Sunday, 6 January 2013

Literally Changing Lives

Ruttonjee Hospital, where sex reassignment surgery is done in Hong Kong
We were very intrigued to read today that more transsexuals in Hong Kong are seeking sex changes mostly due to greater access to information, and are more willing to see doctors.

Another interesting observation is that more women want to be men and overall the patients are getting younger. Previously the majority were in their 30s, and now they are in their 20s, even some still studying in university.

The latest statistics come from Dr Albert Yuen Wai-cheung, chief of service at Ruttonjee Hospital's department of surgery, and the only specialist performing sex reassignment surgery in Hong Kong's public hospitals.

A Hospital Authority spokeswoman said that between April 2010 and August 2011, seven patients -- five of them women -- underwent sex change operations at Ruttonjee.

What's also interesting is that Yuen became an expert in this field "by accident". He studied plastic and reconstructive surgery in Glasgow, Scotland on a government scholarship and returned to Hong Kong at Queen Mary Hospital in 1987.

At the time his supervisor at Queen Mary asked Yuen to specialize in the area as not many doctors in the city had this expertise.

"This surgery really brings about dramatic changes in the lives of patients and so it is very rewarding," he said.

Since 1987, Yuen has operated on more than 70 patients with gender identity disorder, a condition when the patient does not accept the gender he or she is born with. The procedure requires up to three operations.

He explains in male-to-female operations, the surgery involves breast augmentation, and removal of the testes and penis. In order to construct the vagina, the skin of the penis is retained and pushed in to line the cavity.

The female-to-male procedure is more complicated, as the breasts, ovaries, uterus and vagina are removed. The penis is created by stretching the clitoris and allows the person to urinate and is capable of sexual penetration.

"It all depends on what the patient asks for," Yuen says.

One wonders if the women wanting to be men is because of Hong Kong's higher female to male ratio? Or does the city have more women coming out of the closet?

While the article did not cover the psychological and emotional effects of this life-changing operation, we wonder how much counseling these patients have before the procedure to prepare them for their new lives.

We live in interesting times.


  1. Interesting read.

    BTW, I seem to have viewed more films about transsexuals in 2012 than in previous years. These include a short film by Ann Hui On-wah that's part of the "Beautiful" anthology.

  2. That's an interesting observation! Perhaps it's part of this trend we're seeing...