A report from Amnesty International states that transgender people in China rely on self-medication for hormone treatment. In some cases, they even attempt dangerous self-surgery.
Discrimination and laws classing transgender people as having a mental illness drive them to desperate measures.
“China is failing transgender people,” said Amnesty International China researcher, Doriane Lau.
“The authorities and medical profession must stop classifying transgender people as having a mental illness.”
Researchers spoke with 15 transgender people from across the country for the report I need my parents’ consent to be myself — Barriers to gender-affirming treatments for transgender people in China.
Pervasive discrimination at home, school, work and in the Chinese healthcare system, results in the transgender community remaining basically invisible.
Many transgender people choose not to share their identity with their families for fear of rejection.
However, access to gender-affirming surgeries is dependent on the consent of the patient’s family. Patients must also have no criminal record and remain unmarried at the time of the surgery.
Black market hormones and self-surgery in China
Huiming, a Chinese transwoman, told the Amnesty International researchers she began buying hormones on the black market while still at university.
However, the medication caused extreme mood swings and impacted severely on her mental health.
Desperate to align her body with her identity, in 2016 Huiming took the drastic step of attempting self-surgery.
She ended up rushed to hospital when her attempt went wrong. She feared she would die on the operating table.
“I thought I was an abnormal person. How could I explain this to my family? I was both happy and scared,” said Huiming.
“I feared I would still die a man, since I only did part of my surgery.”
After she recovered, Huiming asked the doctors to lie to her family. Sympathetic doctors explained the incident away as an accident.
In 2017, Huiming arranged to travel to travel to Thailand for gender-affirming surgery. Until then, she never discussed her identity with either of her parents.
Before leaving for Thailand, she came out to her mother, who happily, accepted her for who she was.
China’s transgender community often access hormones through social media, online “pharmacists” and via surrogate shoppers overseas.
None of the 15 people Amnesty International spoke to accessed professional medical advice before commencing their “treatments”.
Discrimination must stop says Amnesty International
Discrimination and lack of access to informed medical advice led to them relying on information found on the internet.
“Discriminatory laws and policies have left many people feeling they have no choice but to risk their lives by performing extremely dangerous surgery on themselves and to seek unsafe hormone drugs on the black market,” Lau said.
“The highly-restrictive requirements for accessing gender-affirming surgeries and lack of health-related information needs to change so people can access the health care they need.”
In March this year, the Chinese government agreed to United Nations Human Rights Council recommendations to end discrimination against LGBTI people. Amnesty International hope China follows through on that agreement.
“The Chinese government can show it is serious in addressing discrimination against the LGBTI community by removing the barriers transgender people face when trying to access safe gender-affirming treatments,” said Doriane Lau.
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