Transgender group calls for more time to consider 'inhumane' bill on sex status
September 10, 2003 Edition -1
Sex organs are not the only basis to determine the sex of a person.
This was the heartfelt plea from the Cape Town Transsexual/Transgender Support Group in parliament yesterday who said the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill forced them to undergo painful sexual mutilation to assume the gender they identified with.
"It is positively inhumane to require us to undergo surgical alteration of sex organs given the immense risks involved, the number of hospital stays, the immense amount of physical pain, and the frequently unsatisfactory results and debilitating consequences," said Estian Smit of the support group.
"There is no medical rationale for linking legal recognition of a transperson's new sex to genital reconstructive surgery or any other specific treatment that is not medically appropriate or possible for all transsexual people."
Smit said the 1995 Law Commission study was based on outdated study material of the early 1970s. Being transsexual/transgender was not a mental illness.
Chairman of the national assembly's home affairs committee Patrick Chauke said he was concerned that the home affairs department had failed to send drafters of the bill to listen to the presentation.
The bill requires that, in order for a person to be given an identity document confirming their sex status, they should first undergo a sex-change operation.
But Smit said the idea of a one-step sex-change was a myth.
The full effects of hormone treatment were only completed after several years and it was like undergoing puberty.
There were, however, many non-medical ways of changing one's gender, said Smit, who has undergone hormone treatment to become a man but has not transformed his genitalia.
Simone Heradien, also with the support group, said she changed her gender when she was 19, and by 25 she was living fully as a female. Smit estimated there were at least 2 500 trans-people in South Africa but, due to under-reporting, it was possible that that figure could apply to Cape Town alone.
He said a person should be allowed to change their birth register entry on the basis of living as a member of the sex corresponding to their chosen sex description.
They should only be required to show that they had lived as a member of that sex for a period of a year, backed up by reports from a social worker, a psychologist or a medical practitioner. - Political Bureau