Lebanese court lets transgender man change legal status to male

By Sebastien Malo
January 15, 2016

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A court in Lebanon has ruled that a transgender man can legally change his gender to male in the nation's civil registry, marking a landmark step in transgender rights in the Middle Eastern nation, advocates and his attorney said on Friday.

In the ruling, the Court of Appeals of Beirut weighed the man's health and well-being as factors in allowing the change in official records to take place.

He suffered from a gender identity disorder and the "operation was a medical necessity to relieve him from his suffering that had been present throughout his life," the court said in its ruling, according to a Beirut newspaper, The Daily Star.

His attorney Elie Khattar confirmed the ruling by telephone from Lebanon.

The decision marks the first time an appeals court in Lebanon has ruled specifically in support of transgender rights to treatment, Youmna Makhlouf, an attorney with Legal Agenda, a local non-profit advocacy group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A person's right "to receive the necessary treatment for any physical and psychological illness is a fundamental and natural one," the ruling said.

"Here what is important in the decision is that it was stated as a matter of fundamental rights. It was not stated as a matter of humanitarian policy or for clemency purposes," Makhlouf said from Beirut.

The decision opens the way for transgender people in Lebanon to have better access to health care as well as clearer recognition of their fundamental rights, she said.

The appeals court issued the ruling in September but its decision was only recently publicized, local media and activists said.

The case reached the appeals court after the transgender man was denied a request to change his gender in the civil registry by a lower court.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)