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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: November 2017


from Asia



On Christmas Day 2014, Taiwan's Ministry of Interior announced a breakthrough change on the criteria for transgender people to obtain the recognition of their preferred legal gender. This decision reverses a previous administrative order issued in 2008 that requires psychiatric evaluation and the surgical removal of reproductive organs before transgender citizens can amend their legal gender markers on their identification cards. The decision, like a belated Christmas gift, is not only a triumph for human rights development in Taiwan, but also represents a momentous step forward for transgender rights in Asia. The government has agreed to come up with alternative criteria in a month by setting up a committee to review the application for obtaining legal gender recognition but separating this procedure from medical treatment. In the near future, those who are aged 18 or above and would like to apply for the recognition of their preferred legal gender will only need to file applications to the committee and will be given a six- month consideration period before their preferred genders are legally recognised.

This chapter discusses the legal status of transsexual and transgender persons in the Taiwanese reality and illustrates how the current situation was reached after a long struggle and human rights law development. It first introduces the general legal framework, statistics, and health insurance issues related to transgender persons. It then analyses the legal procedure and requirements for obtaining legal gender recognition. Finally, the chapter discusses the consequences of gender recognition in Taiwan, including the impact on existing and future legal relationships such as marriage and adoption, rights, duties, and entitlements.


The term ‘transgender’ mainly describes people whose gender identities are incongruent with the biological sex assigned to them at birth. Gender, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), refers to the ‘socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women’. Compared to the social characteristics of gender, the notion of sex is largely associated with a person's biological characteristics. For the WHO, the term ‘sex’ refers to ‘the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women’.