The death of a 24-year-old transgender woman in Tai Wai on Saturday has highlighted difficulties faced by transgender people in Hong Kong.

The woman died after falling from an overhead bridge at Tai Wai MTR station. The incident took place at around 4:56pm, according to police.

In multiple Facebook posts dating from 2015, the woman described her experience of gender dysphoria. She said that she felt like she was “born with the wrong gender.” In another post, the woman said that she felt like she was suffering because of an inability to “fit into society,” and in recent posts expressed a desire to “leave this world.”

tai wai mtr
The incident took place at Tai Wai MTR Station. Photo: Googlemaps

Gender dysphoria refers to a condition where one’s psychological and emotional identity as male or female is the opposite to one’s biological sex – though not all trans people experience the phenomena.

Mental health

Joanne Leung, chairperson of Transgender Resource Centre, told HKFP that there have been multiple cases of transgender people committing suicide over the last few years.

According to a 2016 Chinese University policy brief commissioned by the Transgender Resource Center, 63.2 per cent of transgender people surveyed – and 70.4 per cent of those aged below 30- had contemplated suicide. 18.4 per cent of those surveyed answered that they had previously attempted suicide.

The policy brief highlighted an “urgent” need for policy makers and service providers in Hong Kong “to address the mental health needs of transgender people, particularly those who are younger.”

trans people deserve respect
Photo: Daniel Garrett

LGBTQ activist Billy Leung told HKFP: “The government needs to get its act together before another tragedy like this happens again.”

Lack of legislation

Following the landmark case of W, in which the city’s highest court ruled that a person who had undergone male-to-female gender confirmation surgery was allowed to marry a man, the government set up the Inter-departmental Working Group on Gender Recognition in 2014.

The Working Group published Part 1 of its consultation paper on gender identity on 23 June, 2017. There remains no gender recognition law that addresses legal definitions regarding gender in Hong Kong.

press release transgender and intersex working group
In January 2017, a group of organisations including the Pink Alliance, the Transgender Resource Center, The Association of World Citizens, and Beyond the Boundary issued a press release urging the government working group to set a definite timetable for its consultation paper and the establishment of a gender recognition law, and to consider the legal problems faced by intersex people . Photo: Press Release.

“Disappointingly, the document lacks any clear direction on how to enact a gender recognition law,” Billy Leung said.

In discussing the social exclusion experienced by transgender people in Hong Kong, Tommy Chen, a spokesperson from Rainbow Action, told HKFP that “members of the transgender community often have negative experiences when calling mainstream [mental health support] hotlines. Social workers on the receiving end often do not understand what is gender dysphoria, what it means to be transgender. They often hang up after saying that because they do not understand transgender issues.”

“Social exclusion does not only occur on the streets. It is perpetuated systematically by social workers and government policies.”

The Transgender Resource Center has an online and telephone Counselling Service for those with concerns pertaining to gender orientation and identity. The Association for Transgender Rights has a hotline on 62168026 or 97914641. If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.