Cyberqueers in Taiwan: Locating Histories of the Margins

By He, Terri | Journal of International Women's Studies, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Cyberqueers in Taiwan: Locating Histories of the Margins


He, Terri, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

In this paper I direct the focus to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) online communities in Taiwan. On the one hand, I argue that such online communities in Taiwan are worthwhile researching and deserve special academic attention because they touch upon Taiwan's perpetual difference in the world as a de-facto, thereby questioning how a transnational perspective permanently influences or even changes the way national identity is or is not formulated. On the other, against the backdrop of globalisation, I highlight the fact of under-theorisation of issues and politics of sexuality dissidence in a non-western, non-dominant location and culture such as Taiwan. As I start to bridge the current gap of such insufficiencies in unevenly distributed research interests in some parts of the world rather than others, I also make a point of fighting against surveillance and control in cyberspace. Ultimately, such studies on Taiwanese LGBT online communities are not possible without continuous attempts and efforts in trying to keep freedom of expression and anonymity to certain extent.

Keywords: cyberqueer, Taiwan, LGBT pride, online communities, transnationality

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As Chris Berry and Fran Martin have noted, empirical fieldwork of Internet communities has remained unsatisfactorily thin, and academic research based on such works is still in its infancy (Berry and Martin 2000: 74). In addition, although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) online users are among those most enthusiastic about the internet (McLean and Schubert; Shaw), data and documents on LGBT online users continue to be relatively few since they seem to be underrepresented. Consequently, studies of online communities of LGBT people from a non-western and non-English-speaking background have been even less investigated and thus urgently call for more attention in their own right.

As a way to respond to this call, I discuss the idea that the internet has had an immense impact on communities of LGBT people in Taiwan. I will provide an introduction on Taiwan from the perspective of sexuality in combination with internet technology, delineating my idea of 'locating histories of the margins' as the title states. I will also look through some of the existing academic discussions such as those related to Nina Wakeford's 'cyberqueer' and offer my response to well-known theoretical references of feminist ideas in some articles and books about cyberspace and sexuality. At the heart of my response to the previous scholarship is a point of departure in writing this paper. Having read books like Cybersexualities, which primarily explores the implications of cyberspace on gender and sexuality, for instance, I recognise that cyborg and feminist cyber theories may function as important metaphorical and conceptual tools. But I also emphasise that my primary concern is located in the narratives produced by online users' experienced memories and interpretations. To be more precise, the techno-cultural construction of these users' self-representedness in Taiwanese online LGBT communities is, as I will show, rather based on a specific time and place, clearly substantial, full of interactive cause-and-effect and almost always questioning as well as reproducing the social, cultural and familial existing orders. This argument constitutes my point of departure and I shall always try to make it the central concern, stressing the importance of being empirical.

Taiwan, to begin with, is an 'island which has for all practical purposes been independent for half a century but which China regards as a renegade province that must be re-united with the mainland' (BBC Country Profile). (2) Due to China, Taiwan is not recognised as a nation-state by most countries around the world. This official non-existence, in Cindy Patten's words, means that

   Taiwan might be considered an exceptional nation [...], perpetually
   colonised, and ultimately (in 1949) reimagined as the locus of a
   government-in-exile under the watchful imperial eye of the United
   States. … 

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