Media scrutiny forces transsexual into shadows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 August, 2010, 12:00am

A case before the High Court will have a profound bearing on the life of 'W', a transsexual who wants to marry her boyfriend. But she is staying away.

'[The press will] be photographing every woman there,' said her lawyer, Michael Vidler. And W, who was born a man but became a woman several years ago, wants to keep her anonymity.

There are good reasons for that - not least that her boyfriend does not yet know of her past, or of this case. 'Maybe some time I would like to tell him about this situation, but I think he can accept me whatever,' she said in an interview yesterday. 'But you know, I'm a female. Every female wants to be a woman, not a TG [transgender].'

In W's absence yesterday, the High Court was listening to arguments in her case. The Hong Kong woman, who lives with her parents and works in the creative industries, loves her boyfriend and wants to marry him.

But there is an obstacle: while her identity card describes her as a woman, her birth certificate identifies her as male. And that, the Immigration Department says, means she is a man no matter what her ID card says, and legally this cannot be changed.

The government argues that because W is classed as a male, a wedding would be a same-sex marriage, which is illegal here. While transsexuals can marry on the mainland, in the European Union and elsewhere, they are not allowed to in Hong Kong.

Vidler said W's case was a perennial problem. 'W is a woman as far as she is concerned ... living the life of a woman.' But having to hark back to what she was in the past meant she was never allowed to live her life as who she really is.

'What we are trying to do is get the message across that she is a woman and why would she need to tell her boyfriend that previously she was anatomically a male, because you are somehow impinging on her right to be the person she is now,' he said.

W knew from a very young age that she was a female locked in a male body. 'I liked boys when I was very young. My secondary school is a boy's school. And I really like men more than girls. My first relationship was with a guy. But I am not gay.

'I cross-dressed while I was with him. But this was not a joke, it was because I'm a female inside, in my heart. And I loved him. And it was this experience that made me want to change my body. So I had an operation to change my body to become a female, so I am female now.'

W talked about her life and feelings yesterday accompanied by Vidler and his female secretary. The only thing that marked W out of the two women was her serious and nervous demeanour. It took a good few minutes before she smiled, tense and overwhelmed.

W said she had suffered little discrimination in Hong Kong because she was not obviously a transgender person, 'but I think people would not discriminate against us if they knew more about us'.

As a woman, W said, she was more outgoing and had more friends; previously she was very introverted.

W's conviction that she was a woman meant she did not struggle greatly with the change, she said. But 'my mother and father had to adapt to my change ... Eventually they accepted me. They understand who I am as a daughter.'

W said she did not want to go to another country so she could marry. 'I am a Hong Kong citizen. I have a right to marry here. The Hong Kong government allows us to have the [sex] change, but they don't allow us to marry. But for women to want to get married to the person they love is just normal.'