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After a Well-Known Artist's Tragic Death, Taiwan's LGBT Community Demands Marriage Equality

Jacques Camille Picoux's solo exhibition poster in 2012.

Jacques Camille Picoux's solo exhibition poster in 2012.

The death of a gay French professor who reportedly never fully recovered from the loss of his partner to cancer last year has triggered a call for the Taiwan Legislative Yuan to pass the pending Marriage Equality Act.

Jacques Camille Picoux, born in 1948, moved to Taiwan in 1979. On October 17, 2016, one year after his partner's death, he was found dead outside his apartment building in Taipei. He had died after falling from the top floor of a 10-story building, according to Taipei police. The police have ruled out homicide and foul play as they did not find any signs of fighting or a struggle in his apartment nor on the building’s rooftop.

Jacques was a well-known artist in Taiwan. After he retired from teaching French in 2005, he continued making art and held a solo exhibition in 2012. He also played an important role in an award-winning movie called “The Assassin” (2015).

His students and friends believed that he was driven to death out of depression following his partner's death in 2015; the fact that their partnership was not recognized legally had left him in agony.

Jacques Camille Picoux and his partner. From Yen-Jong Lee's Facebook.

Yen-Jong Lee, a former student of Jacques, posted photos of Jacques and his partner and wrote about their story on her Facebook in October 2015, after Jacques’ partner passed away.

這是關於兩個男人的真實故事。
他與他,是一對愛好生命、愛好生活的伴侶,兩人在一起生活了35年,曾經許諾相伴終生,但是比較年輕的那位卻提前因病撒手人寰…我們姑且喚他作C吧—C因癌症復發住院,之後病情每況愈下…病重的他只有一個執念,那就是讓J能夠繼續住在他們兩個人的家,留下足夠的錢給J,讓J的餘生可以無憂無慮地生活。這是一個多麼簡單的願望阿,但是他們沒有結婚、彼此沒有法律上的親屬關係,這樣一個簡單的遺願,現實上就是無比地複雜。…幾個與J相熟的學生是到很晚期才得知C不久於人世的消息,大家趕到醫院後,才知道C的家人已經開始進行財產的移轉…35年的共同生活,只因為沒有婚姻關係,到了最後還是任人宰割。
幾天後,C的狀況越來越差,差到已經沒有意識…J心裡面明白,C是希望一切盡早結束的,「越快越好」,他說。然而,醫師的對口是C的家人,作決定的是C的家人,只因為J與C沒有結婚,他們在法律上,就是兩個不相關的陌生人。
C走了。那一天,J在家裡,不願意進食,只不斷地喝著伏特加,昏睡,醒來,哭泣。

This is a true story about two men.

They were a couple who loved life, and they had been together as partners for 35 years. They promised to share their life together, but the younger one passed away due to sickness… Let us call him C here — C was hospitalized due to recurring cancer, and his situation got worse quickly… He had only one wish when he was in the hospital: Let his partner, J, continue living in their apartment and leave sufficient money to J so that he could carry on with his life without having to worry too much. This was such a simple wish. However, they were not married, and their relationship had no legal protection. His simple wish turned out to be extremely difficult in real life… J's friends and students didn't learn about C's condition until very late, and when they went to the hospital, they found that C's family had started transferring C’s property to his family members… Even though C and J had lived together for 35 years, J could not do anything about it because they were not legally married.

Several days later, C’s condition became worse and he fell unconscious… J knew that C wanted the pain to end as soon as possible. He told the doctor ‘as soon as possible’. However, the doctor only listened to the opinions of C’s family, and they were the ones to make the decision [about resuscitation]. Just because J and C were not married, they were unrelated strangers, legally speaking.

C passed away. On that day, J stayed at home. He refused to eat and kept drinking vodka. Slept, woke up and cried.

Jacques Picoux

Jacques Picoux and his art.

The death of Jacques has prompted Taiwanese to push for the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, which has been pending in the Legislative Yuan.

The bill was presented to the Legislative Yuan in 2012 and had its first reading in 2013. However, after a massive mobilization against same-sex marriage in 2014, the bill was suspended. While current Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen is a strong supporter of LGBT rights, the LGBT community is disappointed that the Tsai administration has stalled the legislation.

Taiwan is considered one of the most liberal countries in Asia because of its LGBT-friendly environment. Yet Jacque's death speaks volumes about how being “friendly” is not enough.

