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Transsexuals – the myths
- “Are they just men who like dressing in women’s clothes?” NO! Transsexualism is about who you feel you are, not about how you dress. And by the way, there are just as many transsexual males; people labelled female at birth who live male lives.
- “Are transsexuals are mentally ill?”. NO! Nowadays, more and more experts, including psychiatrists, argue that transsexuals are simply different. Yes, transsexuals are often anxious, depressed, even suicidal. But those feelings often arise out of the unwillingness or inability of family, friends and society to accept their difference.
- “Are they unnatural?” NO! Transsexuals are a natural part of humanity. There have always been transsexuals in almost every culture worldwide. That includes China.
- “Are they just homosexual? Do they live as they do so they can have homosexual relationships more easily?” NO! Many transsexuals first experience their feelings long before they develop any sexual interest whatever! Some of them, when they do develop a sexual interest, become interested in people of the different biological sex, not the same one! And almost all transsexuals will tell you that it is all about being who they need to be, not attracting those whom they happen to like.
- “Do they choose to be transsexual?”. NO! They don’t choose to feel that way! It’s their gender identity. And those who go on to live transgendered lives will tell you that they had no real choice – it was something they had to do.
I've never been confused about my gender identity! It's everyone else who's been confused about it. I don't have a problem with it, it's others who have the problem. Robin, a Hong Kong transsexual.
Transsexuals - the facts
- We all expect males and females to act differently. In fact everyone has a bit of ‘male’ and ‘female’ in them. We all need to express our ‘male’ and ‘female’ qualities.
- Some males display ‘feminine’ behaviour. Some females act in a ‘masculine’ way. Where a person displays this sort of behaviour regularly, and in lots of situations, we often talk about transgendered behaviour.
- Some people go further. They grow up feeling, often from a very early age, deeply unhappy being members of the sex they were assigned at birth. They feel a deep need to live life as members of the other sex. They question their gender identity. We often call them transsexuals. They are a special group of transgendered people. A lot of recent work suggests that biology may play an important part in their development.
- Many transsexuals live in their chosen gender. Sadly, others don’t feel able to do so. They just try to get on with their lives, perhaps hoping that their feelings will go away
- Transsexuals can contribute to society as fully as any other people. In Hong Kong there are transsexuals working in fields as diverse as business, government and education.
- Nobody knows how many transsexuals there are in Hong Kong. Many keep their feelings to themselves. Elsewhere, it has been estimated that 1/500 of us may be unhappy living life in their birth gender.
Whenever the term ‘transsexual’ is mentioned, Hong Kong people can only link it with negative terms like “yan yiu”, shemales, perverts, etc….. even if I can ignore others’ comments and live for my own life, the society still doesn’t recognize us. Like any other women, I wish to love someone and be loved too; however it seems that no men could accept transsexual women like me. Even if I’m lucky enough to find a boyfriend, I still can’t marry him. And if one day I was raped, the offender would not be charged with rape. And even more ridiculously, it won’t even be legal for me to use the female washroom even when I have completed my (sex reassignment) operation. I just don’t understand why things have to be this way. I just wish society could grant us the most basic dignity and human rights so that we can have a normal life. Why are all these things so difficult for us? Why are they unattainable luxuries? Ying, a transsexual woman hoping for sex reassignment surgery.
Transsexuals – pained lives
- We are all labelled ‘male’ or ‘female’ as soon as we enter this world. Everyone inside and outside the family, in childhood and in adulthood, expects us to live according to these labels. As a result, many transsexuals grow up confused and isolated, deeply ashamed of who and what they are, trying to hide their feelings, hoping they will go away, and living unfulfilled lives of great unhappiness.
- Transsexuals are often rejected by family and friends, and face prejudice and discrimination, particularly in employment, where they find it hard to get a job, get promoted or even avoid getting sacked.
- In Hong Kong they cannot currently change their legal status. For many, even those whose partner accepts them for who they are, marriage is impossible.
- So many transsexuals become socially isolated, living at the margins of society, depressed, helpless and suicidal. In one month in 2004, two transsexuals in Hong Kong committed suicide.
- What can teachers, social workers, doctors and others do to help young people, and adults they believe may be questioning their gender identity?
- Be accepting. Do not judge.
- Be supportive.
- Show them this leaflet.
- Read it carefully yourself.
- What to do if you are unhappy as a member of your current sex?
- Contact us at TEAM or visit us at our website. At our meetings you have a chance to meet other transsexuals, as well as other people who, though not transsexual themselves, support the transsexual community in Hong Kong.
- Consider contacting a professional. Social workers, counselors, family doctors and others can all help in different ways. For example, a family doctor can refer you to the Gender Identity Team at the Sex Clinic at Queen Mary Hospital.
Transsexual and other transgendered people are part of God’s creation. They are simply different to most of the rest of us. They are neither mentally disordered or sinful. Actually, the real disorder is the inability of society to accept their difference. The real sin is the unwillingness of some to do so. Dr. Sam Winter, Head of Division of Learning Development and Diversity, Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong.
Time for Change
- TEAM believes that there is an urgent need for Government to take three steps:
- promote public education regarding transsexual people and their problems. This leaflet, produced with Government funds, is a beginning.
- enact legislation against discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
- enable transsexuals to change their legal status.
- We believe that these steps should be taken in parallel. Indeed, legislation would itself help to educate the public about the problems transsexuals continue to experience in Hong Kong.
- TEAM stands for the TRANSGENDER EQUALITY AND ACCEPTANCE MOVEMENT.
- We act as a support group, working for the needs of transsexuals and other transgendered people.
- We have social gatherings for transsexuals and other transgendered people.
- We organise educational activities, and work with media, NGOs and Government to cultivate a better understanding among public and professionals about what transsexualism and transgender is.
- We encourage a climate for change, pressing for civil and legal rights that will lead to respect, equality and dignity for transsexual and other transgendered people living in Hong Kong.
Compared to all (these social pressures) the pain of the surgery was actually nothing! The price of becoming my real self was expensive. I was expelled from my family. My company pressured me to leave. My friends said I deserved to have all these difficulties I was facing, because I “chose” my sex. Some of my good friends even stayed away from me… A Hong Kong transsexual who has had sex reassignment surgery.