Quantcast

Transgender choir sings for acceptance in China

This photo taken on August 31, 2019 shows Trans Chorus members performing at a festival in the city of Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province. – The members of the Trans Chorus aren’t professional singers and come from across China — but they share similar stories of their struggle with identities in a country where being transgender is still classed as a “mental illness”. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)

CHENGDU, China — In an old theater between soaring tower blocks in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu, a choir of transgender singers are on stage belting out the empowering lyrics of Jolin Tsai’s anthem “Me”.

“My reflection in the mirror, is a stranger’s face, which one is the real me, which one is the fake?” the group sing in unison.

The members of the Trans Chorus aren’t professional singers and come from across China — but they share similar stories of their struggle with identities in a country where being transgender is still classed as a “mental illness”.

As the music fades out Fang Yuran, wearing a purple headband, silver suit jacket and pink top, takes a bow, smiles, and begins relaying personal experiences of growing up transgender in Hefei city, eastern Anhui province.

Members of the audience are moved to tears.

“In the last two years, Hefei has developed really well, but people’s attitudes and mindsets still need to catch up with the times,” Fang says.

Fang, who was born a girl but now chooses to go by the non-gender specific pronoun “ze”, grew up wearing dresses and putting on make-up.

After leaving high school for university, Fang began to identify as a lesbian and, thinking of it as an illness, even sought gay conversion therapy.

But in 2015, Fang began to identify as trans and started taking testosterone tablets daily, bought off the internet for around 200 yuan ($28).

It can be hard for many transgender people in China to access hormone drug therapy and many buy drugs through the black market.

“Perhaps I didn’t have much of a mind of my own, so I would ask myself: ‘Who am I actually? Who should I listen to?’,” Fang tells AFP.

“Around the same time, a friend said to me that I should find myself, and listen to who I am. So slowly I began to discover the person I am now,” explains the 31-year-old.

Deep depression

Advocates say social attitudes in China, where no official numbers of transgender people exist, are improving in a country that decriminalized homosexuality in 1997.

But many trans people still face prevalent discrimination and deep-rooted stigma. While homosexuality was removed from China’s list of mental disorders in 2001, being transgender is still there.

A 2017 survey by the Beijing LGBT Centre found that 61 percent of respondents had suffered some level of depression while 46 percent considered suicide as a result of being transgender.

Fang’s relationships with family took years to mend and even now there are awkward moments.

“When I cut my hair, and my mum saw me over video chat, she scolded me,” Fang recalls

“But during that conversation, when I spoke of my partner, mum would just furrow her brow, it wasn’t a big reaction. Their current attitude is as long as you’re with someone, it doesn’t matter who.

“I think that the way they think is ingrained in them.”

Staying hidden

The choir was singing at the Milk LGBT Gala in Chengdu, a city known for being more open about LGBT issues than other places in China, where attitudes are still very conservative.

The name is inspired by the first openly gay U.S. politician Harvey Milk, and the group is hoping to make strides in China’s LGBT community.

As well as Trans Chorus, the festival featured a play about transgenderism and performances by men dancing in dresses, helping to raise the profile of trans lifestyles.

“We hope that we can present the many different aspects of the LGBT (community), because most of the time we are still discussing gay men, or parents of gay children,” said the executive director of LGBT advocacy group Milk, who only gave his name as Matthew.

“I hope that we can show that there is more to that.”

Surrounded by the LGBT community in China’s gay capital, the festival is a far cry from Fang’s daily life.

In Hefei, there are few LGBT groups and the topic rarely comes up.

But Fang — who is not out at work — has helped fill the gap by taking part in running LGBT-themed movie nights, where LGBT community members can get together in a safe space.

The social worker is hopeful that as society becomes more accepting in time, more Chinese people will feel able to embrace who they are.

“Because after all, transgenders are a minority within a minority group, people around don’t really know about (us),” says Fang.

