Apr 192012

The term ‘transgender’ has already gradually gained widespread familiarity in Taiwan. It refers to people who exhibit any behavior that transcend gender, including gender identity and gender expression What the general population may not know, is that the term is actually an umbrella term, encompassing transsexuals, cross-dressers, feminine men, masculine women, and others who do not fit the narrow categories of “male” or “female”. Among these, whose plight is particularly difficult, are transsexuals, who have always been faced with two serious concerns: costly surgery fees and reproductive rights. Taiwan currently requires surgical removal of the original reproductive organs to be allowed a gender change. Internationally, however, there are already increasing numbers of countries that, in consideration of human rights, have started to abolish such laws that have surgery as a requirement for gender change.

Based on standards and recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the US Department of State announced that beginning June 10, 2010, a valid certification from a medical physician will be sufficient to have the passport gender changed, with sex reassignment surgery (sex-change surgery) no longer a prerequisite. For Americans born overseas, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad can also be amended with the new gender.

In January of this year, a female-to-male transgender individual from Sweden initiated an online appeal, calling for signatures to urge the Swedish government to abolish the law requiring “sterilization” for gender change. The petition gained over 77,000 supporters in just a month. On March 14, the government changed the relevant law, requiring only a physician’s certification to change legal gender and documents.

Due to concern from the report titled “Transgender Persons’ Rights in the EU Member States” published in 2010 by the Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Netherlands announced that it would abolish in 2012 the regulation requiring surgery to change gender.

Established 2008, InterSex, transgender and TransSexual people CARE association (ISTScare), devoted to advocating for intersex, transgender and transsexual rights. Transsexuals are those who feel discontent with their birth sex, and desire medical and/or surgical methods to alter their sexual characteristics (sex). Many people are under the impression that transsexuals are only those who have completed sex reassignment surgery, but the physical changes from the surgery are not very great, in fact, the transformation in physiology (sexual characteristics) of transsexuals is primarily from hormones. Intersex people, on the other hand, are those who are born with ambiguous sex, cases in which it is impossible to use traditional concepts in determining male or female.

ISTScare founder, Jiyi Wu, spoke about the necessity of sex reassignment surgery. “In Taiwan you must pay for sex reassignment surgery at your own expense, the operation fees are expensive, and not everyone can afford it. Moreover, the surgery has risks. But Taiwan nonetheless requires that one complete the surgery to change their gender.” She also says, “After transsexuals have started hormone therapy, their bodies start to have physical characteristics of both sexes, but those who don’t have money for surgery won’t be able to change their legal gender, and can only let their bodies remain in a state of unclear sex. In fact, sex and gender are far more complex and diverse than what we think. We cannot let surgery decide our gender.”

Regarding sex-change surgery as the basis for changing one’s gender, she says, “The law should not limit only those who have had surgery to change their gender, it should be evaluated on the individual’s gender identity and gender role. Surgery is merely something that changes the outer appearance of the genitals, and not the general appearance of the person. Because a person’s appearance isn’t changed, surgery does not help much in changing the individual’s gender role. In addition, requiring intersex people to have surgery to change gender does not make much sense.” She also believes that transsexual and intersex people’s reproductive rights should be protected. “Surgery strips away one’s original reproductive ability, it can only create a new external appearance, and not a new reproductive ability. No one’s reproductive rights should be deprived.”

She calls on the Taiwanese government to acknowledge transsexual and intersex rights, emulating other countries in formulating a friendly law, to turn Taiwan into an environment friendly toward sexual minority groups.

ISTScare:http://facebook.com/beyondgender (Chinese)
They need your support! Please join the online petition: http://tinyurl.com/nosrsintw (English, Chinese)

Barbie Wu