We met and spoke with one of each of the city's L, G, B and T members to get in on some of this awareness action. Here's what we found out.
Luo Xue is a 30-year old MTF (male to female) transsexual originally from Shangdong province in Northern China. She’s been living in Shanghai for nearly four years. The name Luo Xue, meaning “fallen snow”, is her chosen alias.
Luo Xue: I first started feeling like I was different starting in elementary school, because in school, they separate you in two groups -– boys with boys, girls with girls. When I was little I was really obedient, so I just did what I was told. Then I got a bit older, and I realized I didn’t feel comfortable with the notion of always being grouped with the boys.
Luo Xue: It wasn’t until around 2007-2008 that I went online and started reading about this kind of thing, and reading about it, it made me feel like there were other people out there who are the same way, which gave me the courage to say that this is who I am, and you know –- this is how I want to approach my life.
Luo Xue: It wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t pressure myself to always act like a boy or a man. All the ways that a boy is expected to act -– I never really forced myself to do those things.
Luo Xue: Up to this point, I have yet to tell my family. Right now, in my daily life, I dress fully female, but when I go home to see my parents, I dress more unisex. I’m sure they sense there’s a difference in me, but we’ve never really openly discussed it before. The reason why neither side has discussed this is… because I think we both know that if this were to be brought out and talked about, things would never be the same again.
Luo Xue: Hm, that’s difficult for me to say. Actually, I suppose one of the biggest misconceptions that people here have about transsexuals is that they don’t live for a very long time. But really, this is not the case.
Luo Xue: No, I haven’t undergone surgery yet. But I am currently taking hormones. I started taking them in the beginning of 2009. When I go to work, I dress as a female, but no, I haven’t undergone surgery yet.
Luo Xue: Yes, I do plan on having surgery someday. But because surgery will require money and time taken off of work, I’m not currently in a situation where I can afford something like that. When I can save up enough money and it doesn’t interfere so much with work, then yes, I will go through with surgery.
Luo Xue: Both have their own difficulties. I actually don’t know that much about FTM, since I haven’t really been exposed to that too much. But what I do know is, when it comes to [hormone] medication, FTM is a lot more straightforward. There are specific types of medication that you would need to take, whereas for MTF, there are so many different varieties of medications out there, but no conclusive summary on which ones to take and in which combinations, so each person has to figure out which ones to take, how much -- what works for them.
A panel discussion event at last year's SH Pride
Luo Xue: Right now in China, there aren’t any hospitals or doctors that are able to prescribe hormones or medications [for my situation], so I have to research online on how to take it on my own. I mostly get information through online forums, through friends who have also taken this kind of medication. I’ve searched online for advice from doctors from other countries where this kind of thing is more common, but of course, if it’s online, you can’t really be sure that these are actually real doctors.
Luo Xue: It’s hard to say, because the majority of transsexual people, after they’ve gone through surgery, they kind of start living their lives as that gender, so they don’t really get involved in this kind of community or discuss their lives on forums. From what I know, there aren’t that many here, but I’m sure there are actually a lot of hidden transsexuals in Shanghai. Probably.
Luo Xue: You know, Shanghai is already a lot more open than the rest of China. Everywhere you go, you have to show your ID, and when people here see my ID photo, they don’t really question me when I explain what I am. But in say, Shandong, where I’m from, they end up really inspecting me and looking at my ID for a long time.
Luo Xue: There is still quite a bit of difficulty in that area. There are still a lot of misconceptions about transvestites and transsexuals here. If you’ve already had your surgery, you can just go ahead and live your life as a female. As for me, I look like a female from the outside, but there are still parts of me that, when found out, well, it just becomes a very awkward situation. I myself am not very active in going out to date, because I have worries of my own.
Luo Xue: For me, I’m probably bisexual. Yeah, I can accept both females and males. And from what I know, there are a lot of people out there like that as well, but of course, there exists a portion of people who are strictly one way or the other.
Luo Xue: Most people [like me] who do get married, they get married prior to their surgery, so they marry someone who understands their situation. Of course I want to find a husband and get married someday, but I don’t have high hopes for that. I’m prepared to live on my own, but if I ever have the means for it, I wouldn’t object to adopting a child.
Luo Xue: Due to my current family situation, I think it would be better to discuss this issue with my parents later on. But, yes, eventually… it would be nice to be open with my parents about this.
Luo Xue: There isn’t any specific message I’d like to get across. Mainly, I just want people to understand transvestites and transsexuals better. I want people to not see us as abnormal people -– we’re one of you. The portrayal of gays and transsexuals and such is still mostly negative, so I’m glad that we have outlets to tell our stories without any sense of misleading people. I’m thankful to get to do that.
Pride5 starts this Saturday the 15th with a Pride5 run, picnic and opening party later in the night. For the full schedule of week-long events, click here.
Portraits by Marc Ressang at the Jade on 36 bar in Pudong Shangri-La.