Hong Kong’s top court has ruled that full sex reassignment surgery should not be required for transgender people to change their gender on their official identity cards. The landmark judgment is expected to have a far-reaching impact on the LGBTQ community, as many transgender individuals consider the operation unnecessary and risky. The court’s decision came in response to a case brought by transgender activist Henry Edward Tse and another individual, referred to as Q, who sought a change in government policy.
The existing policy only allowed transgender men to change their gender if they had undergone surgery to remove their uteruses and ovaries and construct male genitalia. Those who were unable to undergo the procedures due to medical reasons were the only ones who could be exempt. Tse and Q, both transgender men who had received hormonal treatments, appealed to the court after the government refused to change the genders on their ID cards.
In its judgment, the Court of Final Appeal declared the government’s policy to be unconstitutional, describing it as an “unacceptably harsh burden” that was “disproportionate” in its encroachment upon the rights of the two individuals to gender identity and physical integrity. The judges also noted that administrative issues usually pertained to a transgender person’s outward appearance, not the appearance of their genital area.
Tse celebrated the ruling, stating that many transgender people have been longing for a “final victory” for years. He expressed his relief at finally having a male ID card that would allow him to access gender-segregated spaces without being questioned or humiliated. Liam Mak, co-founder and chairperson of the local transgender youth organization Quarks, described the win as an “important milestone” for the transgender community in Hong Kong.