Ta-wei Chi, Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
Fiction writer Lin Youxuan, whose works often portray young gay men, came to prominence around 2010. In the wake of the 1990s’ “golden age” of LGBT literature in Taiwan, Lin became a major new force in gay self-representation. His stories are usually told in the first-person, so readers’ understandings of action and plot are derived from narrators’ petty prattling and idle chatter. Many of Lin’s works employ this narrative voice, revealing his protagonists’ indistinct understanding of themselves and the world.
The central characters in Lin’s short story “Destined for a Daughter” are a transgender (“new half” in Japanese slang) gay youth and his sixtyish father. The younger man has a penchant for wearing women’s clothing, and unexpectedly discovers that his father shares the same predilection. The story’s title is taken from the words of a fortune-teller who predicted that the father was “destined to have a daughter,” but in fact the man has only a son – both the narrator and his father are themselves the “daughter.” “Daughter” works on two levels in the story: in terms of gender, both the father and the son would like to be female; in terms of familial relations, both would like to be daughter to the mother of the family. Perhaps because the father and son both want to be daughters, they vie to wear the mother’s clothing but express no interest in other women’s apparel.
The narrator, however, is unreliable – half of what he tells us is true and half is false, some based on his observations of life, some on his fantasies (he likes to mimic women when he speaks). His language is alternately coarse and refined – at times his speech is slangy, at other times he quotes the classics, the linguistic instability ushering readers into an unsteady and ambiguous transgender world. But this hard-to-interpret language is especially appropriate to the story: after all, both the narrator and his father drift between truth and falsehood, masculinity and femininity, vulgarity and elegance.
Because the story is told in the first-person, readers discover that the main character is not all knowing: the usages “transgender” and “new half” are pressed upon him by others; he is initially ignorant of his father’s proclivity for cross-dressing, finding out only by accident; his understanding of society is largely derived from gossip. From what the narrator tells us, we know he is gay, but cannot say for sure whether the father is heterosexual or homosexual. In general, Taiwanese society has only a dim understanding of its transgender population; Lin’s story effectively precludes the possibility of “normal society” ever uncovering the mysteries of those who are “different.”
Cai Mengzhe, PhD student, Department of Chinese Literature, National Tsing Hua University
A native of Taichung, Lin Youxuan (Lin Yu-hsuan, 1987) graduated from Taichung First High School, and National Taiwan University’s Department of Management and Department of Chinese Literature. He is currently one of Taiwan’s leading young gay writers.
Most Taiwanese writers born in the 1980s made their names by winning literary prizes, and Lin Youxuan is no exception. He won his first award at age 20, and in 2010 his “Destined for a Daughter” took the Unitas Literary Award for fiction, drawing him to the attention of Taiwan’s literary circles. The story is told in the first-person by a gay youth who enjoys wearing women’s clothing and engaging in feminine behavior. Before the boy was born a fortune-teller told the boy’s father that he was “destined for a daughter,” but the man only has a son. Foreshadowing reveals that the father surprisingly shares his son’s predilection for cross-dressing – thus, the “daughter” in story is both father and son, for they both have transgender leanings.
In 2011 Lin’s “Funky” won the Taipei Literature Award for fiction. The story depicts Taipei’s famed gay bar, “Funky,” encapsulating the memories of Lin's generation of gay youths. For two consecutive years, 2012 and 2013, Lin won the Liang Shih-Chiu Literature Award Judges’ Prize for literary essays. 2012’s prizewinner “Some Are Bathing in Hot Springs, Some Are Drawing Swords, and Some Are Crying in the Rain” is a confessional that explores the contradictions and conflicts between Lin’s social activism and his career as a writer, highlighting his social consciousness and critical introspection. In “Taking One’s Place,” 2013’s award winner, military jargon serves as clever metaphors for gay sex positions; the essay staunchly opposes those who would stigmatize practices such as anal sex, SM, drug-taking, and unprotected sex, outlining a new gay ethos and philosophy of living.
Lin Youxuan has an exquisite command of the subtleties of language, shuttling between slangy colloquialisms and classical allusions, his incisive humor revealing a sharp wit and penetrating intelligence. In manifesting concern for the gay community and Taiwanese society, he never loses sight of mainstream heterosexist society’s prejudices and provocations.
|Work(English)：||Destined for a Daughter|
|Anthology：||Born This Way|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Chiu Ko Publishing Co. Ltd|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.chiuko.com.tw/|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Chiu Ko Publishing Co. Ltd|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|