Gavin Fisher

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Marc Moskowitz


Great progress for the rights of tongzhi(sexually and gender-nonconforming people) has occurred in Taiwan in the past two decades, culminating in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2019. However, it is still not uncommon for parents to take their tongzhi son or daughter to see a spirit medium or psychiatrist in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of their same-sex attraction. In Confucian ideology, which is central to the culture of Taiwan, a filial son or daughter is one who marries heterosexually and produces progeny to continue the family line. Tongzhi who do not do so are therefore violating this traditional view of filial piety. In the face of these challenges, tongzhi members of the Daoist Brilliant Light Temple have created fictive kin relations that provide them with emotional and social support. They have become adopted sons and daughters of the Rabbit God (who is the deification of a man who desired another man), and through their devotion and obedience they are being filial to their spiritual father. The members also use the religious concepts of reincarnation and karmic destiny to explain the familial connections they feel with each other. This thesis also examines how Master Lu of Brilliant Light Temple and Buddhist nun Shih Chao Hwei have supported tongzhi individuals and tongzhi rights. In addition to exploring the intersection of East Asian religions and tongzhi experiences—a topic rarely addressed in the literature—this thesis also makes a new connection between tongzhi and Buddhist and Daoist clergy. Because they do not marry and bear progeny, celibate religious figures have historically fallen outside of Confucian norms in China’s history, and contentious attitudes towards clergy continue to the present in Taiwan. ,i>Tongzhi’s creation of fictive kin networks for support, and their reinterpretation of filial piety, mirrors longer traditions among celibate monks, nuns, and priests who have reconfigured familial obligations in the course of following their religious calling.

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Anthropology Commons