Upon hearing the news about Jacques’ death, Hsin-Yi Chu, who is gay herself, criticized the lip service paid to LGBT rights and urged for more concrete act of support:

畢安生老師也在今天走了。
為什麼在一起35年的伴侶卻不能以合法的配偶身份生活,不能以合法的配偶身份一起面對疾病與死亡?
這個世界根本就很虛假!說什麼台灣已經對同志很友善,根本就是口惠,口頭上說支持同志,卻一點點權益都不願意鬆手,那根本就是虛偽!
說什麼同志平權,假的!只要同志婚姻不合法化,一切都是假的!

Professor Picoux passed away today.
Why couldn’t a partner of someone for 35 years live as someone’s legal spouse and face sickness and death together like a legal spouse?
This world is hypocritical! For those who say that Taiwan is very friendly to LGBT groups, those words are just lip service. They say that they support LGBT groups, but they refuse to give LGBT groups any right. [The “friendliness”] is pure hypocrisy!
Don't just pay lip service to “equal rights for the LGBT community”. Words are empty! As long as same-sex marriage is not legalized, it means nothing!

The LGBT community is also preparing to make a final push to speed up the legislation in the upcoming pride parade in Taiwan on October 29. The theme of this year's parade is “Shatter the mask of hypocritical kindness“:

我們的環境充斥著各種「為你好」的「假友善」說詞,裡面包裹的不僅是幽微、隱形的歧視,更是一種自以為是的假性接受,未見LGBTIQA性多樣社群真實的生命經驗與處境,於是歧視變的更加難以察覺卻仍舊存在,不只讓性多樣社群無法自在展現,還必須不斷與之角力、對抗,讓人身心俱疲,傷痕累累。

Our society is paying a lot of lip service [to the LGBT community]. They talk using kind and friendly words and claim that this or that is “for your own sake”.
At the core of these words are minute and disguised discrimination and feigned acceptance. They do not see the real-life experience and do not address the difficult circumstances faced by the diverse people within the LGBT community. Discrimination becomes minute but prevailing. Under such discrimination, LGBT people are not free to be themselves and they have to struggle and fight against [prejudice disguised in kind words] constantly. It is frustrating and painful.

The parade organizers highlight some examples of the above mentioned “kind” words:

我不反對同性戀,我的孩子不是就好。

I do not object gays or lesbians, as long as my kids are not one of them.

女女我可以,男男我不行。

I am fine with lesbians, but I cannot accept gays.

我覺得變性人很勇敢,但還是別讓小孩接觸,小孩子不懂。

I think those transgender people are very brave, but we should not let kids know about them since kids know nothing.

得愛滋就好好保重不要出門,否則對別人來說很危險。

If you have AIDS, you should not come out, or you will be dangerous to other people.

做自己是很好,但女生還是要保守一點。

It is good to be yourself, but girls better be conservative.

Some believe that the passage of marriage equality legislation in Taiwan is just a matter of time. But the bill has been pending for more than three years now, and some are worried that the government might water it down to a law establishing same-sex partnership — not marriage — to gain more public support. The LGBT community and their supporters are getting impatient about the delay.

Update: The once suspended Marriage Equality Act, which is a proposed amendment to the Civil Code that would allow for same-sex marriage, was revised and submitted by a group of legislators again on October 25. Although it will take a lot of time and effort to pass the new amendment, the bill is finally set for consideration again.

The number one cause for suicide is untreated depression. Depression is treatable and suicide is preventable. You can get help from confidential support lines for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis. Visit Befrienders.org to find a suicide prevention helpline in your country.
  • Marathon-Youth

    Gays and the issue of marriage is due to the changing nature of the traditional family
    That changed well before Gays demanded the legalization of Gay Marriages.
    It began with the single family household led usually by women and no fathers. This process is decades old and shattered the traditional role of a Mother, Father, Wife and Husband.

    Due to government regulations poor women were compensated by the number of children they have,. while not taking into account the father. The woman would have children sired by many men and the role of men as Fathers, Husbands and Sons (the last is important for the man carries the family name) was removed.

    Without that men were and are referred to as “sperm donors” and women are often referred to as “sperm banks”. The lack of ethics, moral duty etc. were gone. That redefined a traditional family. In this new version of a family and the redefinition of Unions Gay Unions are normal. In fact they maybe more “Normal” than families run by one parent or grandparent (when both the mother and whoever the father are missing, often due to drugs and other social problems).

  • Cackalaquiano

    I’m hoping Taiwan will succeed in bringing marriage equality into law. The lesbian and gay community deserves the rights and protections that come with that legal status.
    Thanks for posting this story!

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