An original decision by the Lebanese court had denied a transgender man (born with female genitalia but identifies with male gender) the right to change their sex on their legal documents. Following this decision, the Court of Appeal in Lebanon represented by judge Jeanette Hanna reinstated this right considering that it is linked to three main human rights that cannot be violated: the right to a better health (by alleviating the suffering of this man), the right to seek care and finally the right to privacy (1).
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) views this ruling as a positive step towards better recognition of transgender community’s rights in our society, addressing their health needs and advancing their health status. There is an ample amount of work ahead of us to fight stigma, educate healthcare providers, regulate private surgeries and investigate abuse cases and hold perpetuators accountable.
Transgender individuals are individuals whose gender identity (man or woman) conflicts with their sex assigned at birth (2) (male or female). Transsexuals are individuals who seek sex-reassignment surgery (2). Not all transgender individuals seek sex reassignment surgery(3) since some prefer hormonal therapy while others just reaffirm their gender without any additional treatment.
Although no data exists on the transgender population in Lebanon, studies in other countries show that this population is at an extremely higher risk for HIV (4) and suicide (5) among other mental health outcomes. All of this has been linked to the stigma that society enforces on these communities (4 and 5). Not having legal documents that align with their current gender identity had been associated with being denied care in many other countries as well as the fear of these populations to seek care (6, 7 and 8).
LebMASH would like to stress the following:
- Any transgender citizen should have the right to change their sex on official documents to affirm their gender. The ruling should not be limited to post-operative transgender individuals.
- Allowing transgender individuals to correct their sex on official documents removes only one of many barriers to competent and dignified healthcare that all citizens deserve. The medical community in Lebanon should work on advancing their knowledge on the topic to build competence in delivering care to this population. Transgender health should be included in medical school curricula, in residency programs, in budgets allocated for research and in medical conferences around the country.
- To advance the health outcomes of any population, societal stigma should be alleviated. This is a role the media can play in approaching the topic of gender identity in a scientific and well-researched manner. Civil Society Organizations can also play a role in raising awareness about the topic.
- To advance the health outcomes of any population, legal protections should be instated to prevent and punish verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuses that individuals might be exposed to. This is a role the government and police authorities can play by awareness campaigns among their employees.
- ايفا الشوفي- محكمة الاستئناف تؤكد جق الفرد في تغيير جنسه مقال صادر في جريدة الأخبار يوم 13-1-2-16
- Johnson CA. Off the map: how HIV/AIDS programming is failing same sex practicing people in Africa. New York: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 2007. http://www.iglhrc. org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/publications/reportsandpublications/4. html (accessed Nov 28, 2012).
- Carroll, L., Gilroy, P. J., & Ryan, J. (2002). Counseling transgendered, transsexual, and gender‐variant clients.Journal of Counseling & Development, 80(2), 131-139.
- Baral, S. D., Poteat, T., Strömdahl, S., Wirtz, A. L., Guadamuz, T. E., & Beyrer, C. (2013). Worldwide burden of HIV in transgender women: a systematic review and meta-analysis.The Lancet infectious diseases, 13(3), 214-222.
- Haas, A. P., Eliason, M., Mays, V. M., Mathy, R. M., Cochran, S. D., DAugelli, A. R., & Russell, S. T. (2010). Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: review and recommendations.Journal of homosexuality,58(1), 10-51.
- Baral, S., Beyrer, C., & Poteat, T. (2011, July). Human rights, the law, and HIV among transgender people. InThird Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law.
- Law, G.C.o.H.a.t., (2011), Selected Submissions from the Global Commission on HIV & the Law – Asia-Pacific, Caribbean, Eastern Europe & Central Asia and Latin America, in Regional Dialogues, U.H.A. Practice, UNDP: Port of Spain, Trinidad.
- Riascos-Sanchez, V.P., et al., (2008), ID cards that reflect gender identity can play role in reducing vulnerability of transgender sex workers (MOAD0305), in XVII International AIDS Conference, IAS: Mexico City.