Transsexuals call for laws to help minorities

After legal victory allowing her to wed, ‘W’ says the fight is not over and leading campaigner says more must be done to end discrimination

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 4:59am

While the transsexual identified only as W can look forward at last to a "magical" wedding to her boyfriend, she says much more needs to be done to protect sexual minorities in Hong Kong.

Top of the list are new laws against discrimination, W and fellow transsexual Mimi Wong said after yesterday's landmark ruling by the top court.

W, who is in her 30s, stressed her win was no accident. "I have kept fighting for my rights after much difficulty. Life is not about giving up - and I'm the example."

But she declared the court decision was not enough. "The government should have laws to safeguard transsexual women from discrimination," she said.

One example, she said, was some employers' unwillingness to hire people like her.

Wong, who was laid off from her bank job in 2009 while awaiting sex-change surgery and has been unable to find another despite holding three degrees, agreed.

"We want a law that will provide protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups at the workplace, at school and other aspects," Wong said, adding that she would now begin a campaign for such a law.

We want a law that will provide protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups at the workplace, at school and other aspects

W shared her wedding plans in a telephone interview arranged by her lawyer Michael Vidler in which Wong joined in.

"I'm very happy that I can finally marry my beloved boyfriend in Hong Kong," she said. "I can finally raise my head and become a true woman."

She said she had started making initial plans for the wedding.

Vidler said: "Like all people wanting to marry, she wants her wedding, when it comes, to be magical."

Wong, 58, who has no plans to marry, suffered another blow this week when she was told her application for the post of social security assistant in the government had failed.

The Labour Department first invited her to an interview, noting she had "gender identity disorder", which is a psychiatric disability covered by the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

"It's a dilemma. That ordinance provides some protection for us but at the same time they classify transsexualism as a disability. We want a law that treats us as equal to others," said Wong, whose degrees are in engineering, business and law.

The Hong Kong Queer Alliance, of which Wong is a member, will meet Equal Opportunities Commission chairperson York Chow Yat-ngok today.

The commission said it welcomed the court ruling, although it admitted the transgender community "still struggles for equal protection before the law".

Specific legislation against discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation would provide transgender persons "some recourse under the law against injustice", it said.

Expecting that the ruling would raise demand for medical services for transsexuals, Wong called for more resources in the area, noting that the only doctor in charge of transsexual surgery in public hospitals would retire soon.

There have been 16 such operations in the past five years.

A gender clinic at the Prince of Wales Hospital should also be restored to provide specialist services including psychology, surgery and endocrinology for transsexuals, Wong said.

Adding to Wong's frustrations is the lukewarm reception received by a musical she co-produced with W to promote transsexual rights.



W: Now in her 30s

Early age: W perceives herself as female

2005-2008: Diagnosed as suffering from gender identity disorder

January 2007: W has an orchidectomy (testicle removal) in Thailand

2008: W undergoes sex reassignment surgery in Hong Kong

August 2008: W issued with a new ID card giving her sex as "female"

November 2008: W's solicitor writes to the Registrar of Marriages seeking a matrimonial confirmation, which is later rejected

August 2010: W's case starts in Court of First Instance

October 2010: W loses case in Court of First Instance

November 2011: W loses appeal case in Court of Appeal

April 2013: W's ultimate appeal heard in Court of Final Appeal

Yesterday: W gets her "hard-won victory"