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The Gospel never preaches discrimination- Christ embraces transgender and intersex people: Symposium on Gender Recognition Legislation cum Ecumenical Worship

The Gospel never preaches discrimination-

Christ embraces transgender and intersex people

Symposium on Gender Recognition Legislation cum Ecumenical Worship


         Covenant of the Rainbow - Campaign toward a Truly Inclusive Church (COR) is an alliance consisting of 11 organisations: Alabaster Box of Ointment Church, Association of World Citizens Hong Kong China, Beyond the Boundary-Understanding and Concerning Intersex, Blessed Ministry Community Church, Compassion HK LGBT Catholic Group, Hong Kong Christian Council - Gender Justice Group, Hong Kong Christian Institute, JJJ Association, Kowloon Union Church, One Body in Christ, Queer Theology Academy. Since its establishment in 2013, COR is committed to pursue the equal dignity and rights of sexual minorities in the Church and in the larger society. COR believes that transgender and intersex people are also creation of God, equally and undoubtedly loved by our Lord. Therefore, COR welcomes the HKSAR Government's public consultation regarding gender recognition legislation. COR firmly supports implementing relevant legislation to protect the basic human rights of our transgender brothers and sisters, thereby living and manifesting the true and boundless love of Christ. 

         Transgender persons are born with an irreversible desire to live out their psychological gender, which is different from their biological sex. Such desire is neither transitory or temporary, but life-long. Intersex persons are born with partial sexual organs of both sexes that the appearances of their reproductive organs do not neatly fall within the category of either sex. In around every 2000 babies, there is an intersex one.

         In response to the current public consultation and to raise the awareness of the public as well as the Christian community regarding the rampant misunderstandings and ignorance about the transgender and intersex communities, COR held  a symposium on gender recognition legislation cum ecumenical worship in Kowloon Union Church from 18:00 to 19:45 on 16 December 2017 (Saturday). COR invited Mr Eric Cheung T.M. (leading legal scholar, HKU Principal Lecturer and member of the HKSAR Government Inter-Departmental Working Group on Gender Recognition (IWG)) as guest speaker. This symposium may very well be the only Christian-based platform  during the consultation period that supports legislating protective measures for transgender and intersex individuals. At the symposium, COR invited all attendees including our transgender and intersex brothers and sisters to join the communal worship service and receive the Communion together. Rev. Grace Bok from One in Christ Church presided at the worship.

         COR sincerely believes that self-recognition and self-affirmation of one’s gender is not only the right of every human being, but it also forms the basis of establishing the social identity of each individual in the community. However, the society’s prevailing practice recognises a person’s “legal” gender solely according to his/her biological conditions, thereby catering to only the majority of the public (whose psychological gender identity matches with their biological body- i.e. cisgender). This current gender system or practice is depriving the minority of their right to fully live their identified gender, when they experience a mismatch between their psychological gender identities and biological conditions. In order to protect the minority who has long been neglected, it is undoubtedly necessary to put in place legislations for gender recognition.

         This symposium cum ecumenical worship lasted over two hours, including eight speakers followed by a 30-minute Q&A session. Ms Pearl Wong (Director of Queer Theology Academy), moderator of the event,  has recently spoken as a representative of Hong Kong at a UN conference in New York (Ethics of Reciprocity: UN Dialogue of LGBTI Religious Leaders). Guest speaker, Mr Eric Cheung, is invited to introduce the background of the proposed legislation, the scope of the consultation and the various overseas legislative models.   He also mentioned that the issuance of the chosen gender of a transgender person on the identity card was only an administrative measure without giving any legal status to this chosen gender.

         Mr Henry Li, a catholic and a lawyer, represented a non-government, independent group,  Inter-disciplinary Working Group on Gender Recognition to explain on the reasons for enacting gender recognition laws in Hong Kong, in particular, the difficulties encountered by transgender persons with only an identity card to specify their respective gender, including opening a bank account, signing lease contracts, etc. The Inter-disciplinary Working Group was formed by professional practitioners from the legal, psychological, academic fields as well as transgender and intersex representatives.

         COR has also invited transgender and Intersex persons to speak about their struggles. 
Ms Mimi Wong (Director of Association of World Citizens Hong Kong China), shared her personal story in learning to be a boy and a good man, forced by social expectations and ignorance about transgender, until her huge suffering had reached a breaking point. After claiming and living as a woman, she became happy and started to make friends. In response to the negative stereotypes of trans women portrayed by some groups arousing fear, Wong's organization is now producing a short-file series on the realities of trans women, entitled "A Woman Is A Woman".

