It was a wedding that not only defied convention but almost became a funeral.
Mr Zack Ling and Mrs Fanny Ling did eventually get married on Saturday, but the days leading up to the happy day were traumatic.
Mrs Ling, 39, was previously a man while her husband, 35, used to be insensitive about the transgender community.
Against all odds and despite the disapproval from friends and family, they started dating and lived together in Mrs Ling’s flat four years ago.
To pay the wedding expenses and a new home, they put the three-room flat at Bedok Reservoir Road up for sale and moved to a rented room.
But just a week before their solemnisation, their wedding plans hit a roadblock: A buyer reneged on the purchase of their flat because he didn’t have enough money, said Mr Ling, a chef.
On Feb 6, they approached HDB and the property agency which handled the sale, but were told there was nothing they could do. Mrs Ling was crushed.
“Suddenly, after all that we’ve been through, it felt like the wedding was no more. I didn’t want to hear any more,” said Mrs Ling, a part-time human resources executive.
“If I had to cancel the wedding, I wouldn’t know how to face others. The invitations were sent out and the venue was booked already.”
Angry and frustrated, she walked away from her husband-to-be and her property agent while they were still discussing the problem.
She sat at the lobby of HDB Hub in Toa Payoh and became more agitated after reflecting on her situation. Without informing Mr Ling, she walked to an overhead bridge nearby.
I came from a very poor family background. I grew up in a one-room rented flat. A one room flat is actually a whole flat with no rooms, just a kitchen and bathroom off to one side. So I slept on a mattress on the floor. My whole childhood we could only afford to rent.
My mum was not educated. So she never could hold a good job. All her life she worked as a hawker assistant. From chicken rice to laksa, to wanton mee. Making $30/day. Maybe $50 now. With that income she brought up me and my bro. She supported us through school, though we both never completed our education. And on top of all that, supporting a drug addict husband.
I always hated him for that. He spent more of his life in drug rehabilitation centres than at home. Each time he went in, it was 2, 3 or even 5 years at a time. And once he was out, he never fails to report in soon again. I hated him for never being a father to me. For being like that – never supporting the family, leaving mum to suffer hardship all by herself, taking her money for drugs. He died years ago now. I never stopped hating him.
Draft changes to the city’s marriage laws to recognise transgender people are too restrictive because they are limited to those who undergo sex-change operations, a leading transgender expert says.
“The government is taking the minimalist approach,” said Sam Winter, a University of Hong Kong associate professor and a director of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
On Tuesday, the Legislative Council’s security panel will discuss the latest developments on proposed amendments to recognise transgender people following the landmark ruling last May that granted a post- surgery transsexual the right to marry her boyfriend.
In handing down its judgment, the Court of First Instance gave the government a year to decide whether marriage laws needed to be amended to reflect the ruling that the definition of “woman” include a “post-operative male-to- female transsexual”.
Winter cited the World Health Organisation’s definition of a transgender person as someone who desires to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex and was “usually accompanied” by a wish to have hormonal treatment and surgery to reflect their desired sex.
He said the words “usually” were crucial to the debate because there were individuals who met the diagnostic requirements for a transsexual but who opted to live as the opposite sex without going under the knife.
“The draft legislation is not inclusive or comprehensive enough,” Winter said.
“But we are cautiously optimistic that the government will set up an interdepartmental group which could be the first step to look into broader transgender issues without going to the courts,” he added.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok has previously said the government did not have a preconceived stance.
“But at the moment, before all the information, research, discussion and a consensus on the issue, it would be best to keep the status quo,” he said in October.
Article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Proposals for transgender marriage ‘too limited’