1 October 2004
How many more must die?
Over the past few days, two transsexual women have committed suicide in Hong Kong. How long must this go on before society and government act? How many more must die before action is taken to alleviate the pressures, prejudice and ignorance of their fellow Hong Kongers?
Being transsexual is not a lifestyle choice; most experts in the field now acknowledge that gender dysphoria, the gender identity disorder associated with transsexualism, is established during gestation, i.e. while the baby is still in the womb, and over the past 30 years the medical profession has successfully developed methods for overcoming the problems caused. These involve hormone therapy as well as gender reassignment surgery. We are talking about a medical problem with a very high mortality rate; one of the statistics often quoted is that 30% of those with severe gender dysphoria commit suicide before they are 30 years old.
Unfortunately, the small minority that suffer from severe gender dysphoria, estimated to be around 300 in Hong Kong, are subjected to a range of discriminatory practices, both social and legal. This exacerbates their already difficult situation. For example, it is still illegal in Hong Kong for a post-operative transsexual to remarry in their assigned gender. This is not the case in many provinces in China, or in most countries in Europe. Also, pre-operative, transsexuals cannot easily change their HKID, even though they are living full time in their new role. This also applies to non-operative transsexuals, who cannot have surgery for medical or psychological reasons. Thus they are living as men, for example, whilst their HKID identifies them as female. This causes many problems when it comes to job applications, applications for bank accounts/credit cards, passports, etc.
But most of all, transsexuals have to suffer from the ignorance and prejudice of the general public. In many other countries, government and the media have helped educate society about the real problems that transsexuals face, and have also changed the laws to accommodate their special needs. This has yet to happen in Hong Kong.
For example, unlike the impressions given in the popular press, the majority of those receiving gender reassignment surgery in Hong Kong are female to male transsexuals. Yet all we see is sensational reporting on a few male to female transsexuals, who are having problems coping with their situation.
TEAM urges the government to address this situation as soon as possible, before any more deaths occur. First, they can consider tabling a bill along the lines of the recently passed legislation in the UK, which allows change of birth certificate and remarriage, amongst other things for post-operative transsexuals, as well as allowing pre-operative transsexuals to have some identification in their chosen gender. They could also amend the Equal Opportunities statutes so that non-op transsexuals, and other transgendered people have protection against discrimination in areas like employment, education, provision of services and facilities, etc.
Secondly, it can help educate the public in the real situation facing transsexuals. There are still some texts used in schools, for example, that identify transsexuals as sexual deviants!!! How will society come to terms with this problem if such nonsense is peddled in government schools?
Thirdly, the media must be encouraged to take a non-sensational approach to reporting transsexual affairs (although this may not sell as many newspapers!). Television soap operas could have transsexual characters portrayed in a positive manner, as in the UK popular soap "Coronation Street" , which is watched by around 30% of the UK population.
TEAM provides a platform from which these subjects can be discussed rationally, as well as acting as a support group for transsexuals in Hong Kong, as well as to the larger transgendered community, estimated at around 3000, who have milder forms of gender dysphoria.
For more information contact:
TEAM attn: Sam Winter,
Tel: 8111 8200 or 2859 2524
TEAM was set up a couple of years ago to initially provide support to pre- and post-operative transsexuals in Hong Kong. It was established by a number of post-op TS women, as well others professionally involved in the field. It has since developed into a group of 30+ people, both men and women, who consider themselves transgendered in some way.
Since the group started we have also taken on board sympathetic legal experts and social workers, and we are now registering as a society, so that we can establish ourselves as the NGO for transgender issues in Hong Kong. Members of the group have strong links with those organisations in the UK and US who have been pursuing for legal changes in those countries, recently having great success in the UK. We also have support from a number of legislative councillors and political parties.
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