What it’s like to be transgender in China

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07/10/2019

Chao Xiaomi considers the question: “Why are you not happy that you were born a man?” That’s because, she says, “in order to live like a man I should drink more, be stronger, have many girlfriends, play rugby – you know – do manly things.” Chao, who describes herself as gender fluid and prefers female pronouns, giggles as she covers her bright-red lipsticked mouth with a hand. We are seated in her vintage clothing shop, Equal, in the Beijing neighborhood of Gulou, known for its many surviving traditional hutong alleyway homes. She arrives slightly late for the interview and apologizes as she puts down her elegant black hat. “The traffic was terrible. I live all the way outside the sixth ring road,” she says. Chao chose to relocate to Gulou from a more central location when her rent became too high. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing and fight for society’s acceptance of transgender people without only having to think about making money,” she says.

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