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ADDED ON: 10/04/2021

Breaking down China’s transgender barriers

10/03/2021 | Nikkei Asia

HONG KONG — Huang Xi, the founder of mainland China’s only nonprofit organization offering psychological counseling to transgender people, is a rarity — a Chinese transgender woman living a fulfilling life.

Huang, who was identified as male at birth in southern China in the 1980s, began to question her gender in kindergarten, but stayed in the closet until 2017 when she came out to her supportive mother and long-term girlfriend, adopting the feminine pronoun while identifying as neither male nor female. “I love to dress like a woman and get out of the binary male-female bias. I’m open to people with all genders,” she says. Huang was inspired in part by life as an exchange student at Colorado State University in the U.S., where open discussion of transgender issues helped her to clarify her gender identity, and in part by the example of Jin Xing, a transgender woman who found fame as a dancer and later became one of the best-known television presenters in China. But the successful lives enjoyed by Huang and Jin are unusual in China, where transgender policy remains backward, with enormous hurdles facing trans people. “On the legal front, there’s nothing called transgender,” says Huang. “It’s not an identity. It’s either male or female.” China’s most resent policy on sex reassignment surgery, published by the National Health Commission in 2017, sets a high bar for access to surgery. Treatment is restricted to people age 20 or older, who must prove parental approval and first undergo psychological and psychiatric therapies for at least a year. “With these criteria, it’s almost impossible for a person to change their identity,” says Huang. There are no official statistics on the size of the trans population in China, but research carried out in 2020 by Zhang Yudi, a professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Science and Technology Beijing, found 30 transgender people in a sample of 10,590 from 26 colleges in 10 provinces. This works out at 0.28%, suggesting a transgender population of more than 4 million based on the latest United Nations estimate of China’s population.

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