Hong Kong transsexual wins right to use female name
October 15 2004 12:00 AM ET
A transsexual woman said Thursday she has won a landmark fight to list only her female name and add her gender to secondary school certificates after filing complaints about employment discrimination. The woman, who would agree to be identified only as Ms. J, said her school certificates revealed that she had been a man before undergoing a sex-change operation in 2000. She was allowed to add her female name to the documents, but authorities retained her old male name. They later agreed to exclude any mention of gender. Still, the revised paperwork caused problems when she tried to find clerical work because employers didn't want to hire a transsexual, said Ms. J, who is in her 20s. "I suffered discrimination," Ms. J told the Associated Press. "The employers would not even consider my capability, education level, and experiences. I feel very unhappy that I've been deprived of work."
Ms. J said when she sought to have her school records changed, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority refused, so she went to the Equal Opportunities Commission. The commission mediated her case, and the exam authority eventually agreed to put only Ms. J's new name on the school certificates, while listing her gender as female. A Hong Kong activist who supports transsexuals, gays, and lesbians confirmed the case, saying it was the first to successfully pressure the exam authority into changing old policies. Officials had rejected all previous such cases, said Roddy Shaw, chairman of
Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities, which assisted Ms. J in her battle.
An exam authority spokeswoman, Linda Yu, denied that the group mistreated Ms. J, saying its workers merely followed procedure, but she acknowledged they weren't sensitive enough to Ms. J's needs. "Handling this case is a learning experience for us," she said. The Equal Opportunities Commission declined comment, saying it cannot discuss individual cases. Ms. J expressed hope that her victory will help other transsexuals in Hong Kong overcome prejudice and discrimination. "We want to integrate into and contribute to the society, but the society marginalizes us," she said.