Non-profit platform seeks to bring acceptance for Chinese trans people

By Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/5 19:18:40

A training camp for transgender people is held by the non-profit Beijing LGBT center on July 27, 2017 in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. Photo: Courtesy of He Tao

A group of transgender people in China are fighting social bias and calling for understanding of how Chinese trans people live. 

A free consultation platform has been opened for all Chinese transgender people who are seeking professional advice. "We try our best to relieve their mental pressure," Ran Ran, one of the platform's operators, and also a transgender woman, said.

The platform, which was established in August 2018 and serves transgender people and their families, now has 10 operators, who are also called consultants, and are all transgender people. "Because of our identity and experience, our visitors' stories easily strike a chord with us," Ran said.

"Visitors should first fill an online application form and then we arrange a matching consultant for them within a week, as each operator specializes in different problems," He Tao, another consultant and a 22-year-old transgender woman, told the Global Times. "Visitors and their consultants communicate with each other through chat software."  

He Tao said that visitors can choose many methods with which to converse with consultants such as text, voice chatting or even meeting in person, but many of them are worried about exposing their voices and tend to prefer communication by text.

"The first thing we need to do is to soothe the visitors' emotions, and we also offer them professional instruction such as how to have sex reassignment surgery safely and take hormone drugs correctly," she said.

The transgender group includes people whose gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex, as well as genderqueers who are not exclusively masculine or feminine.

A survey by the non-profit Beijing LGBT Centre in November 2017 found that 61.5 percent of Chinese transgender people suffer from depression, nearly half have contemplated suicide and 13 percent have attempted it. In addition, 21 percent of them have engaged in self-harming behavior.

There is not a single Chinese law that uses the word "transgender." In fact, the use of this word is currently limited to only one policy in China - the Sex Reassignment Surgery Regulatory Guidelines (National Health and Family Planning Commission Document No. 7 (2017)), according to a report from the United Nations Development Program in 2018.

The policy is not a positive one as it places a range of constraints on transgender people seeking gender-affirming surgery (GAS), including having to "provide relevant proof that they have informed their close relatives of their intention to have sexual reassignment surgery," "be over the age of 20 years," and "be in an unmarried state."

Family pressure

Yu Chen, another consultant of the platform, said that pressure on Chinese transgender people mainly comes from their families, and it is their closest relatives who hurt them the most.

"In China, if you want to have sex reassignment surgery, you have to ask for your parents' permission and get their signature, but few families support the surgery," Ran said, which leads to gender dysphoria among trans people.

"A lot of young transgender people told me that they have no choice but to run away from home, hurt themselves or even attempt suicide."

One transgender woman, surnamed An, told the consultant about how her parents treated her when they found out she had paid some people to remove her genitals. "My father forced me to cut my hair and then he took my cell phones and bank cards away to imprison me," An said.

He Tao realized she preferred dresses to boy's clothes when she was 6 years old, and often tried on her mother's or sister's clothes in secret when she was in primary school. "But when I entered adolescence, I became very anxious and even attempted to cut off my genitals by myself," He recalled.

However, consultants said that there are also more accepting parents who come to obtain accurate information about transgender people and are supportive of their children. 

"My youngest visitor was only 13 years old, who came to consult with the mom. Before asking for help from our platform, the mom had taken her child to several reputable hospitals in Beijing to support the teenager to get through this confusing period," He Tao said. 

Seeking fair chances

Yu Chen said that she realized she was a transgender woman in October 2016 when she saw the word yaoniang on the website, which refers to people whose biological gender is male changing their bodies through taking drugs. The word led Yu into a new world where all of her behavior made sense. 

"This society is strongly biased against us. Some consider us abnormal people who live short lives because of drugs, which makes us feel very stressed and depressed," Yu said.

According to a survey from the Beijing LGBT center and Peking University, transgender people are three times more likely to be unemployed than the general population in China, and nearly 25 percent work in an unfriendly environment.

"Why are transgender people treated differently? Why can't we be true to ourselves? We can also work, have loving relationships and pay taxes. We can also contribute to this society. So please give us a fair chance," He Tao said.
Newspaper headline: Question of Gender


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