Out of the transgender closet: From national moral model to trans woman

Alia | August 25th, 2014 - 5:42 pm

On August 14, Liu Ting, who’ve received titles like “China Moral Model,” “China Filial Piety Model” and “Pride of Zhejiang,” announced in a press conference that he has decided to become a woman. The news has made national headlines as if there is something about transgender that goes against being a “moral model” – exactly how Liu felt in the past 7 years.



Liu feels and acts like a female since early days of his childhood. “I’ve always felt that I’m a girl, and that I’d grow up into a woman.” Liu explained. But he was prohibited from doing anything girly, and was sometimes punished physically for staying true to his female heart.

He was confused about which restroom to go. He was afraid of going back to his all-male dorm. When he first expressed the will to do sex-change surgery, his mom said no: “In China, women are still by large seen as inferior to men. You shouldn’t give up your male identity so easily.” Sadly, Liu agreed: “Being a trans woman in China means discrimination.”

If homosexuals are considered a marginalized group in China, transgender people are practically invisible. Jin Xing, China’s most well-known transgender celebrity, once called China’s transgender groups a “tiny island.”

bLiu’s mom was diagnosed with uremia when Liu was 13. Sex-change surgery was officially out of the question as medical expenses to treat his mom broke the family apart. After Liu’s dad disappeared, teenage Liu took on the responsibility of taking care of his mom at home.

Liu even took his mom with him to college, running between their rented apartment and classrooms. It is this action that earned him titles like “China Moral Model” and “China Filial Piety Model.” He started to receive invitations to interviews and talks. But fame only further locked him in the closet.

“The honor leaves only one choice of gender for me….The public sees me as a model son. To meet public expectations of the title, I will have to live as a man. I feel depressed.”

Liu tried – cut hair short, socialized more with male friends, learnt to smoke – but failed. “I felt like I was skinned.” He described the days when he tried to be a man.

Seeing his son’s struggle, Liu’s mom made the final decision that it was time for Liu to get professional help: “If he is not national moral model, he is free to do sex-change surgery. But he is, so he struggled. I struggled, too. But I finally came to realization that being a transgender has nothing to do with morality.”

Liu’s decision to become a woman received overwhelming support from Chinese netizens who hailed his courage to be his true self. “Liu is not only a moral model of filial piety, but also a moral model of personal freedom.” One netizen commented.

But even with support from the online community, Liu may still face mountains of obstacles in real life since official recognition and government support of the LGBT population in China is still very limited. Homosexuality was only removed from the country’s list of mental diseases in 2001.

As the title of Liu’s new book goes: We will be all right

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