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22 Jul 2013

Taiwanese genderqueer couple fight to have marriage reinstated

Jiyi Wu (吳芷儀) and Abbygail Wu (吳伊婷), who are both transgender women and describe themselves as a genderqueer couple, are fighting to have their marriage reinstated after the country’s Ministry of the Interior (MOI) earlier this year stripped the pair of their legally married status.

It is a case that has brought transgender and same-sex marriage issues back into the spotlight in Taiwan as the government is being accused of human rights violations after the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) declared the marriage of a transgender couple to be illegitimate although at the time of marriage they were legally male and female.

Born male, 29-year-old Jiyi Wu began hormone treatment in 2007 and completed male-to-female sex reassignment surgery last July. While still legally male, she applied to marry longtime partner Abbygail Wu (吳伊婷), a transgender person who had already changed her legal status from man to woman.

Jiyi Wu and Abbygail Wu (right). Photo: Taipei Times

The pair were married in October 2012. In their application, Jiyi Wu applied as the “husband” in the couple, while Abbygail Wu did so as the “wife.”

The Household Registration Office (戶政事務所) approved the application for a union that was between a man and a woman as the respective parties were legally male and female at the time.

According to the Taipei Times, the Wanhua District Household Registration Office, under authorisation by the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), issued a notice to the pair declaring their marriage illegitimate.

A MOI official Kao Chiu-feng (高秋鳳) said: “In this case, both parties concerned had completed their sexual reassignment surgery from male to female before registering their marriage.”

“Because both were women at the time of marriage, conditions do not fulfill the Civil Code (民法) stipulation that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Kao wrote.

But to the couple, theirs is not a marriage between a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman.

“We aren’t lesbians,” said 27-year-old Abbygail Wu, a software engineer. “We are a genderqueer person married to another genderqueer person,” said Jiyi Wu.

The case came to light after Jiyi Wu applied for legal status as a woman as the Taipei City Household Registration Office noticed some “irregularities”.

The couple has called on the government to reverse its “illegal” decision and are threatening to take legal action by July 23 if the annulment is upheld.

They say they will ask the Supreme Court to explain why a legally recognized marriage can be “illegally revoked” by the government — a decision that could very well be a precedent in Taiwan.

“In the eyes of government officials, gender is far more important than the value of marriage and family,” Jiyi Wu told reporters last week.

According to the Times, the MOI is rethinking its policy on gender recognition and is midway through a study of how other countries handle the issue, said Su Chih-meng (蘇誌盟), director of Population Policy at the MOI’s Department of Household Registration (戶政司人口政策). Decisions will be announced in November.

The paper noted that in over 10 countries, such as the UK, medical surgery is not a requirement for a person to be legally recognised to be of a different gender. Argentina, in an unprecedented move, has removed all requirements for a legal gender change, so that a person can change gender purely on request.

Reader's Comments

1. 2013-07-22 19:04  
That must have been so devastating for them.
To be socially recognised as a married couple, then to have that taken away from them.
Governments really need to re-examine their laws and policies when implementing them shows so little compassion and fairness.

I really hope that this couple find a resolution to this soon.
2. 2013-07-23 03:15  
Sorry to be irreverent, but this is very specialised...
3. 2013-07-23 07:59  
amazing love story..
4. 2013-07-23 13:17  
Amazing story. Blew my mind away ... to smithereens. I'm still wondering why and ... how. I couldn't agree more with drelin, though - this is one highly specialised field of study in its own right.
5. 2013-07-23 15:10  
What's so "specialised" about Governments behaving decently?

We have advanced so far as a species, with incredible technology and the "promise" of democracy in 120 out of 192 countries, (including Taiwan).

Yet when two people love each other, our Governments are more interested in playing "politics" than doing what is decent.
6. 2013-07-24 13:38  
'Specialized?' Under whose definitions and institutions do we judge or sanction relationships other than ours? Every relationship is unique. Are individuals who pursue a loving relationship -- regardless of defined or undefined gender -- any more or less 'normal' or 'legitimate' than yours, mine, or another same-sex or hetero-sexual relationship? Let's apply our desires to be loved, respected, accepted by society, our friends, families -- whether chosen, biological, legal, unrecognized or any combination thereof -- to ourselves as well as all others. Why should civilized, intelligent cultures and societies limit 'legitimate' relationships 'only' to two men, two women, or one man and one woman? This courageous, honest couple deserves all the support, love and respect that our global community can possibly give, and more.
Comment edited on 2013-07-24 13:44:39
7. 2013-07-25 11:05  
Waxing lyrical about what the "global community" (whatever that means) should or must do is easy ... when one is typing one's speech on one's keyboard. In reality, who wouldn't be as stumped as the Taiwan government? I know I would be if I wore the shoes of a Taiwan government official tasked to handle this delicate matter. Even as a gay man, I don't understand it and I don't pretend to subscribe to empty notions of "universal" love. Everything, in my personal view, starts with baby steps and takes time and, in some instances, political will. If there are those of us within the LGBT community who can't make any sense of this story, what more a, for all intents and purposes, straight Taiwanese government official?
Comment edited on 2013-07-25 11:09:07
8. 2013-07-25 11:48  
If "there are those of us within the LGBT community who can't make any sense of this story"...then it is a small step, to simply stand in front of a mirror and realise - It is the same story repeating itself !
9. 2013-07-25 14:07  
Not being able to make sense of a story is not the same thing as being judgmental and, no, #8, in my personal view, it is NOT as simplistic as you would have it UNLESS you, of course, identify yourself as "genderqueer" which then begs the question : what is "genderqueer"? What you seem to define it? As something so subliminal and transcendental that it embraces the four ends of the Earth? Perhaps, not many of us have reached Buddhahood as you, apparently, already have but I do not see why your opinion should matter more than a less "enlightened" one. Sorry for being irreverent, but, to my unenlightened mind, "genderqueer", still remains something indigestible.
Comment #10 was deleted by its author on 2013-07-25 14:08
11. 2013-07-25 21:53  
re #9

"Humans" should have the right to "love"
with equality under the law.

That's all.

No issue as to sexuality or gender.

Simple "all equal under the law".

No enlightenment required :)
It's really a no-brainer.
12. 2013-07-26 07:12  
#11, waxing lyrical is easy to do. Besides preaching,what else are you doing for this couple to reflect the compassion that you so vociferously spew? People who preach from the pulpit, from my experience, tend not to walk the talk. That's no criticism of you, of course.
Comment edited on 2013-07-26 11:14:57
Comment #13 was deleted by its author on 2013-07-26 11:15
14. 2013-07-26 16:41  
Dear #12

It seems like the only one with a point to prove is you?

I'm still not sure what your point is though?

Apart from attacking people.
15. 2013-07-26 18:04  
#12, you should just give it a rest and let others with views that are noticeably different from yours have their say rather than try to prove them wrong at every turn. So what if you support the Age of Aquarius, etc? There are those of us who don't. Just respect that and people like me will reciprocate with an equal measure of respect. As long as you try to tell me that my views are not valid because they differ from yours, the more I will keep putting my point across.
Comment edited on 2013-07-26 18:06:38
16. 2013-07-26 20:46  

I wish you love and kindness
17. 2013-07-26 21:25  
Likewise, drewblueSYD.
18. 2013-07-28 14:23  
All governments in the world have no right to stop people from loving or having marriage because of their sexual identities. Government has no right to define who should love whom. Government exists to serve people, not to restrict people.

The law should be equal to every citizen. The government should not create discrimination inside the society.

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