          Mr Henry Tse who is currently lodging a judicial review to challenge the constitutionality of surgical requirement for changing the gender marker on the HKID card. Tse became a trans man during his university years in United Kingdom where his British passport was marked accordingly. After his return to Hong Kong, he was refused to change his gender in his identity card as he did not undertake surgery to remove own uterus,  despite his current manly appearance. Tse's case will be heard by the High Court in January 2018.

         Ms Small Luk (Founder of Beyond the Boundary-Understanding and Concerning Intersex) alerted the denial of the existence of intersex individuals in the current two-gender system has caused unnecessary surgeries on these babies and children. She hoped that through the gender recognition legislation, the intersex children were given a chance to choose their own preferred gender at a later age so that they would  no longer bear physical and psychological harm. Ms Luk is a registered social worker and a Chinese medical practitioner.

          Three other speakers also reflected from the religious perspective. Rev. Grace Bok, also the convener of COR, shared her first encounter with transgender in puzzle and fear, but gradually changed through her current pastoral experience with transgender Christians. She saw their dreams and nightmares. For example, they wished to wake up with a different body the next morning. A trans person always exited the building from the back door. Another trans person would not drink any water the whole day when going outdoor. Bok also found the lack of room for discussion in the Church regarding the gender recognition legislation demonstrated that the core of Christian faith, i.e. love, was missing.

         Ms Yip Lai Shan, the convener of Compassion (the only LGBTQ Catholics group in Hong Kong) and a PhD candidate at the Graduate Theological Union, USA, noted that the two-gender system was not been an unchanging "truth" as evident in the earlier western societies, where woman as misbegotten male was not a proper gender category. This practice of denial to other gender was similar to the present treatment towards intersex communities. Yip also quoted from other theologians who compared the interior journey of transgender persons with the St Ignatius spiritual exercise in which one discerned God's calling at one's Innermost feelings and desire. Regarding the fear towards trans women using female toilets, Yip criticized the projection of male sexual fantasy onto them. She proposed a theory of redemption of toilets that advocated for toilets as a public space to extend radical hospitality and friendliness, drawing inspiration from the sharing of continuous supply of female personal care products in the Admiralty female toilet during the Umbrella movement.

         Dr. Kung Lap Yan, Associate Professor at the  Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at CUHK and  co-author of a book on homosexuality and Christianity 《同性戀的十字架》published in 2013, noted that human persons are relational being when sex and gender were channels for relation-building. He claimed that while male and female were created in God's image, God transcended maleness and beyond it. God transcended femaleness and beyond it. Hence, God is trans-sexual and trans-gender. He also pointed to the biblical story of the lost sheep to alert the need for the ninety-nine sheep to change from discriminating transgender. Otherwise, the so-called lost sheep would leave again even the shepherd got it back.

         During the question and answer session, one attendee enquired the offer to choose a third gender. Eric Cheung replied that the existence of intersex persons should lead the Government to consider this option. Another attendee denounced the self-harm in trans-gender persons seeking related surgeries or medical treatments, especially some trans-sexual persons suffered regrets. Henry Tse clarified that only those who got surgeries of poor quality, would regret. Yip Lai Shan noted the self-harm element in most western medical treatments and hence the judgment on largely lay on the freedom in receiving treatments and the fair expectation of a better outcome of the treatment concerned. She also referred to the United Nations that any forced therapies or medical procedures to change one's gender expressions or sexual orientations were considered inhumane treatments or torture. Other questions from the floor included the possible unfairness In allowing the majority to decide for the minority, the provisions of unisex toilets, etc.

         To conclude the symposium, COR representatives and pastors read out a declaration to endorse for gender recognition legislation as an act to embody the solidarity with transgender and intersex communities. The whole venue was full and most participants gave positive feedback to this event.

         COR will continue to discuss the consultation paper, listen to the views of relevant parties and in due course make a submission to the IWG. COR calls on the government to focus on the basic human rights of the transgender and intersex communities and to avoid falling into the trap of the “tyranny of the majority”. COR also implores the government to actively engage in legislating anti-discrimination laws on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity in order to strive for the protection of the sexual minorities’ dignity and equality of their rights. COR urges Hong Kong to become a more loving, inclusive and caring society and continue to move towards equality and common dignity for all.

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Should you have any enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Nocus Yung (member of COR, Assistant Director of Queer Theology Academy) at 6676 0880 or by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .