‘Men in skirts’ events in Taiwan go viral as government legalises same-sex marriage

Students and social media users in Taiwan wore skirts to promote gender equality, days before the government voted to legalise same-sex marriage (汪詩豪,  Szu-Chieh Jesse Chen, 張弼翔/Facebook).
Students and social media users in Taiwan wore skirts to promote gender equality, days before the government voted to legalise same-sex marriage (汪詩豪, Szu-Chieh Jesse Chen, 張弼翔/Facebook).

Taiwan’s parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage on Friday, becoming the first in Asia to do so.

Lawmakers had a two-year window to make a decision after Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples had a right to marry in 2017.

Tens of thousands of supporters waiting outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei in the rain burst into celebration after the vote was announced.

“#LoveWon,” President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted. “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”

The weeks leading up to the vote were marked in part by student-led “men in skirts” events that went viral. At New Taipei Banqiao High School, students organised a week-long event in early May encouraging male classmates to wear skirts to support gender equality and challenge societal norms of what men and women should wear.

Teachers at the school joined in as well. In a video posted to the New Taipei Banqiao High School student union Facebook page, principal Lai Chunjin said the event aimed to “smash gender stereotypes.”

Photos of the campaign went viral on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, with supporters commending the students for their work and writing that people were free to wear what they liked.

The success of the event drew the attention of students at National Taiwan University, who launched their own “Men in Skirts” day on May 13.

"We need to upend gender stereotypes"

Lin Huichu, a first-year political science student who helped organise the event, said she and several classmates from her reading group were inspired by the high school students and wanted to created a safe space for people to express themselves freely.

I thought to myself, if high school students are taking a stance like this, then we should be doing even more at a university to promote individual freedom and accept whatever it is that people want to wear.

Society can’t change that quickly, so we need to start by upending stereotypes, and show people that dresses, which can often limit women’s bodies and movements, aren’t just for women. We wanted to create a safe space for people who might feel like it’s not acceptable for them to wear dresses, and tell them, ‘Wear what you want, and no one will look at you strangely or laugh at you, and you can be happy.’

Around 50 to 70 people participated in the event. People stopped by to hear us talk on their way to class. We provided some skirts and dresses, some of which were from old high school uniforms. But a lot of guys came with their own dresses and wore them all day.

I received a lot of photos and videos from people who had participated. One of my friends said he didn’t want to wear a dress just to school, but to a movie, and wanted to see how society would react. People are happy that the dress, which is a very gendered symbol, is now starting to blur the lines between men and women.

I hope Taiwan will become the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. We have to protect gender equality, and if Taiwan upholds these values and embraces these people, then in the future we can similarly embrace other people who might seem different from us.

Many social media users showed their support for the high schoolers' campaign and shared photos of themselves wearing skirts.

The bill will take effect on May 24 after Tsai signs it into law.

This story was written by Jenny Che (@jsyche).