APCOM HERO Awards 2022’s honourees list

By November 15, 2022 December 2nd, 2022 Newsroom, Regional, What We Do

Transgender HERO Honourees

Supported by our Community Partner – APTN

Henry Tse

Hong Kong

1. Tell us about yourself

I am a transman born and raised in Hong Kong. Having attended an evangelical girls’s school in Hong Kong, I went to England to continue my education and obtained a BSc in Maths & Business Studies from the University of Warwick.

I started my gender transition during my undergraduate studies. Later in 2017, I returned to Hong Kong for a job offer at the European Union Office. While the working environment was LGBT+ friendly, daily life presented many problems for me, as a transman who can’t amend his Hong Kong ID Card. Unable to convince the state of Hong Kong for issuing me a male ID, I filed a lawsuit against them to challenge the current gender marker policy that requires transmen to undergo complete sterilisation and full Sex Reassignment Surgery.

Due to the lawsuit, I became a trans activist and I’ve gradually scaled up my work. First my advocacy work was on personal capacity, then I moved to the organisational level.

In 2018, I was awarded the Trans Inclusion Champion Award by Community Business for my advocacy efforts. Subsequently, I won the Pam Baker Scholarship for my LLM studies in Human Rights at Hong Kong University in 2020.

2. Tell us about your work

In 2020, I co-founded ‘Transgender Equality Hong Kong’ (TEHK) which aims to fill the policy and legal knowledge gaps in Hong Kong’s LGBT+ movement. With pro-bono legal assistance from our working partners, we successfully resolved issues for our service users when they were denied access to gender-segregated facilities. We are releasing a photography advocacy project around Trans Remembrance Day 2022 to boost the momentum of the HKID lawsuit, GDL enactment, and also giving visibility to subgroups (ethnic minority & disabled people) who are historically largely underrepresented in Hong Kong’s trans and LGB rhetoric (in final editing stage now). 

News report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tfw4NtNjm7PN4qqXQoJn4FPvP-Y7_pZy/view?pli=1

Prior to founding TEHK, I chaired the Transgender Resource Center from 2019-20. during which I conducted the largest transgender academic research in Hong Kong (with the Chinese University of Hong Kong). The survey reflects the reality of discrimination faced by local trans people and has been frequently quoted by local news. 

Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PZ4UkSLovXm4PqG7V-uDx3uJGzQ-M_aR/view

In addition, I drafted a report for the ICCPR review cycle, engaged District Councilors on incorporating LGBT+ issues into local policy making, and co-organised a discussion forum on trans legal rights with Denis Chang’s Chambers, amongst other regular organisational work like content creation and social support for the trans community.

3. What one achievement you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of?

Transitioning when I was in university and completing a very demanding undergraduate degree without any family support. It really took real grit – looking back, I don’t think I could necessarily do it again.

This is a major reason that I now devote myself into trans activism, as my work of building a community is very valuable to the folks I’m serving. In return, I get support and love from my chosen family.

4. What do you find most challenging about your work?

Navigating the local political landscape which is increasingly difficult for NGOs and drastically different from what it was a few years ago.

TEHK has been trying to become a ‘charity’ legally, but the tax department has imposed many extra censorships and hurdles, as they suspect us to be ‘political’ (triggered by the term ‘equality’ in our name) and therefore do not qualify as charity. They did invalidate the charity status of some civil society groups for their affiliation with the democratic movement before.

Depoliticisation, intentional financial restrictions, the lack of local funders who’d fund impact work are some major challenges I am facing.

5. What do you do to recharge your battery?

Something easily accessible – like going for a walk on the beautiful mountain nearby, getting sufficient sleep, talking to friends

6. What is your vulnerability and how do you overcome it?

I do think I need to improve my public speaking skill. This is a skill I lack, as a result of being suppressed for so long growing up in an ultra-conservative household, and a skill that is essential for higher leadership for me as an activist now and in the future.

I’ve been trying to overcome this weakness and build my confidence by observing others, and reviewing my own performances on different occasions.

7. You have been nominated for the Transgender Hero category of the HERO Awards. What was your reaction?

I am grateful that the application hasn’t been rejected so far, and as my Hong Kong ID gender marker lawsuit is going to be heard at the Court of Final Appeal on 4th Jan 2023, I really want to use this last available opportunity in the international space well, to amplify the situation now in Hong Kong and increase the chances of a favourable judicial outcome for the trans community.

It would be really helpful if the international media at the HERO award ceremony would cover the upcoming hearing and its background etc.

8. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what hopeful message would you like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific?

Coming from Hong Kong, I want to share this message to my fellow LGBT+ family in the region:

Covid-19 has been deployed by some states to suppress minority voices like us. While it has been challenging to not be able to host larger events, demonstrations, protests and such likes (maybe on top of relentless lockdown), you are not alone. I see you and I appreciate you.

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