In Hong Kong, transgender individuals can undergo hormone therapy and a sex change operation subsidized by the government. It sounds like a dream to trans folks in other countries, where expensive sex change operations are not even included in most health insurance plans.
But while eliminating some barriers that trans people face, Hong Kong has yet to give transgender citizens equal rights to marriage — specifically, straight marriage.
One trans woman underwent sex change surgery in a Hong Kong public hospital and had her sex altered on her identity card. But last year, the city’s Registrar of Marriages ruled that she couldn’t marry her boyfriend because her birth certificate says she’s a man. The gender on her birth certificate can’t be changed under Hong Kong law, and the city’s “Marriage Ordinance” only allows marriage between one man and one woman.
Now, she’s suing the Hong Kong government for the right to marry in her new gender. Her lawyers argue that preventing her from marrying her boyfriend is unconstitutional and violates her basic rights. The Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, state that every resident should have the freedom to marry.
Hong Kong lags behind other nearby countries, including mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Japan, which all allow trans people to marry the opposite gender once they’ve transitioned.
Ironically, laws designed to prevent gay marriage permit transgender people to have “gay” marriages but not “straight” marriages. Not only are Hong Kong’s current laws discriminatory against transgender people but they fail at their purpose — preventing same-sex marriages.
In this case, it seems pretty clear: Marriage laws should recognize a person’s true gender, not their sex at birth.
Photo credit: skyseeker