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.
Good Morning, my name is Jolian CHUI, the Assistant Director of Programme at International Social Service Hong Kong Branch. Among my other roles at the Agency, I have been a front-line social worker to serve the New Arrivals, and the Community in SSP South District. I started to serve cross border students and their families 7 years ago. It’s really a rewarding experience to me.
The COVID pandemic has dealt all of us a heavy blow in the past three years, but I think you will agree with me, that Cross-boundary students were one of the groups being the hardest hit. If an adult can be easily distracted and tempted to work on something else during a zoom meeting, just imagine how engaging online classes could possibly be for a child or a teenager, and picture having them every day for three whole years. The kids understandably lack motivation to study, and many got addicted to internet games, are glued to their tablets or computers all the time and are not interested in going out anymore. All these then lead to conflicts with parents and sour parent-child relationships. Three years of online classes have had a huge impact on these students, including studies, psychological health, social life and family relationships – in fact their overall growth and development to be exact.
Throughout the pandemic, we at ISS-HK continued to provide various types of services to ease their plight. Our three service centres in Shenzhen have been collaborating with the Education Bureau to provide physical classes of learning and psychological support to maintain their learning, communication, social, and emotional development and to re-establish a support network among them. We also came up with the innovative examination service in Luohu, Nanshan and Futian, whereby we assist primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong in organizing examination sessions, so the Cross-boundary students can sit for their examinations like their classmates in Hong Kong do. In the school year 2021-22, a total of 288 examination sessions were arranged, and more than 1,200 students took part.
Still, nothing compares to the actual school life they are deprived of – face-to-face interaction with teachers, spending recess with classmates and taking part in after-school activities. We are thrilled when the government finally announced that it was planning for cross border parents to go back to school after the Chinese New Year. We wanted to know the parents’ plans moving forward, as well as their service needs as we enter a new phase. Thus, we conducted a survey among cross border families from December 29 2022 to January 3, 2023, and received 1,013 questionnaires. Out of those parents who said their kids will continue their studies in Hong Kong, which is 97% of those surveyed, 92% will resume their daily trips across the border, between their homes in Shenzhen and schools in Hong Kong.
The government announced just a few days back that travelers between Hong Kong and China are no longer required to conduct the PCR test prior to travelling. This is music to cross border parents’ ears, and many of them are planning to send their kids to their schools in Hong Kong as soon as possible after the announcement. Although many are very much looking forward to it, we found out that they faced numerous issues, and whether they can really go back to school anytime soon after the CNY school holidays is still unknown.
Almost 70% of those surveyed had family members who needed to replace their identity cards or travel documents. And over 37% said they were not aware of the latest transportation arrangements regarding their children’s daily commuting across the border after it reopens. We hope the government can put in extra effort in processing their travel documents, and work with the transportation industry to resume cross border school bus services. With many of these children and teenagers commuting daily to and from school on their own, it is important for the students to be able to stick to the routes they are most familiar with. 34% of the families surveyed said they hoped their children to travel across the border via the Lo Wu control point. But the Lo Wu checkpoint is not open at this point, so we urge the government to consider opening this checkpoint as soon as possible.
Even when all these logistical issues are sorted out, parents are concerned about their children’s progress in studies, social ability, language and communication skills – which understandably lag behind their counterparts in Hong Kong. Let me give you some examples. For those who are in Primary 3 and Secondary Form 3, this will be their first time to actually set foot in their own schools. For DSE students, all their high school years have been spent on internet classes and when they finally come back to school, they are already sitting for their mock examination. These students, among others, do need a lot of support in adapting to post-COVID life, whether it is inside and outside of schools. We at ISS-HK are confident to continue working hand in hand with the government and schools in welcoming these youngsters back into our arms – to let them know that they are never forgotten, and help them feel proud of their identity as a part of Hong Kong, their home and our home. I would like to dedicate the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver to our cross-border students and all Hong Kong people. May our roads ahead be safe and smooth.