LGBTI people in Taiwan are suffering greatly after losing three referendums on their rights, with calls to a LGBTI helpline jumping 40%.
On Saturday (24 November), the country went to the polls to vote in general elections and the referendums. Voters said no to changing the Civil Code to allow same-sex marriage. They also voted against teaching gender equality in schools and to keep the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline is a dedicated LGBTI phone counselling service received an increase of calls during the referendum campaign. But since Saturday’s devastating loss, the hotline has had a surge in people contacting them for support.
The hotline has received 40% more calls since the referendums.
‘Phone calls from LGBTQ+ people and parents who have LGBTQ+ children have both increased,’ Sih-Cheng (Sean) Du told Gay Star News.
‘Four calls out of ten are about referendum topics.’
Advocates are concerned about the referendum’s impact on the mental health of LGBTI people.
‘Many LGBTQ+ and straight allies are disappointed at the result of the referendum,’ Sean said.
‘Some LGBTQ+ people feel strongly depressed or anxious. Some even feel hopeless or isolated by the society.’
The Hotline has also seen a spike in people reaching out to them on Facebook, with the Hotline receiving double the amount of messages.
The Hotline is working closely with other LGBTI organizations to support the community. They are providing support groups and trying to connect people in need with counselors and social workers.
‘We made a slogan “Together, Stronger”, ask people to change Facebook profile frame, and use rainbow items to show their support. We hope our community and straight allies could help each other go through the difficult situation,’ the Hotline’s Mei-ying told Gay Star News.
They also encourage everyone to have display the Pride rainbow on their clothes or bags to make it as visible as possible.
‘We hope this action can help the community feel warm and safe. Hotline will provide limited rainbow pin to those who want to join this action,’ Mei-ying said.
So far, more that 500 people have added the ‘Together, Stronger’ frame to their Facebook profile pictures.
The Hotline also released a video to support people, especially those who are still closeted or young.
Mei-ying remained optimistic.
‘In Hotline’s opinion, the main purpose of anti-LGBT campaigners to hold the referendums was to destroy LGBT and LGBT education but the whole campaign turns out to be the biggest education about LGBT people for the Taiwan society instead,’ she said.
‘So they didn’t win. People talked about LGBT a lot and many people come out to their friends and families.
‘We might lose referendum but it is also the first time we have the opportunity to have a conversation with so many people.’
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Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline: