Tricky Taiwanese Identity

andrewtsao  •  5 Aug 2022   •  

Last night I had a chance to catch up with a friend who has been studying medicine in Australia for the past two years and he shared really openly about a tricky journey he’s experienced during this time: the journey is reclaiming and understanding Taiwanese citizenship and identity.

He told me that when he first came to Taiwan in 1989, the immigration laws were still antiquated and they could only recognize citizenship under his dad’s status, who had Cantonese citizenship even though his mom had Taiwanese citizenship. So as a result, he had to wait until around 10 years old when the law changed to finally admit to his mother’s citizenship, and when applying he said that because of the technicalities of when he came to Taiwan, he had to be labeled in the system as someone who’s born out of wedlock, which not only apparently had legal ramifications, but to a Christian family, has a negative stigma around. When he finally try to revisit the issue when he was 20 years old, apparently it was too late for him and the best he could do is to push his parents to apply for his younger brother.

He also shared with me that during the time spent in Taiwan during the pandemic where he tried to find work, he was constantly reminded of his identity as a “foreigner” even though he has spent more than just the majority of his life here. As a result, he grew really angry with his parents and eventually fell into a deep depression where it sounded like he was recently able to be better through the help of counseling.

Stories like this makes me feel so humbled by the pain and trauma we all have deep down and they always take in such unique forms. This is someone I’ve been friends with since 4th grade, and never have I even guessed that he was struggling with such identity crisis and anger toward his parents, country, and government. To me, I am more motivated than ever to continue on my journey to lend a helping hand to help guide others out of their own struggles, however small and incremental that I can offer.