Hong Kong activist receives ID card after legal battle for gender recognition

Henry Tse holds a mock identification card outside Hong Kong's immigration tower after receiving the new document. Photo credits to AP/Vernon Yuen.
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33-year-old Henry Tse’s journey with his identity card wasn’t just about a piece of plastic in his wallet. It was a seven-year battle that concluded triumphantly this week, marking a significant victory for transgender rights in Hong Kong.

This Monday, amidst a gathering of reporters and photographers, Tse finally obtained his new ID card, proudly reflecting his gender as male. Wearing a pink-and-blue-striped shirt, symbolic of the transgender flag, he expressed relief, “Finally, here comes the genuine solution to all the embarrassment and daily problems caused by an incompatible identity card.”

Tse’s struggle can be seen as a problem throughout East Asia where LGBT activists fight against conservative government policies even with increasing public support for equality.

Tse, who holds both British and Hong Kong passports, identifies as male and has lived as such for years. While his British passport recognized his gender identity, Hong Kong authorities resisted the change for his city ID card, a document vital for everyday tasks like tax filing, banking, or making appointments.

Tse even shared his experience of almost missing a flight because airline staff contested his gender on his old identity card. He was detained by Chinese immigration officers at the border while traveling to mainland China. He expressed that that experience made him feel like a prisoner.

The issue lay in Hong Kong’s strict requirement for gender confirmation surgery. While progress has been made, the updated policy requires female-to-male transgender individuals to undergo top surgery, while male-to-female applicants still face the hurdle of full gender confirmation surgery.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department cited the complexity of policy-making, emphasizing the need to consider legal and medical perspectives. Since the court ruling, the department has received 108 applications for gender status changes, with approximately one-third approved and the remainder undergoing processing.

“When I took legal action, I didn’t expect the case to last for six years and another 14 months until I can get my identity card,” Tse said in an interview. Tse’s battle for equality may have ended. However, it’s not the case for many others.

About Korina Estrada 180 Articles
A writer and an advocate of self-love and body positivity. She loves baking cookies, practicing her calligraphy, and creating short stories of local folklore.

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