A photo and alarmist message sparked a move toward tolerance in the past few months in Taiwan — and a flood of eye-opening social posts by men who took a stand in support for the transgender community.
In June, a Facebook user in Taiwan published a photo of a person who appeared to be a man dressed as a woman wearing a skirt at a McDonald's, writing that the person had entered the women's restroom and was dangerous. The Apple Daily picked up the story, prompting widespread online discussion of gender stereotypes and discrimination against transgender people in Taiwan.
The next month, two students from National Cheng Kung University decided to show their support for the often maligned transgender community by inviting men to wear skirts. Following the example of these two students, the Gender Equality Workshop at National Taiwan University held a similar event in December, asking men to take a stand for the transgender community by donning a skirt.
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Yu-Han and Shao-Hung wrote:
Skirts are not just clothes. Skirts also carry with them the value that a society believes and constructs.
Another participant, Tutu, explained that men can also be feminine:
No one says that men cannot have a good-looking face and body, and no one says men who are not gays cannot be feminine.
This aspect of me [this feminine look] allows you to fantasize about me. I like this aspect of me, and I like to share it with you, so I would like to know how people feel when you look at this other side of me.
I also want to prove in this way that men do not have to be M.A.N!
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Although I wore a skirt, I still had a male outlook defined by society. I did not try to challenge some public space that is strictly defined by the dual meaning of male/female (such as restrooms). In my one-week experience, I found no matter if I was in the university or in the city, most people do not actually care about what you wear today. Most of the time, what I faced was curious stares coming from young people. Although the stares from some older people were not that friendly, most people did not make me uncomfortable. There were, however, two notable encounters. Once when I lined up at a fast food restaurant, a woman looked at me with an disapproving facial expression and made me very uncomfortable. On another occasion, when I walked around campus, a man walked toward me quickly and stared at me angrily and murmured something. I was shocked and did not know how to react. I just stood there and watched him walk away. Although there was no real conflict, I still felt threatened. […]
I cannot help but feel sad. What makes us be so overcome with negative feelings when we see a minority who is different from us?
When we promote a gender-friendly environment, we speak out for our transgender friends and show our support. It is a difficult endeavor but it also makes us happy because we know that is what should be done! Nevertheless, we don't really feel for them. We can only understand their real situation through their description.
Now that we have the chance to experience a tiny bit of the antagonism and challenges that our transgender friends face, even if only for a few days, the feeling is completely different.
Hao-Cheng Hsieh found it became easier and easier to wear a skirt and walk on the street:
This should be the third or fourth time that I wore a skirt this month.
From the strange feeling I had when I wore a skirt and took a photo in it for the first time to the comfortable feeling I had this time, I start to realize that it may take some time to break the mold, but it is not impossible.
In fact, skirts are the most common human clothes for our lower bodies. Skirts are airy and comfortable and easy to walk in. Skirts used to be the major men’s clothing in Han’s culture. In addition, skirts are also the brave indigenous men’s clothes in Taiwan. Nevertheless, we do not know when, skirts become locked down as a symbol of etiquette. We do not know when skirts became excluded from men’s clothes. We do not know when we began thinking of skirts as a symbol of weakness and femininity.
I have an outstanding friend, called Chen Kuan-C at National Taiwan University. He is the leading badminton double player in the university. When he was asked about playing badminton with a skirt, he agreed without hesitating for one second. No matter what kind of struggle he had in his mind when he agreed to my proposal, the results are amazing. We did not expect that the badminton skirt would suit him so well, that he would look so dazzling in the skirt, and so breathtaking!
I have reflected (on what I observed) seriously, and I think a charming person does not need to be a woman or a man, in trousers or in skirts. A person is charming because he or she has nice personality and bravely embraces the image that is different from what most people have of him or her. Most importantly, no matter what they wear, they are always confident.