Tsai Ing-wen addresses the press, Saturday April 16. Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) has failed to lure 2012 presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) into a moral mud-slinging contest.
Tsai released a brief statement yesterday saying she would not dignify Shih’s demand for clarity on her sexual orientation with a response. The Taipei Times quoted her,
“There is nothing wrong with any gender, sexual orientation or marital status. Nobody has the right to question another [on this],” Tsai said in a short -300-word public statement.
Tsai said she would use the opportunity presented by the furor to promote awareness about discrimination, suggesting that an individual’s right to privacy concerning their sexual orientation was akin to a human rights issue. She said she would work to “eliminate gender discrimination in Taiwan.”
The fact that Shih brought up Tsai’s sexuality as somehow indicative of her ability to lead is puzzling. I am not sure what kind of effect it will have on the telephone polls leading up to the primaries, but it would shock me if it hurt her chances.
Taiwan is an increasingly open society. It is home to by far the most out gay community I have ever encountered. Being gay is still often an issue within the family, but those who cling to traditional beliefs are often more on the social fringe than those they try to stigmatize.
Taiwan’s gay community is expanding as more and more people feel confident coming out. The percentage of openly gay individuals id going to only continue to rise here.
Why? Not exactly sure. But it probably has something to do with not all females wanting to be pale-skinned, squeaky-voice, cutesy-dolls and males who don’t want to be traditional power-hungry chauvinists.
Taiwan, like much of Asia, is experiencing a rapid recasting of traditional gender roles. Less people are getting married, less couples are having children. The entire dating dynamic is shifting, particularly moving away from family connections as the Internet provides the ability to meet more people more easily. Young people’s personal lives are becoming more personal.
Tsai seems much more in tune with her populace. I’d say she handled this insult very presidentially.
P.S. I’ve pretty much lost all respect for Shih at this point. Four years ago, he had me fooled. As the outspoken leader of the campaign to take down Chen Shui-bian, he portrayed himself as a non-partisan reformer set on rooting out corruption. But as the movement’s momentum begin to wane and new cases of political corruption came to light, he went into seclusion. It’s pretty clear he’s a hack, and he’s intent on splitting the DPP camp.