TAIWAN: Local gay-rights advocates defend bookstore owner
Acitivists say that the government's censors are clearly treating gay and lesbian books and magazines unfairly
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
By Mo Yan-chih
Gay-rights advocates yesterday denounced prosecutors for bringing charges against a bookstore owner for selling erotic magazines.
With the matter proceeding to a second hearing today, they called on the court to respect the gay community's right to freedom of speech.
"Government censors approved director Tsai Ming-liang's original cut of his latest film The Wayward Cloud, which contains explicit scenes of nudity," said Lai Jeng-jer, proprietor of Gin Gin's, a Taipei store specializing in gay and lesbian literature.
"The government recognized the film's artistry. Our magazines, which contain photos of naked men, however, are seen as obscene," Lai said yesterday during a press conference.
Keelung Customs officers confiscated more than 200 magazines imported by Gin Gin's in 2003.
Later the same year, the Keelung District prosecutors went to the bookstore and took away more than 500 magazines.
The confiscated magazines included some that are legally published in Hong Kong as well as His, a local publication.
Josephine Ho, an advisor to the Gender Sexuality Rights Association and dean of National Central University's English Department, said that Lai's prosecution reflected the dominance of heterosexual ideology and hatred toward the gay community.
"Reviews of the magazines by the Publication Appraisal Foundation suggested that those nude photos may cause normal people to conduct improper sexual behavior, and that erect penises shown in the magazine are unnatural, which is ridiculous," Ho said.
Ho blasted what she called discrimination against the gay community through the exclusion of homosexuals from "normal people."
"Besides, I have no idea why an erect penis, which is a normal sexual response, is considered unnatural," Ho said.
Wu Ming-hsuan, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Pseudo-Rating Regulations, said that many readily available erotic heterosexual magazines contain more provocative material than the gay magazines.
It was discriminatory to call gay publications indecent, Wu said.
"The definition of indecency may vary from person to person. The confiscation of the so-called `indecent' gay magazines violates gays and lesbians' right to read what they choose," Wu added.
Lai said the bookstore wrapped and marked with clear warning signs any books or magazines containing such adult material. It also prohibited people under 18 years of age from purchasing these publications, he said.
"I don't think those confiscated magazines are indecent, and I will keep fighting for gay readers' freedom to read," he said.
Date Posted: 3/15/2005