Homosexuals and Transsexuals don’t have it easy in China

A Guest Post by Richard Burger of The Peking Duck

Like homosexuals, transsexuals, too, have a difficult time in China. The first male-to-female transsexual surgery was performed in 1983 at the Third Hospital of Beijing Medical University. But most transsexuals are turned down for the operation, and the number of those who undergo surgery is estimated at one thousand although more than three thousand apply each year.

Applicants must undergo a battery of tests and psychiatric evaluations and prove they have wanted the operation for at least five years. Explaining their situation to parents and family is next to impossible, and that further dissuades many transsexuals from applying. Those who go ahead with the sex change usually leave their hometowns to avoid discrimination.

The price, which can range from 57,000 yuan to 76,000 yuan ($9,000 to $12,000), is another deterrent.

China has the medical facilities to easily perform both male-to-female and female-to-male operations, but the problem is one of ideology.

Like homosexuality, transsexualism is viewed by many as a form of spiritual pollution imported from the West. There is a profound lack of understanding about transsexualism and, subsequently, a lot of discrimination.

One notable example of a transsexual who has been accepted by the Chinese people is the world-famous Jin Xing, born as a male to ethnic Korean parents in 1967 in the industrial city of Shenyang.

A talented dancer, at the age of nine Jin joined the People’s Liberation Army’s dance troupe and rose up the ranks to become a colonel.

However, from an early age Jin had felt she was a woman.

After ten years of traveling around the world performing and teaching dance, she underwent a sex-change operation in 1996 at the age of 29. She now lives in Shanghai with her German husband and works as a choreographer and dance trainer.

Jin was brought to front pages around the world in the fall of 2011 when she was dropped as a judge of a Chinese reality TV show because she was transgendered. She spoke out to the Chinese media, condemning the prejudice of local officials in Zhejiang province who insisted she be thrown off the show.

She is one of China’s most renowned celebrities and is credited with giving a face to transsexualism and helping raise public acceptance of a person’s right to undergo a sex change.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China’s sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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