Two academics representing Hong Kong at a gay conference in Switzerland have called for transsexuals to be given stronger legal rights. Sam Winter, associate professor of the University of Hong Kong's faculty of education, and Robyn Emerton, associate professor in the law faculty, spoke on the social and legal issues facing transgender people across Asia. Dr Winter said such an international meeting was particularly significant because of 'transphobia' - fear and discrimination against transsexuals - in many societies. 'Those people who are trying to lead transgender lives do so in a relatively invisible fashion,' Dr Winter said at the meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Geneva. 'But there are important rights issues involved and we need to get the issue on the international agenda.' Professor Emerton said there were many legal problems with having 'the wrong gender' on the official documents of people who have had sex reassignment surgery. She called on Hong Kong and other Asian countries to introduce legislation allowing such people to change their legal sex. 'In Hong Kong, we are in a halfway house, where gender identity is medically and administratively recognised, but not legally. This is illogical and can expose a person to legal problems and discrimination,' she said. In Hong Kong, a gender change can be reflected on identity cards, passports and educational certificates, but not on a birth certificate. This means, for example, that a man who gets sex reassignment surgery can hold an identity card stating he is a woman but is not able to marry a man. Dr Winter said 'more and more research shows that being transgender - people who are ascribed one sex when they are born but grow up wanting to live in another sex - is biological' and not a psychological disorder, contrary to the established psychiatric view. 'More than a decade ago, homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder in psychiatric manuals ... transgender should come out of the psychiatric manuals in the same way.'