ORAL REPRESENTATION – SIMONE HERADIEN
ALTERATION OF SEX DESCRIPTION AND SEX STATUS BILL
ALTERATION OF SEX DESCRIPTION AND SEX STATUS BILL
DATE: 09 SEPTEMBER 2003
May I firstly thank the committee chairperson, Mr Chauke, as well as the rest of the portfolio committee for this opportunity to make an oral representation on the aforementioned bill.
A short introduction on myself. I am Simone Heradien, a post operative transsexual having had the triadic procedures which is real life experience, hormone therapy complemented with all the necessary and desired surgery to reassigning myself to the gender that I was born, during 1994 when the political term reconstruction and development was the buzz word. I decided to follow suit.
Being born female in an outwardly male body I have lived as a female since the age of 19 having started outward physical changes such as growing my hair and wearing make up even to school. Fortunately it was a very progressive school even back in 1980, with supportive educators. My gender identity as female was accepted by 99% of my family and a large percentage of the community. 90% of people referred to me as she by the time I was 25 and living completely as female and especially after I officially changed my name in 1986.
Work was difficult to find due to presentation of my ID when it became apparent that I was physically male. I eventually secured employment within the then House of Representatives in the Department of Health as Personal Assistant to the various managers for a period of six years. I was accepted as female within my working environment with full support from the Chief Director of the Dept of Health and the Department Budgetary and Auxilliary Services, and always referred to as her and addressed as Miss Heradien orally. The only anomaly was when the personnel department sent me an official letter it was addressed as Mr. Surgery was performed as said prior in 1994 – 1995 while still at the Department of Health and my ID document and number, indicated my reassigned sex was changed at the end of the completion of surgery of that year. I have since had a fiance since five years, successful employment and a very successful social life and structure. Structure no real different to pre-surgery
The reason for this introduction on myself will become evident in my comments on the proposed bill as being discussed at present.
Title of Bill: viz Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Bill should be changed to " Gender Recognition Bill" as the mere phrase alteration of sex decryption is an anomaly to me as the transsexual does not alter his or her sex, but sees him or herself as being born the gender that he or she is. I was born female and prescribed social and legislative law put me in the erroneous category of male. Yet for all of my pre op late adolescent /young adult life the majority of the community accepted me as female and instructed even their young children for example to refer to me as family if on the occasion questions arose via the grapevine
Section 1 (1) The requirement in this paragraph purports exclusively to post-operative transsexuals such as myself and intersex people who have undergone evolvement through natural development. An extremely rare intersex development in any event. Here I do not have extensive knowledge on intersexualim suffice to say that there are a number of intersex whose sexual organs are ambigous who prefer not to have surgery. And why should they be forced to have surgery just to have their gender recognised by law. It should be suffice to have the gender recognised when they have made it clear which gender they have correctly assigned themselves to
Refering to Section 1 (1)It thus excludes pre-operative transsexuals such as myself prior to 1995 who are clearly living in accordance with the gender that they are and intersex people who have ambigous sexual genitalia to have the choice of alteration of sex description
Why should it not be exclusive to post-operative transsexuals? For several reasons some of which I will touch on and allude to.
Transsexuality is a condition not out of choice, but through biology and in fact there is a growing medical school of thought which are now starting to classify transsexaulism as a form of intersex. Medical evidence which have come to the fore recently on this is that sexual/gender identity is contained in a section of the hypothalamus again supporting medical evidence which I think is by now undisputed. Thus sexual identity is not defined by genitalia, but by the brain
In a country such as South Africa gender reassignment surgery erroneously referred to as a sex-change is largely presently unobtainable due to extremely limited provision in our state health services and the exorbitant cost if sought privately
As we heard in the previous submission for example phalloplasty is often unsuccessful and in fact after several unsuccessful attempts it cannot be carried out at all. Yet this person lives as a male and will for the rest of his life, but because he cannot have the necessary required surgery as prescribed by the current draft act he will be severely discriminated against in that he cannot apply for an alteration of sex description/gender recognition, and that would be through no fault of his own.
There are also transsexuals who would want surgery and are in fact candidates for surgery as prescribed by the medical profession, but to whom is precluded due to other physiological medical conditions which would be life threatening if surgery is undertaken. Examples are congenital heart defects, rare blood disorders ect. Again a group that will be discriminated against with the current proposed legislation through no fault of their own.
