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July 22, 2017

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Killing love

Wu Chih-yi, wearing glasses and an orange shirt, sat next to Wu Yi-ting, who wore a trucker hat and a simple T-shirt. They appeared calm but their voices were shaky, their anger and depression evident.

They were speaking to the press about their fight for the right to legally register as a married couple.

Yi-ting and Chih-yi were both born male and underwent gender-reassignment surgery. However, only Yi-ting had officially changed sexes at a local household registration office when they registered as a married couple last October. A few days after that, Chih-yi also went to a local household registration office to officially change her sex to female.

"We had been living together for four years before finally making up our minds to get married," said Yi-ting.

"We wanted to get married to prove that the promise (of love) we made to each other is real. It was not an easy decision for us to make because we knew that we could face discrimination from government officials and from the public. We eventually overcame this fear after imagining the happiness and the possibilities that a legally recognized marriage could bring us."

However, the local household registration office asked the Taipei City Government whether the marriage was still legal. It in turn asked the central government, and the Interior Ministry finally ruled that Yi-ting and Chih-yi were women when they registered for marriage, which it claimed goes against the Civil Code. The marriage registration was withdrawn, and it stung.

"The government ignored the fact that our marriage was officially registered," Yi-ting said.

"It made us feel like the government couldn't care less about our promise to each other. It seems like they consider gender more important than marriage and family.

"I really don't understand why gender trumps everything."

For Chih-yi, the snail's pace at which bureaucracy moves has left a seemingly unbridgeable gap between the definition and significance of gender held by her and an increasing majority of the Taiwanese public, and that held by the government.

"I have always been anxious about my own gender, so I chose to undergo surgery and officially changed my gender to female.

"(But now), even though the female gender fits better with my appearance, I am still anxious. I know that I am still trapped in the box of the definition of gender. I want to be free from this. Gender does not define who I am. Instead, the definition limits me from becoming who I want to be. My gender is just me."

Chih-yi and Yi-ting said that they were heartbroken when they heard that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies benefits to same-sex married couples, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

Though good news for Americans, it brought home to Chih-yi and Yi-ting just how far Taiwan still has to travel.

"Everyone has the right to get married," the couple said, "but the government has turned its back on us." 

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