How we define “women” is crucial to many issues including the gathering of data around crime, employment, pay and health statistics, and the monitoring of sex-based discrimination such as the gender pay gap.
“The website is the only one of its kind, and serves as the most comprehensive site on the history, status, and impact of self-ID legislation in Taiwan. It’s a one-stop source of dozens of translated articles and news on self-ID from all over the world, providing first-hand self-ID resources, as the mainstream media tends to omit or even block this news”, says one of the hardworking volunteers who maintains the website. The volunteers who help maintain the site – all of whom are Taiwanese citizens – wish to remain anonymous, fearing for their jobs and personal attacks on their businesses or families should their names become known.
The people writing stories for the site and gathering data range from doctors, teachers, law school graduates, to computer engineers, university students, housewives, and mothers-to-be. They are concerned men and women, many from the gay and lesbian community in Taiwan, providing varying views from different perspectives on how self-ID would impact them. The website features news stories, government research, statistics, and pieces written by Taiwanese citizens who worry about how self-ID will affect their female family members. One of the most powerful articles published recently on the site featured the story of a concerned mother and her anxieties about her daughter’s future should self-ID come to pass. My own work, originally published on Feminist Current and on my personal website, has also been shared on the No Self ID Taiwan site.
No Self ID Taiwan - How Can You Support Them?
The acceptance of and legislating around gender identity ideology is happening at a very rapid pace in the country I call home, and I am thankful that more people are waking up to the dangers this poses and creating sites like No Self ID Taiwan. The site is constantly updated and will continue to serve as an important asset in the future to protect women’s rights and stand against self-ID.
The site is looking for writers to contribute pieces related to gender ideology and self-ID in Taiwan, and this may be done anonymously. Run by a group of passionate volunteers who have day jobs, it needs sponsorship and funding to keep it running smoothly. Your donations would go a long way in fighting gender ideology and protecting the sex-based rights of women and girls in Taiwan. So would sharing the website with your friends, family, and on your social media!