Don't neglect transsexuals in talks on discrimination law, say activists

Activists don't want transsexuals, transgenders to be neglected in anti-discrimination-law talks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 4:55am

Legislation banning prejudice against sexual minorities should not neglect the unique needs of transsexuals, activists say.

There has been a growing clamour this year for a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. It reached a peak when lawmakers voted down a motion last month, calling for public consultation on the issue.

But the momentum for action remains strong, with activists now lobbying for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to give a timetable for legislation in his maiden policy address on January 16.

A dozen groups championing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights will hand-deliver a letter with this message to the Executive Council this week. An online petition has so far collected 882 signatures.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen told a November 19 Legislative Council meeting that the government was "open-minded" about a law, and the chief executive would "give more details" at his policy address.

But while public discussions focus on homosexuals and bisexuals, the struggles of transgendered and transsexual people have been neglected. "People talk about LGBT, but they often forget about the T," said Mimi Wong, 58, a man who had surgery to become a woman.

Reggie Ho Lai-kit, chairman of Pink Alliance, a network of LGBT groups, agrees not enough attention is given to transsexuals and transgendered people.

Transgendered people are those who do not conform to the sex to which they were assigned at birth, while transsexuals refers to people who undergo gender reassignment surgery. The Transgender Resource Centre estimates there are 200 to 300 transsexuals and 10,000 transgendered people in Hong Kong.

"Who you want to be with does not make you who you are," said Ho, emphasising that transsexuals want to live in their choice of gender, while it is a matter of sexual orientation with homosexuals and bisexuals.

Transgendered people also faced prejudice from homosexuals, said Ho. He raised an example of a woman who was born a man and had surgery to become a woman. She remained married, which made her a lesbian.

"Some gays and lesbians questioned why she would do that, when she could have remained in a straight relationship to avoid discrimination," said Ho. "That counts as prejudice. Even gays and lesbians sometimes think within the gender stereotypes society drills into us."

She also referred to the legal challenge of a transsexual woman, identified as "W" in court.

W was born male, underwent surgery to become female, and had her identity card changed to reflect her gender. But the Registrar of Marriages told her that only a person's gender at birth counts for the purposes of marriage, and that a union between people of the same biological sex cannot be celebrated.

The challenge by W, represented by human rights lawyer Michael Vidler, will reach the Court of Final Appeal in April after it was rejected in the lower courts.