Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
My name is Zephyrus. My pronouns are he/him. I’m a doctor, an activist, and a transgender guy. I’m the co-founder and vice-chairperson of Quarks, Q-U-A-R-K-S. We’re the first and by far the only organization in Hong Kong for transgender youth.
This coming Friday, 31st March, is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Why is visibility so important for the transgender community, that we have to make a day about it?
Simply because our society still has a lot to learn about gender diversity.
Most people told me I’m the first transgender person they met. Some of them also said it’s difficult to remember what trans men and trans women mean. They simply don’t know when I introduce myself as a trans man, it means male or female.
Then again, a lot of people don’t really know what transgender means. Or more specifically, there’re lots of misconceptions.
The recent victory of Q’s & Henry Edward Tse’s judicial review on gender recognition has in fact told us a great deal about how we can understand transgender people. In early February, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that the existing policy, that the HKID gender marker can only be updated, with the surgeries of sex organ removal and construction, is a violation of the constitution, and a violation of human rights. The HKID gender marker should not be a marker of sex organs. Let’s discuss more from there.
First, gender identity is not equal to sex organs. These are separate things, independent of each other, just having no correlation at all. Being transgender is not about surgeries. In fact, there’s nothing one has to do before one becomes transgender or cisgender. It’s about our gender identity that has developed since we’re 2-4 years old, and how one is living their life.
The requirement that a trans person has to undergo gender-affirming surgeries of their sex organs, in order to update their HKID gender marker, is a denial of the existence of transgender people. It is unreasonable that, in order for one’s gender identity to be recognized, their sex organs would have to resemble that of cisgender people. But gender identity is independent of sex organs, to begin with. Transgender people are often asked “Have you done those surgeries yet?”, or more directly, “What kind of sex organs do you have down there?” Now, with the victory of the judicial review, transgender people in Hong Kong are finally not objectified to our sex organs.
We still have to wait for the new policy on the update of the HKID gender marker. But if sex organ surgeries are no longer required to update one’s HKID gender marker, it’s very likely that in the future, whenever we see a M on a HKID, we shouldn’t assume the person must be cisgender or must be having a phallic organ. Instead, M would be possessed by both cisgender men, and transgender men. They have different bodies, but they all identify as male. It is more important to know a person’s social role and appearance, and their qualities and experience for employment for example, than to dig into what kind of sex organs they may have, or how their sex organs look like.
I’d say this is how we can see gender. When we look at gender from the perspective of gender identity, men would mean all those who have a male gender identity, including both cisgender men and transgender men. Similarly, the female would be a diverse group of women, who all share a female gender identity. While they may have different bodies, different upbringings, and different life stories, for both cisgender women and transgender women.
There’re of course non-binary people too. Their gender identity is one of the many identities, other than male and female, out of the gender binary. What kind of sex organs they have is not something we need to think about. I’d also add that the legal recognition of non-binary gender, or indication of X gender marker, or not having a gender marker at all on HKID, is, however, not widely discussed in Hong Kong.
Thirdly, healthcare decisions shouldn’t be affected by legal consequences. Gender-affirming healthcare has been established for more than 40 years in Hong Kong. One can now visit the public or private sector to discuss their gender identity, and social role with a professional, and for mental health support, gender-affirming voice training, gender-affirming hormones, gender-affirming surgeries, etc. It’s important to know that these healthcare services are not a must for every transgender person. Some may only wish for hormones. There’s no completion or incompletion at all. Just like every healthcare decision, it should be made according to one’s needs, whether one wishes to experience those changes in their body and appearance. In particular, surgeries shouldn’t be used just to acquire legal status.
If this is the first time you came across this information, it’s alright. This is not an personal issue, but more about the lack of comprehensive sex education across different educational levels. Progress has been made bit by bit in recent years. And I’m certain that with the victory of the judicial review, the way our Hong Kong society understands gender would change significantly.
As Dr Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. This judicial review is a victory for the basic human rights of the local transgender community, for the LGBTQIA+ community, and a landmark of human rights in Hong Kong.