News (World)

Trans activists in Hong Kong win landmark victory for gender identification

HONG KONG, CHINA - NOV 25, 2017: Members of the Legislative Council and NGOs join the pride parade in support minority rights.
HONG KONG, CHINA - NOV 25, 2017: Members of the Legislative Council and NGOs join the pride parade in support minority rights. Photo: Shutterstock

Hong Kong’s highest court recently gave trans people a big victory by ruling that gender-affirming surgery should not be required before someone can legally change their gender on identity cards.

The case was brought about by two trans men – Henry Edward Tse and someone only identified as Q – protesting the current government policy stating that they could not change the gender on their identity cards until they had their ovaries and uteruses removed as well as surgery to construct male genitalia.

The court declared that policy unconstitutional and said it created an “unacceptably harsh burden,” according to the AP. The ruling also said the current rules create “confusion or embarrassment” for those who present as a gender that conflicts with what is on their identity card.

“The policy’s consequence is to place persons like the appellants in the dilemma of having to choose whether to suffer regular violations of their privacy rights or to undergo highly invasive and medically unnecessary surgery, infringing their right to bodily integrity,” the ruling also declared. “Clearly, this does not reflect a reasonable balance.” 

Tse and Q have fought this battle with the courts since 2019 and have experienced several losses before this victory.

“We all dreamt that we will not be outed by our ID cards anymore,” Tse said after the ruling, “that we will no longer be rejected to cross borders and come back to Hong Kong our home and be stripped of our rights to marry and establish a family with the opposite sex.”

“In every aspect of everyday life, our dignity has been damaged. This case should never have happened in the first place.”

Liam Mak, co-founder of a local organization for trans youth, said this is a key victory.

“We believe that the gender identity of oneself should not be tied to medical intervention, we should ensure minimal to no medical intervention in the policy. Given that every individual has different preferences or decisions in their own gender transition journey, I hope that the government will be referencing the advice from the court to protect the right of all transgender people.”

While the victory has been celebrated by LGBTQ+ rights advocates, the South China Morning Post reported that there remains confusion over how the ruling will be interpreted and what needs to be done administratively to implement the necessary changes.

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