“There’s also a lot of transgenders, including myself, who stay hidden.” /muf

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

Copyright © 2019,

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate: c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94



News

  • Gordon: Senate to keep ‘eagle eyes’ on PNP
  • Acting North Cotabato gov sues suspended gov’s staffers for libel
  • Cops arrest man who beat up, killed wife in Camiguin town
  • Esper discusses keeping small US force in northeast Syria
  • Reopening of malls in quake-hit Digos ushers in normalcy after 6.3 magnitude tremor
  • Sports

  • Addressing growing fan behavior problem top priority for NBA
  • Pacquiao gets own football kit from FIFA chief Infantino
  • Chongson says UE needs change in management as Final 4 drought continues
  • Val Chauca takes blame for latest Adamson meltdown
  • Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma ruled out for NBA season opener vs Clippers
  • Lifestyle

  • Fake passport obtained from fixer got beauty queen detained in Paris – BPCI
  • Someone subtitle this Francis Mallman show, por favor!
  • Beleaguered beauty joins Miss Grand International
  • JP Pining’s ‘Zoo’ lends wonder to global issue of animal welfare
  • Migs Villanueva celebrates childhood in ‘Catch Me If You Can’
  • Entertainment

  • WATCH: Sparse trailer for Kanye West Imax film released
  • ‘Abominable’ won’t be screened in Malaysia over South China Sea map
  • Jennifer Lawrence marries art dealer Cooke Maroney
  • Binibining Pilipinas belies not assisting Samantha Lo with travel issues
  • LOOK: Hale’s Champ Lui Pio welcomes first child
  • Business

  • Media Outlook 2020 unfolds disruptions in Traditional and Digital Media
  • Maritime industry seeks solutions to limit pollution
  • WOW factor makes remarkable events
  • More manufacturers relocating to Thailand from China, Hong Kong
  • More loans: PH to borrow P182B from foreign sources in 2020
  • Technology

  • Filipina scientist discovers ‘world’s largest caldera’ in Philippine Rise
  • 19-year-old Filipino part of US hackathon’s winning team with solution for food wastage
  • US: Russian hackers use Iranians to mask their identities
  • WATCH: Researchers create human-like skin case for phones, tablets
  • Rescued circus elephant Ramba arrives at Brazil sanctuary
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, October 21, 2019
  • 41-percent decline
  • Time running out on Marcos protest
  • Marawi: Liberation or ‘occupation’?
  • An influx of women
  • Global Nation

  • Duterte flies to Japan for Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement
  • Cambodia backs East Timor Asean bid
  • DOLE working on labor pact with Slovenia, around 5k jobs up for grabs
  • China top source of PH imports, including pollution
  • Philippine Army bags silver at world’s toughest patrolling test
  • PHOTOS AND VIDEOS

    • Cordillera dishes show connection to the earth

      Read More

    • THIS WEEK’S FESTIVALS: May 19-25, 2019

      Read More

    • McDonald’s PH Chairman & Founder, George T. Yang turns over three performing arts studios for DLSU Manila

      Read More

    • Cops arrest 6 ‘Basag Kotse’ suspects

      Read More

    • Honest naia cabbie cited for exemplary deed

      Read More

    • Mom of 5-year-old girl with leukemia looking for more good samaritans

      Read More

    • Compensation commission releases P2.3-M to aid Marawi soldiers

      Read More

    • PNP can’t always fool public with ‘nanlaban’ claims – solons

      Read More

    • Poll: Most dislike NFL protests and Trump comments

      Read More

    • Former Mexico governor wanted in US arrested

      Read More

    • US: Nobel Peace choice doesn’t change US stance

      Read More

    • California becomes first ‘sanctuary state’ for undocumented migrants

      Read More

    • Mexican photojournalist found dead after kidnapping

      Read More

    • Moscow gets 130 fake bomb calls, evacuates 100,000 people

      Read More

    • Frustrated police appeal for public’s help in Vegas case

      Read More