Transsexual unions usher change in China

Himalayan News Service

Chengdu, May 11:

When Zhang Lin proudly put on a Western wedding gown, she was no different from the many happy brides during the week-long May Day holiday. Except that until nine months ago, she was a man. Thousands of farmers watched with a mixture of curiosity and disbelief as the 38-year-old bride and her groom Yang Qizheng celebrated their wedding in Fenghuang village. “No, I don’t think she’s a weirdo. How can I? She’s a woman just like myself,” said an old lady called Pan. But for Zhang Lin, formerly named Zhang Shilin, the road to womanhood was difficult. Zhang was brought up as a timid, self-conscious boy and always liked to wear nice dresses and long hair.

At 24, the woman at heart was pressured to marry a young woman from a neighbouring village and their daughter was born the following year. The role of husband and father had always harassed Zhang, who was determined to divorce when their daughter was 12-year-old and opened a hairdressing salon in Shuangliu on the outskirts of Chengdu. Towards the end of 2002 Zhang fell in love with Yang Qicheng, a man who came to the salon as an apprentice. With Yang’s support, Zhang underwent a sex change operation in August 2003 at a People’s Liberation Army Hospital in Chengdu. In March 2004, Zhang was identified as female on her national ID card issued by the local police bureau. “I’m so happy,” said Zhang at the wedding. She attributes the happiness to the mutual love and trust with her husband as well as the support and understanding from many other people who have come to accept her.

Observers say Chinese society is rapidly catching on to new trends. In 1996, four Chinese transsexuals got married, and have been leading normal lives. One of them, a man-turned-woman, is running a family firm with her husband and has adopted a child. “This shows Chinese society has adopted a more tolerant attitude towards transsexuals,” said He Qinglian, a leading orthopedics expert, who is dubbed “saviour of Chinese transsexuals”. The first transsexual patient he operated in July 1990 was Qin Huirong, a woman at heart and

a graduate of Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University, who wanted to become a female so desperately that she was on the verge of killing herself.

Qin, who gave herself a more feminine name Qin Huiying after sex change, suffered a lot from social prejudice. The man-turned-woman was kicked out by her former employer and parents, but finally managed to find a new job as a translator with a Sino-foreign joint venture in Shanghai’s Pudong New District. Doctor He has been visited by several thousand other patients and has operated over 60 of them - the youngest 20 and the oldest 60. The Chinese have become more sympathetic to this special group and are more ready to embrace them back into society. “After all, it’s not their mistake,” said an elderly couple.