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On February 15, the Seoul Western District Court officially approved the gender correction of transgender people who did not undergo sex change surgery. The court said, "The change in the appearance of the body for transgender people should be made to the extent that the person concerned relieves their gender discomfort. Mental factors are the fundamental criteria for judging identity, and forcing sex change surgery violates individual dignity, so we will judge it by other requirements such as hormone administration, not surgery." However, as this case is a ruling contrary to the existing Constitution and various precedents that "legal gender correction is allowed on the condition of sex change surgery only for those with sex reassignment syndrome," the battle among netizens is heated.
First of all, transgenders and related organizations tended to enthusiastically support the ruling. A petitioner from the human rights group 'Rainbow Action Against Sexual Minority Discrimination,' actively argued, "Unwanted sex- change surgery violates the freedom of body integrity and the right to self- determination of the body. In addition, in the case of overseas countries, including Europe, it has become a trend not to require sex change surgery as a condition for gender correction. Irreversible surgery should not be an indispensable condition for gender correction." In fact, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that, "specifying unwanted sex change surgery as a condition for gender change is a violation of the European Human Rights Convention," and international human rights norms have recommended countries to remove guidelines for forced sex change surgery since 2010. In particular, Jang Seo- yeon, a lawyer at the Public Interest Human Rights Law Foundation, who has supported gender correction cases since 2013, said in a 'Sympathy Newsletter,' "The results of transgender gender correction cases vary at the discretion of judges. Even if sex change surgery is excluded from gender correction conditions, a proof process is still required to obtain gender correction permission. I will continue to work until the day comes when those who feel gender discomfort do not have to prove their existence," calling for social recognition of transgender people.
While some welcome the leap into a society that respects individual identity, others are concerned about social friction. A major problem is that if non- surgical sex changes are recognized, non- surgical transgenders will be able to use public spaces separated by biological gender, such as public toilets, public baths, and changing rooms in various facilities. This is criticized for the fact that people around them may feel sexual shame and it'll make it difficult to distinguish and punish sex offenders disguised as transsexuals, since non- surgical transgender people are not distinguished from other opposite sex by appearance alone. In fact, on June 27, Paula Scanlan, a former member of the University of Pennsylvania women's swimming team, who had to use the same locker room with non- surgical transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, said, "I was forced to share the locker room with a biological man despite complaints. My female colleagues, including myself, were forced to undress 18 times a week in front of Thomas, who was 193 centimeters tall and had male genitals. There are many female colleagues who have sexual trauma when biological men enter the locker room without our consent," also referring to herself as a 'sexual violence survivor.' In addition, in January, Bryson, a man who had committed two sexual assault crimes against women in Scotland in the past, was imprisoned in a women- only detention center for claiming sex change while waiting for trial. As critics continued to point out that they were worried about the safety of other female inmates, the Scottish Government said it would move Bryson from a women's detention center to a men's detention center.
Transgender people, who have a different gender identity from their biological gender that only they feel themselves, also have the right to be guaranteed freedom, dignity, and equality as members of our society. However, if the ambiguity of institutional standards targeting them threatens the safety rights of others, the meaning of respect for them will fade. It seems necessary to respect and accept transgender people as they are, but to develop a clear legal system and conscious development, so that they do not infringe on the right of others to be protected.
By Seo Ji-min, reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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