Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Ministry supports easing rules on gender-change

RIGHTS:The health ministry said it was time to scrap the ‘medical prerequisites’ for gender change to reflect the priority placed by the government on human rights

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Following a heated debate, the Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday came to the conclusion to scrap a regulation requiring people to meet certain “medical prerequisites,” such as psychiatric assessment and gender-specific organ removal, before they can officially change their gender.

“We have arrived at the conclusion that the requirement to fulfil medical prerequisites should be voided,” Chen Kuai-lo (陳快樂), director of the ministry’s Department of Mental and Oral Health, announced after the decision was reached at a meeting in Taipei that he presided over. “Our conclusion will be forwarded to the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Household Registration for further review and discussion.”

Speaking to the Taipei Times in a brief interview after the meeting, Chen said that in 2008, the interior ministry issued an executive order requiring the removal of gender-specific organs and assessments by two psychiatrists before a citizen is allowed to change their gender on official documents.

“Since human rights values have become more of a priority for the government in policymaking, we feel it’s time to make a change and respect the will of any person wishing to change their gender,” Chen said.

However, because the current regulations were issued by the interior ministry and it is the authority in charge of household registration and compulsory military service, the health ministry’s conclusion has to be forwarded to the interior ministry for further examination before it can begin the process of implementation.

The proposal to relax gender-change regulations sparked a heated discussion during the Taipei meeting between supporters and critics of the move.

Feng Jung (馮榕), a psychiatrist at Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, was opposed to scrapping the psychiatric assessment requirement.

“People who undergo gender reassignment surgery sometimes regret it, because they find it too challenging to adapt to many aspects of their lives after the surgery,” Feng said. “About one-third of people who undergo gender-change procedures regret doing so.”

Feng added that there have been at least two cases of transgender people committing suicide in the nation because they could not adapt to the change.

North Taiwan Transgender Sisters Association convener Yeh Ju-ying (葉若瑛) disagreed with Feng.

Yeh said the two cases of suicides cited by Feng occurred not because the postoperative patients had problems adapting to their new bodies, but because they buckled under pressure from society, which is compounded by being unable to officially change their gender under the existing regulations.

“We’re not asking for any special privileges to be granted to those seeking to change their sex, we’re only asking the government to at least remove gender reassignment surgery as a requirement for an official change in gender status,” she said.

After hours of discussion, Chen handed down the health ministry’s finding, which, following the suggestion of Tsai Li-ling (蔡麗玲), an associate professor at National Kaohsiung Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Gender Education, concluded that the health ministry supported scrapping the medical prerequisites, but would ask the interior ministry to look into the details of such a move.

Commenting on the conclusion, Department of Household Registration Director Hsieh Ai-ling (謝愛齡) said the department would research the issue as requested by the health ministry.

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