2002 / 11月
Tsai Wen-ting /tr. by Jonathan Barnard
I n 1984 the story of "Jane," the first trans-sexual whose identity was exposed in Taiwan, made people sit up and take notice of transsexuals, and the Department of Health approved the first sex change operations in Taiwan in 1988. A sex change entails irreversible major surgery. What kinds of things should a sex change candidate consider prior to surgery?
What conditions must be met for a sex change operation?
The law in Taiwan does not stipulate special rules governing sex change operations. But based on standards used overseas, hospitals have drawn up a set of basic guidelines. These require that patients:
1. Have two psychiatrists submit signed evaluations about them.
2. Have gender disorders of the "primary" type (in other words they must have had transsexual inclinations from a very young age).
3. Live in their new gender role and feel well adjusted for at least two years.
4. Be between 20 and 40 years of age.
5. Have the support of parents and other family members.
6. First divorce any previous spouse.
1. A male to female sex change is the easier procedure. After removing the male genitals, the doctor creates a vagina out of the inverted skin from the penis. After the operation, the female genitalia look and feel very genuine and the patient will also be able to enjoy sex. The doctor will also perform a breast enlargement operation in accordance with the patient's body type and needs. Finally, the doctor will perform a minor operation to reduce the size of the patient's Adam's apple.
2. A female to male sex change is more complicated, and it is divided into two or three stages, with periods of rest and recovery between operations. First comes the removal of breasts, uterus and ovaries. Next doctors wrap a piece of small bone inside the vagina and labia to create a penis. The penis may look passable, but it won't function as well as the real thing.
Can transsexuals bear children?
No. A man who becomes a woman lacks a real uterus and ovaries, so she won't menstruate. A woman who becomes a man doesn't have testicles, so naturally he won't be able to father a child. Some female-to-male transsexuals have used their brothers' sperm to fertilize their wives' eggs and so produce offspring that are closely related to them. Transsexuals have to take high doses of hormones after their operations, so that their life spans are five to ten years shorter than normal.
How much do these procedures cost?
In Taiwan, changing from male to female costs around NT$270,000, and changing from female to male costs around NT$500,000. In Thailand, the same procedures cost about half of what they do in Taiwan. In the United States, a sex change operation costs over NT$3 million.