Lesbian Organizing: Culture, Sexuality, Politics

By Sieber, Patricia | Connexions, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

Lesbian Organizing: Culture, Sexuality, Politics


Sieber, Patricia, Connexions


Taiwan

Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, various social movements have changed the face of Taiwanese political culture and everyday life. In addition to a workers' and a student movement, feminist organizing and lesbian activism have begun to create alternative cultural spaces and to affect public policies and perceptions. While individual feminists had been active during the late 1970s, the founding of Awakening magazine, a feminist monthly, in 1982 created an important forum for feminist discussion and organizing.

Becoming a foundation with paid staff members in 1987, Awakening broadened its scope of activities to include the organization of press conferences, of public hearings and of rallies, and the conception and execution of educational campaigns directed especially at university students. For instance, culminating a ten-year effort to raise awareness about sexual harassment, Awakening, in alliance with a number of other women's and labor groups, organized the first public march against sexual harassment in May of this year.

Around the same time, Awakening moved to a new location, which it shares with the newly opened Nushudian [Women's Bookstore], most likely the first women's bookstore in the Chinese-speaking world. The bookstore sponsors both readings and lecture series by women authors and professors. As the offices and the store-cum-tearoom are located near National Taiwan University, the site has become home to feminist groups such as the Nuxuehui [Women's Research Association], composed of professors and professionals. At the same time, informal lesbian and queer groups made up of a younger generation of students doing research and writing on lesbian and gay topics, as well as other lesbian social groups also meet there.

Local opera troupes and bars have provided lesbian space since before the lifting of martial law, and continue to make an important contribution to lesbian life.

In 1990 the first lesbian social group, Women zhi jian [Between Us] was formed by a coalition of lesbians from different backgrounds. From the outset, the group struck a balance between cultivating the media to spread the word and delimiting sensationalized intrusions into lesbian space. Partly due to these interventions, factual reports about lesbianism in the media have become more common. The last two years in particular have witnessed an efflorescence of lesbian self-representation in newly created lesbian, some alternative and some mainstream media.

For instance, pooling their financial and literary resources, a group of National Taiwan University students started publication of their own high-gloss lesbian magazine Aibao [Love Times] in December 1993. Meanwhile, in 1994, the first lesbian novel, E'yu riji [The Diary of a Crocodile], which focused on the trials and tribulations of a university student, was brought out by a mainstream publisher. In addition to a number of lesbian vampire science fiction stories appearing in prestigious literary monthlies, a short story about a young woman's reflections on her relationships with her mother and her female lover garnered first prize in a major literary competition.

Several alternative journals, including one of the most active and radical forums for opposition politics, Daoyu bianyuan [Isle Margin], have devoted one or more special issues to lesbian, gay and queer culture and politics. Topics in these issues included, among many others, local organizing, the Stonewall celebration in New York, North American lesbian theory, queer groups on the Internet, a local queer dating electronic bulletin board, and the local publishing, literary and film scene. Despite this tremendous increase in collective visibility, however, most books and articles have been written under assumed names.

The following passages are excerpted from interviews conducted in August 1994 in Taipei on behalf of Connexions with members of three different lesbian organizations, namely Women zhi jian [Between Us], Aibao [Love Times], and the Taiwanese chapter of ALN [Asian Lesbian Network]. …

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