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30 May 2001

singapore hospital closes last sex change clinic

Known to be a top destination for sex change operations for the past 30 thirty years, the last hospital in Singapore for such procedures closed more than a month ago without any fanfare.

The National University Hospital (NUH) has closed its Gender Identity Clinic more than a month ago, reports Project Eyeball.

NUH's Gender Identity Clinic was the last hospital to perform sex change operations in the country, once known to be one of the leading countries for sex-change operations for the past 30 years. Between 1971 and 1990, 413 such operations were done in Singapore.

According to the paper quoting an NUH spokesman, it was closed after the supervisor in charge left the hospital. He added that they would be "reviewing plans to decide when such operations can be resumed.''

However, a former NUH gynaecologist told the paper that the move to shut the clinic was in the pipeline even before the supervisor resigned. He said that most hospitals were not too keen to openly say that they perform sex-change operations -- as many still have "hang-ups about sex-change operations and transsexuals."

Although sex-change operations and transsexual marriages are legal in Singapore, transsexuals can only change the gender classification on their identity cards, but not on their birth certificates.

The paper also reported that the Ministry of Health (MOH) was in the dark about the clinic's closure. The MOH told the paper that hospitals have the discretion to decide if they want to perform such procedures, when asked to comment on NUH's latest decision to shut its Gender Identity Clinic. In 1987, the MOH discouraged hospitals from performing same-sex operations because it was not considered a life-saving procedure and should therefore have "less priority."

Dr Tsoi Wing Foo, who has been doing psychological assessments for transsexuals since 1973 had written to NUH to appeal against the shutting of the clinic and for sex-change operations to continue. He is still waiting for a reply since sending his letter a month ago.

He suggested the Health Ministry ought to classify it as a medical condition and appoint a hospital to perform the operations instead of leaving it to the hospitals to decide.

Transsexuals in Singapore now have little choice but go abroad for the surgery. While the operations cost between US$6,000 (S$10,000) to US$12,000 (S$20,000) locally, male-to-female surgery costs about US$37,000 (S$67,000), while female-to-male surgery costs up to US$77,000 in the US.

Although operations in Thailand cost S$6,000 for a male-to-female procedure and twice that for female-to-male procedure, some hesitate having their operation due to fear of complications and Aids.


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