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Transgenders Protest New Policy in Taiwan

Chinanews.com, News Report, Staff, Translated by Jun Wang Posted: Oct 06, 2008

TAIPEI, Taiwan A government policy in Taiwan has made it more difficult for transgenders to get an ID, creating panic in the community. The policy, which went into effect last year, stipulates that female-to-male transgenders cannot get an ID card that identifies them as male unless they have undergone all three parts of gender reassignment surgery.

Transgender rights organizations in Taiwan have asked the government to withdraw the policy.

Xukuan Gao, spokesperson for the transgender organization Taiwan TG Butterfly Garden, pointed out that in the past, a female-born Taiwanese person who had had her breasts, womb and ovaries removed the first stage of a three-part surgery, was recognized as a he and received a new male ID from the government. But since last October, Taiwans government decided not to issue a male ID until the transgender completes all three stages of the surgery, including the last step in which the person gets a surgical penis. There is no similar barrier added for male-born Taiwanese who have surgery to become women, reports Taiwans United Daily News.

Gao says the policy has created panic in the transgender community.

Many Taiwanese who were born female and are preparing for gender reassignment surgery dont know what to do, says Gao. After the first two stages of the surgery, they will still be unable to get a male ID card, which could lead to harassment in the work place, at school or in public restrooms.

The third stage of gender reassignment surgery, in which the person gets a surgical penis, is expensive, time consuming and very risky, according to one transgender who recently completed the first stage of surgery. As a result, many transgenders choose to skip the last stage of surgery. People have to take half a year off, and the surgery costs at least 800,000 Taiwan dollars ($25,000 U.S. dollars), which is not something everyone can afford, he said.

Youmei Lai, president of Taiwans Gender Equality Education Association, says the governments regulation violates peoples rights, and was not publicly discussed before being approved. The association wrote a letter to the government arguing that it should consider the issue from the transgenders point of view.

Cosmetic surgeon Maoshan Wang says a doctors letter should be enough for transgenders to obtain a new ID after their breasts and other female organs have been removed. From a human rights perspective, he says, transgenders feelings must be considered.

Two-thirds of the gender reassignment surgeries that Wang has done are from female to male, which is about the same ratio as transgender surgeries in Japan. This could be a result of the fact that men still rule in many Asian countries, says Wang, and being perceived as a man allows for greater privileges in society.

Taiwan government official Hangui Zen says the government consulted with a hospital before putting the new rule into effect. He acknowledged that the onslaught of complains has been a major headache, but added that the governments rule must be enforced.

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