Hong Kong urged to adopt gender-neutral public facilities as Legco considers legal recognition of transgender people

Concern groups and individuals express views as part of consultation on whether transgender people should be legally recognised in city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 November, 2017, 9:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 11:49am

Sexual minorities in Hong Kong urged the government on Monday to set up gender-neutral public facilities to cut down on unwanted attention they claim to face.

The suggestion came during a special meeting in the Legislative Council on what was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Concern groups and individuals were invited to express their views as part of a long-awaited public consultation on whether transgender people should be legally recognised in the city.

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Kenn Chan, of the LGBT rights group PrideLab, said during the panel on administration of justice and legal services that the city should have gender-neutral facilities, such as changing rooms at public swimming pool. Chan, a lesbian, claimed people such as her faced unwanted attention and dilemmas in traditional male- and female-only facilities.

“I’m a girl but I dress like a man,” she said. “I have to go to female changing rooms, but other women are visibly shocked or appear uncomfortable when I’m there.”

“But by law I must go to female changing rooms. It’s illegal for me to use the ones for men.”

An interdepartmental working group led by Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung was set up in 2014 after a landmark Court of Final Appeal ruling in 2013 granted a male-to-female transgender person, known as W, the right to wed her boyfriend. The court told officials to consider how to address problems transgender individuals face by taking reference from overseas laws and practices.

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The group launched a consultation in June that is due to run until the end of this year. But it did not touch on same-sex marriage or other related issues.

The consultation paper asks whether a gender recognition system should be established, and invites comment on the criteria for determining whether a person is eligible for the recognition based on factors such as age, residency and marital status as well as the number of years the person has lived in the preferred gender.

At the meeting on Monday, Ng Sze-lok of the Democratic Party expressed support for a gender recognition system and said legal representatives, psychologists and doctors should be invited to screen applications to it.

But Liberal Party member and Sham Shui Po district councillor Dominic Lee Tsz-king claimed transgender surgery did not alter the DNA of one’s gender and that such legislation would encourage same-sex marriage.

The paper also considers the procedure for gender recognition, such as whether a person must undergo surgery to remove their genitals and construct new ones to be recognised. Other considerations include what kind of authority should be able to determine applications for recognition, and whether recognition decisions overseas should be followed locally.