Trans­gen­der in China: Se­crets and surgery

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

BEI­JING: At home her son still calls her daddy, at work she dresses in a mas­cu­line style, but this Chi­nese per­son has a “lit­tle se­cret”-she was born male, but is not any more. She had long iden­ti­fied as a woman, and suf­fered from de­pres­sion af­ter start­ing a fam­ily, opt­ing in the end to have a sur­gi­cal sex change. “I had wanted to kill my­self, but then I de­cided I should do some­thingif I die, I’d rather die on the op­er­a­tion ta­ble,” she adds. Chi­nese so­ci­ety re­mains deeply tra­di­tional in many re­spects so in pub­lic she still has to hide her new iden­tity and does not want her name or oc­cu­pa­tion re­vealed, for fear of the con­se­quences.

“It will be very easy to find me, and I might lose my job,” she ex­plained. USbased NGO Asia Cat­a­lyst es­ti­mates there are four mil­lion trans­gen­der peo­ple in China, and says they face se­vere dis­crim­i­na­tion. Sex­u­ally am­bigu­ous char­ac­ters have a long his­tory in Chi­nese art and lit­er­a­ture, but be­ing trans­gen­der is still clas­si­fied as a men­tal ill­ness in the coun­try-ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity was re­moved from the cat­e­gory in 2001 —al­though sex reassignment surgery is le­gal. Those who come out as trans­gen­der to their fam­i­lies risk be­ing re­jected or forced to marry and have chil­dren.

“I mar­ried my wife when I still had a man’s body, think­ing I could live with her with­out chang­ing my­self phys­i­cally,” AFP’s in­ter­vie­wee said. “My wife did not mind my iden­ti­fy­ing as fe­male. She is from a small town. Our per­son­al­i­ties do not match well, but we both wanted to get mar­ried.” She says she did not want to be­come a fa­ther but her fam­ily per­suaded her to have a child, and the cou­ple have not sep­a­rated since her surgery for the sake of their son. “I tell my nine-year-old boy: ‘Daddy has a lit­tle se­cret-daddy is not a man,’” she said. “He is not yet old enough to feel con­fused about this.”

‘I thought no one would love me’

Now she tries to help oth­ers in her po­si­tion, run­ning an on­line net­work from her home in Jinzhou, in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Liaon­ing, to con­nect trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als with each other and pro­fes­sion­als such as doc­tors, psy­chi­a­trists and lawyers-who can help with di­vorces. “As I tried to solve prob­lems in my life, I grad­u­ally built a safe en­vi­ron­ment around me,” she told a meet­ing at the Bei­jing LGBT Cen­tre, a re­source cen­ter in the cap­i­tal. “You just have to be brave enough and tell peo­ple your trou­ble-if one doc­tor doesn’t un­der­stand you, talk to an­other. Even­tu­ally you will find some­one.” Trans­gen­der is­sues were given un­usual promi­nence in China last year, when the coun­try’s most fa­mous sex­ol­o­gist, Li Yinhe, an­nounced she had been liv­ing for 17 years with a part­ner who was born fe­male but iden­ti­fies as a man, re­fer­ring to him as her “hus­band” and stress­ing she saw her­self as het­ero­sex­ual.

The cou­ple were pro­filed by a na­tional mag­a­zine and the Com­mu­nist party mouth­piece the Peo­ple’s Daily said on a mi­croblog: “Re­spect­ing the choices of peo­ple like Li Yinhe is re­spect­ing our­selves.” To­gether with the suc­cess of male-tofe­male trans­sex­ual dancer Jin Xing, who of­ten ap­pears on main­stream tele­vi­sion shows, the re­ac­tion to Li’s state­ment was taken as a sign of slowly shift­ing at­ti­tudes. But many Chi­nese doc­tors and psy­chi­a­trists know lit­tle about how to deal with trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als, the Bei­jing LGBT Cen­tre’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Xin Ying, told AFP. Those who have changed their phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance face dif­fi­culty get­ting a job, hav­ing a med­i­cal op­er­a­tion, or even board­ing a train, she said, as there is no es­tab­lished le­gal pro­ce­dure to change in­for­ma­tion on Chi­nese iden­tity cards.

Hong Kong-based trans­gen­der ac­tivist Joanne Le­ung urged the au­di­ence at the meet­ing not to lose hope: “Be­fore I had sex change surgery, I thought no one would love me and I would be sin­gle un­til I die. But I was wrong.”

Even so fears about oth­ers re­ac­tions re­main.Fang Yu­ran, an­other speaker at the meet­ing, was born fe­male but wants to be­come a man. She has only come out to her fam­ily as a les­bian, fear­ing their re­sponse if she ex­plained fur­ther. She ex­plained: “If I told my par­ents the truth, they would think I am ill and never let me be.” — AFP

JINZHOU, China: This hand­out pic­ture re­leased by the sub­ject shows a trans­sex­ual woman, who wishes to re­main anony­mous, in an apart­ment in Jinzhou, in China’s north­east Liaon­ing prov­ince. — AFP

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