The leader of a Hong Kong Christian group on Sunday argued that issues faced by transgender people in the city could be resolved with social policies and facilities such as gender-neutral toilets, instead of new legislation as demanded by LGBT activists.
Choi Chi-sum, general secretary of the Society for Truth and Light, argued against enacting a gender recognition law on RTHK programme City Forum. His ideas were rejected by Suen Yiu-tung, a gender studies professor at Chinese University, and Joanne Leung Wing-yan, a transgender woman and founder of Transgender Resource Centre. Leung’s centre provides support for individuals and education on such issues.
Since June, a public consultation has been under way over the issue of legal recognition for transgender people in Hong Kong. The consultation, which runs until the end of December, was sparked by a 2013 case in which the top court granted a transgender woman the right to wed her boyfriend.
Suen said: “This is an issue about laws because [transgender] people are struggling with a lot of problems. One of these is the fact that their gender statuses on their ID cards are different.”
Currently, the government issues new identity cards for transgender people if they have received surgery to remove their genitals and construct organs according to their new gender.
Leung said the requirement was unfair as the gender reassignment surgeries could be risky, especially for female-to-male conversions, which may require multiple procedures. The risks are also higher for older people.
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In May, Henry Edward Tse, a transgender man, lodged a judicial review against a “coercive” policy by the Commissioner of Registration for not recognising his adopted gender before a full body change.
Sexual minority groups had urged Hong Kong authorities to follow Britain’s footsteps in passing the Gender Recognition Act, under which a judicial panel would issue recognition certificates if applicants fulfil criteria such as being clinically assessed on their perceived gender. They are not required to undergo surgery.
But Choi said such a law was not suitable for Hong Kong.
“Do we really want to help those struggling with their gender … and to counsel them?” he asked. “It is better to spend time to help transgender people … and ask the government to set up more gender-neutral toilets.”
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He found it “ridiculous to force” people to recognise transgender people who did not undergo sex reassignment surgery.
Since earlier this month, some Christian churches have been mobilising followers to oppose the establishment of a gender recognition law.
Leaders of these churches said such a system would undermine Christian values about sex, family and morality, yet other Christian groups have expressed support for the new law based on the principles of equality and love.