There are also a number of transsexuals world-wide who also choose not to have triadic therapy , that is real life experience, hormones then surgery and who only want to opt to certain levels of outward gender change. Yet they live as fully functional females or males within the society which they find themselves and are in most cases discriminated against when they have to reveal their state enforced sexual description when applying for work, etc. In fact it is also the medical professions which assist and determine the level of the triadic therapy and after for example only step one, which is real life experience (living as the gender) concludes that this is sufficient therapy for the person to live a complete, whole and satisfied life in the sex that he or she has reassigned herself to.
With these groups of transsexuals a commitment from the individual to permanent change of social gender presentation as determined by the medical profession as above could also be included as documentation when seeking gender recognition in the law viz. Alteration of sex description
The problem which is often highligted here is that of those who revert to their original gender role especially in the first triadic phase, which is real life experience. This is extremely rare and often stems from social stigmatisation, prejudice and discrimination.
There are also a few who enter phase two of the triadic process viz hormone treatment who cannot continue this phase simply due to health complications
Perhaps the single most erroneous misconception is that sex reassignment consists of a single "sex-change operation." In fact, there are several different kinds of treatment that people seeking sex reassignment pursue, including bilateral mastectomy, orchiectomy, phalloplasty, hysterectomy, vaginoplasty, hormone therapy treatment, brow reduction, facial implants, vaginal closure, voice surgery, metaodioplasty, augmentation mamaplasty, tracheal shave, liposuction, hormone therapy, group or individual counseling, psychotherapy. Medical professionals determine what treatment is medically appropriate for each transsexual patient, taking into account pre-existing medical conditions, mental health status, and lived gender experience.
Refusing to legally recognize a transsexual person’s reassigned sex serves no purpose. It impedes their ability to live and work in their new gender, in accordance with their medically prescribed treatment. Being able to obtain correct identity documentation is the key to equal participation in employment and educational opportunities for a transsexual person. Rather than erecting additional barriers in the path of transsexual people, the law should encourage and support their successful adjustment by providing them with the legal recognition necessary to be productive members of society
This is just a brief outline which I would like to elaborate on so much more. And it is therefore that I would support a review of the current draft legislation as it currently stands. In light of the above I would thus prefer Section 1 subsection 1 to read as
"Any person who has undergone or is undergoing treatment for the purpose of modifying sexual characteristics or who has had medical intervention (related to the triadic therapy) may apply to the Director General of the National Department of Home affairs for the alteration of the sex description on his or her birth register
This would be in line with the draft UK legislation as well as certain states in the United States of America such as Virginia and Iowa (source :
I strongly believe that the standard for gender change on birth certificates should be changed to conform to the Standards of Care developed by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA). In accordance with HBIGDA’s guidelines, a new birth certificate should be issued with the gender marker changed to the new gender when appropriate medical treatment, as medically determined for the individual patient, has been undertaken
Subsection (2) (b) the following insertion could be instated after the word or and to read medically appropriate treatment as prescribed by a medical practitioner then followed by "be accompanied…
Subsection (3) sentence should end with the word decision and "unless such reasons have been made public" should be deleted. An application such as this should be treated with the utmost confidentiality and should not be subjected to open public knowledge at all
Also the alteration of birth certificate to me is not clear as it stand in the bill. In this instance it should reflect what in legal terms would be reflected as legal fiction in that the person should be registered as having been the sex/gender since birth that he/she has now reassigned themselves to and not a specific date for example surgery or any stages of the triadic treatment
In fact I furthermore reserve further comment on this propose bill as I am of the opinion that this bill falls far short of the desired legal framework in which such a bill should be enacted. Frthermore - in 1997 - the SA government claimed that the new constitution had reinstated the previous laws -
thus this new legislation, unless it rescinds those
laws, might actually have a huge loophole anyway as
far as our courts are concerned (source: Integrating Transsexual and Transgendered People http://www.pfc.org.uk/legal/liba-4a6.htm#country-51-south-africa paragraph 51. A Comparative Study of European, Commonwealth and International Law)
In its draft it is obvious that unfortunately not a great deal of research was done as to current world-wide emerging criteria on alteration of sex legislation as can be seen in point 2 consultation in the Memorandum on the objects of the Alteration of sex description and sex status bill 2003.
I hereby would thus make a passionate plea, not for myself as I have been catered for thankfully prior to the repeal of applications to alterations in 1996, but for those in the current situations as described in my introductions and rationale as per the recommended amendment on Section 1 subsection 1 that the promulgation of this bill be referred for further drafting with further and wider legal and international consultation inclusive of South African transgendered community and intersex people and organisations.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the portfolio committee thank you once again for this opportunity to have had this oral representation and I hope that I have given sufficient insight into the anomalies and gender discrimination as this bill currently stands
Some sources used for this submission: