Hong Kong’s highest court has ruled in favor of allowing transgender people to change their gender identity on government-issued ID cards without having to undergo full reassignment surgery.
On Monday, the Court of Final Appeal unanimously sided with transgender activist Henry Tse and another appellant identified as “Q,” ruling that the Commissioner of Registration breached the rights of two transgender people by refusing their applications to change their gender on their Hong Kong Identity Cards. The case was brought to the Court of Final Appeal when two lower courts — the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal — dismissed judicial review proceedings in 2019 and 2022.
Transgender individuals who had legally changed their names and physical appearances were allowed to update their identity cards. However, Hong Kong’s civil registry prohibited individuals who had not had sex reassignment surgery from changing their gender marker.
The judges wrote that the government’s policy was “infringing their right to bodily integrity” and it “does not reflect a reasonable balance.”
The policy’s consequence is to place persons like the appellants in the dilemma of having to choose whether to suffer regular violations of their privacy rights or to undergo highly invasive and medically unnecessary surgery, infringing their right to bodily integrity. Clearly this does not reflect a reasonable balance. The Policy imposes an unacceptably harsh burden on the individuals concerned.
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Although Tse and Q did not undergo sex reassignment surgery, they previously underwent medical and surgical treatments, including hormonal treatments and breast removals.
They argued that it was unwanted, unnecessary and highly invasive to be forced into a full sex reassignment surgery in order to change one’s gender identity on IDs.
“Today’s result is delayed justice, a Pyrrhic victory,” Tse said in a statement.
We all dreamt that we will not be outed by our ID cards anymore, that we will no longer be rejected to cross borders and come back to Hong Kong, our home, and be stripped of our rights to marry and establish a family with the opposite sex. In every aspect of everyday life, our dignity has been damaged. This case should never have happened in the first place.
I will continue to work hard to plant the seeds for the transgender rights movement with my partners at Transgender Equality Hong Kong. I believe that one day, we shall succeed and welcome the rainbow with open arms.
The Court of Final Appeal’s ruling is expected to have a huge impact on the LGBTQ community, as many members view the sex operation as risky and unnecessary.
Tse noted that transgender people have been waiting for a “final victory” for years.
“Now I have a male ID card, it will be a lot easier for me to access gender-segregated spaces,” Tse reportedly said. “I wouldn’t be questioned and humiliated by being outed by my ID that’s incongruent to who I am.”