by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Foxy Who \(^∀^)//WikiCommons/CC

A SUSPECTED HATE crime against a gay couple in Zhongli last week has drawn significant public attention, as perhaps one of the most widely reported hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals reported on since the legalization of gay marriage three years ago.

The incident in question took place during the early morning hours of March 3rd around midnight, involving a 24-year-old man surnamed Luo slashing a 35-year-old man surnamed Lin on the head. This occurred after Luo saw Lin kiss his husband in a convenience store. During the incident, Luo cursed out Lin and other gay people. Some reports reference that another person in the store tried to intervene and was also slashed. The convenience store was the Sanguangmen 7/11 on Zhongyang West Road.

As a result, there was much blood splattered on the scene, though after visiting the hospital, Lin’s wounds were relatively minor. Lin stated afterward that although his wound would only take around ten days to heal, what was more painful was that he had not done anything wrong and that was the only time he had kissed his husband outside of a convenience store, but had been attacked in this way.

Lin has filed charges against Luo for attempted murder, while Luo has counter-sued and claimed to have been acting in self-defense. Zhongli police state that they will review the security camera footage from the store in order to determine who is responsible for the incident.

The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline, one of the leading LGBTQ organizations in Taiwan, expressed regret over the incident in a public statement issued on March 5th, condemning Luo’s homophobic actions. Moreover, the Tongzhi Hotline stated that it had assisted Lin in filing a police report, after reaching out to provide legal consultation, and that it would continue to provide support.

Statement by the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline on the incident

Likewise, the Tongzhi Hotline stated that the incident goes to show the long path to be walked for human rights, equality, and diversity in Taiwan, seeing as hate crimes continue to occur against LGBTQ individuals in Taiwanese society even after the legalization of gay marriage.

To this extent, the Tongzhi Hotline stated that the incident highlights the need for further education about sexuality in Taiwanese society, as well as regarding acts of discrimination. In particular, conservatives have continued to target education about sexual and gender diversity in Taiwan as corrupting the morals of young people, but the incident shows how social attitudes that lead to violence against LGBTQ individuals persist, and are in need of redress. Conservatives continue to claim that the legalization of gay marriage will lead to a breakdown of social norms and the disintegration of the basic social fabric.

Indeed, some reactions on online message boards attest to the existence of homophobic social attitudes in Taiwanese society, including individuals expressing support for the attacker. It is to be seen whether there is further discussion of hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals in Taiwan after the incident. Certainly, the violent nature of the incident, as well as that it took place in a public area, is probably what led to greater media coverage this time around, it is probable that many more incidents simply never are reported on. To this extent, media attitudes on the coverage of hate crimes are also visible, with more conservative outlets initially framing Lin as the aggressor and Luo as acting in self-defense.

In the meantime, it is unclear whether the incident leads to further discussion of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community in Taiwan. Although incidents directly involving violence may draw greater public scrutiny, microaggressions, discriminatory practices, and attitudes also still take place on a daily basis. One notes, too, that there was relatively less coverage of the incident than other violent incidents, never mind to what extent Taiwanese media disproportionately focuses on public incidents of violence in its reporting, such as dashcam footage of car accidents and the like.

Whether or not there is more discussion of the incident, as well as further discussion of other incidents of like nature, will probably depend on whether there is public scrutiny of the subsequent trial and its outcome. This remains to be seen.

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