The Path To Speaking Up For Trans People in China

October 30, 2017


I am one of the actors in Vagina Says, a feminist play, which draws inspiration from Vagina Monologues and, for the first time in its performance history in China, is acted out by a trans woman. Our play was derived from an interview with one of my friends, and the story centres on the struggles that unfold around the pain and frustrations of fake marriage. The play also underwent some editing by myself, making the emotional aspects of the play more raw and realistic. As for the script, the actor uses performance to reflect feelings of "depression" rather than using words to convey those feelings. Hopes and aspirations are embodied through recollections of childhood, and are then compared with the grayness and dullness of adult life. After reflecting on the ups and downs of life, the play then takes things to a higher level to explore thoughts about humanity and society.


Overall, there are few art productions and organisations that focus on trans topics, and some of the producers that have have not realised that they do not fully understand the lives of trans people, thus leaving their final product far from satisfactory. Some organisations take their creative freedom to the extreme by, for example, portraying trans women as having a strong desire to experience menstrual pain. When a person wants to become a woman, it does not mean that they are trying to undergo this pain. It’s just like when a person wants to have a child, it does not mean that they are hoping to experiences labour pains. Additionally, trans folks have a clear understanding of what their gender is, and thus expressions suggesting things like “born in the wrong body” should not be brought up. Many cisgender people who seek to use trans topics as material for their creative work often make the same mistake - that is, they are portraying their imaginations of trans people rather than how it really is.


In order to gain visual impact, some art productions purposefully choose extreme examples without actually understanding how this differs from the lives of trans people in society or their individual situations. Actually, there are many trans people that keep to themselves due to their inner struggles with their identity and the fear of being outed.


I’ve taken part in shooting of a film (currently under production) called Rib Cage, which combines the topics of Christianity and being trans. The plot of the film underwent examination by myself and some friends, and it seemed quite good. However, the shooting and editing of the film is not something we can control, and we can only wait until it is actually screening to know how it turns out. It is difficult for films like this and plays like Vagina Says to pass the mainstream media audit process in China, and thus we have little hope that anything is going to change for many years to come. Currently, because of the influence of domestic politics, the force of the media  restrictions wavers, and we are unsure when we will enter a smooth period of opening up.


Trans issues have not received enough serious attention from mainstream media in China, and few TV channels report on trans issues and only some media publish articles on this in a very marginal way. For example, some trans women have no other choice but to make a living from sex work or other illegal activities. When reporting on this, mainstream law-related media just present things in a uninformed, negative and exaggerated way, and use a sensationalist tone to narrative stories like "that’s actually a man”, thus causing even more feelings of disgust in the public eye. This will further oppress trans people's space for existence and position in society. Jinxing, who is popular on mainstream media, has greatly contributed to the Chinese public's basic understanding of trans issues. However, I think that the success of Jinxing is not the success of Chinese trans people, rather it the success of the circumstances of her own family background, because people value her status as a "public figure of success" much more.


In recent years, despite these many problems, people's awareness of trans issues has increased, and this will inevitably bring more related productions. As for the birth and development of the production of trans-related content, it will still need much more time to mature.


(Translated and edited by Luoluo and Ausma Bernotaitė)

Xi Yue is a trans woman and a Christian. She is interested in philosophy, science, and politics. She blogs in Mandarin @investigatecosmos. Image credit : Xi Yue (Sisi)




















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