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China eases sex change rules, but stays wary

DOCTORS IN CHINA are taking steps to establish a middle ground in the “trans” debate that has divided western nations.

New rules make it easier and faster to change sex in China. But people who are entirely male in a physical sense will continue to not have access to women’s safe spaces or sports competitions.

“China’s health commission has simplified the process for gender confirmation surgery approval, lessened the requirements for a change of gender on identification documents and lowered the minimum age for the procedure from 20 to 18,” reports Ian Goodrum.

However, doctors are not allowing people to legally change gender simply by stating that they have done so—a move that has caused distress to many women’s groups in Western countries, including females athletes and women’s safety campaigners.

In the revised rules, applicants in China who want their gender changed legally are still expected to make surgical alterations, although they no longer need reconstructive procedures.

“This is still a medicalist path, but a welcome streamlining of the process nonetheless,” Goodrum said.


The international media tends to present “self-declaration” as the default politically correct stance. However, the vast majority of nations choose otherwise.

Only about 17 of the 200 countries in the world give legal power to people who self-declare that they have changed sex. These include the European countries, India and Brazil. The United States as a country has not legally moved to a “self-declaration” position, although individual states have—but nevertheless it has largely adopted it in practice.

But most countries around the world, including the UK, have rejected “self-declaration” as socially, scientifically and practically problematic.

Finding the middle ground is a complex balancing act. Last year, China opened its first medical clinic for transgender children and adolescents. The move got upbeat and positive coverage on traditional and social media. However, there are significant concerns about the loss of family values, the low birth rate, and the friction associated with “identity politics” in the west. So identity groups are encouraged to exist and perform a positive role, but without creating political friction as seen elsewhere.

Small positive steps are seen as a good way forwards. On Twitter, supporter Huy Bui said: “I follow lots of trans folks in China and they’re all cheering over this news, glad for them to be honest.”

Image at the top by Victor Freitas/ Pexels

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