Plenary Session: The Postcolonial Pacific & Minor Transnationalisms

John Nguyet Erni

Chair Professor and Head, Department of Humanities & Creative Writing
Hong Kong Baptist University



Law and Transgender Rights in the Postcolony: Reflections from Hong Kong

This presentation explores the theoretical implications that arise by juxtaposing queer and postcolonial theories.  It does so by focusing on transgender law as it has been developed in recent years in Hong Kong, noting the given intersectional legal nature of law in general, and commonwealth law in particular.  I first outline an international trajectory of “reform jurisprudence” in transgender laws – much of it involves countries along the transpacific corridor, such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea – in order to point out not only some internal legal inconsistencies, but also the opportunities arising from those inconsistencies.  Further, I discuss the various postcolonial tactics of transgender struggles in theoretical terms, which logically flow from an understanding of the transgender legal subject as a postcolonial subject.  At the center of the theoretical intervention is the question of how queer theory, with its strong foothold in continental theories on the one hand, and mostly western metropolitan experiences on the other hand, would answer to its underlying colonial impulse.  This question is important because of the need to open up and examine the articulation of the postcolonial with the transgender, something that remains undertheorized among critical circles.  Finally, I use the groundbreaking case of W v. Registrar of Marriages heard in Hong Kong’s various courts (2010 – 2013), to work through the conceptual possibilities offered by a postcolonial legal optic for advancing an immanent politics of transgender justice.