Trans Rights in Taiwan: A Resistance Against The Growing Anti-Gender Movement

October 19, 2021

BY Dana Zhang

Illustration by Laura Andrade for Fine Acts | Modification made: removed text from the illustration

Taiwan is potentially hitting another milestone regarding LGBTI+ rights after the legalization of marriage equality.

Individuals in Taiwan have been able to change their gender by meeting specific requirements after the country’s Ministry of the Interior issued a procedure of gender change as an executive order in 1988. According to the order, applicants need to provide medical certificates indicating that they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and have finished genitalia reconstruction surgery. These requirements were particularly challenging for trans men as penile reconstruction surgery is expensive and risky.

After years of campaigning from LGBTI+ organizations, the requirement of genitalia reconstruction was finally cancelled in 2008. However, individuals still need to conduct gender affirming surgery by removing primary sex organs, to change their gender legally. The whole process usually takes years, while the applicants have to go through a lengthy and costly process. Only 666 individuals have succeeded in changing their gender marker by 2016, although it is estimated there are 1.6 million trans people in the country with over 23 million population.

To what extent individuals in Taiwan are going to be able to change their gender on legal documents, and when will this actually happen?

The dilemma of trans people has recently been broken by the local NGO, the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights. On September 23, 2021, the Taipei High Administrative Court issued a rare ruling ordering a household registration office in Taiwan to allow a transgender woman to alter the gender specified on her identity card although she doesn’t have gender affirming surgery.  In the ruling, the court affirms changing the gender marker on identity documents is a fundamental right of the people, which should be supported since the Constitution states that all freedoms and rights that are not detrimental to social order or public welfare shall be guaranteed. It points out that it is unconstitutional and against bodily integrity, if people can only implement this right by accepting compulsive changes to their bodies that they might not want. The court further recommended Taiwan’s legislature pass new legislation to ensure this right is protected in the future.

This ruling is only applicable to individual cases at this point. Still, it confirms that compulsory gender affirming surgery violates fundamental human rights, forcing the Ministry of Interior to scrutinize its procedure of gender change. Actually, the government also announced that it was working on adopting a third gender in the legal documents in 2018, including national ID cards and passports, protecting the rights of intersex and trans communities, but there haven’t been any further follow-up actions ever since. The question still stands –  to what extent individuals in Taiwan are going to be able to change their gender on legal documents, and when will this actually happen? And what will that mean for the community of non-binaries?

There are questions yet to be answered, but all in all, it is thrilling to see some breakthrough in trans rights in Taiwan at the moment against the growing anti-gender movement worldwide.