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China

Transgender In China: Defending A Formerly Male Dancing Star's Right To Be A Woman

Essay: Jin Xing, one of China's greatest modern dancers, has divided public opinion after she was barred from being a television show judge because censors thought she was a bad influence on teenagers. A close-up look at a unique role model in mo

Jin Xing (Venice Biennale)
Jin Xing (Venice Biennale)
Liu Tong


BEIJING - In September, star Chinese dancer Jin Xing posted on her Weibo microblog account the news that she'd been banned from judging a television program because of her transsexual identity.

This decision was no doubt driven by the belief of many people in China think transsexuals should not appear in the media because they pose a moral threat to adolescents. Jin says this is pure prejudice caused by a lack of understanding and awareness. Her post drew wide support online.

Jin used to be an excellent male dancer. At the age of 28, she realized her dream of a sex change by going under the knife. Since then, she has talked often about her life as a transsexual, hoping the public can understand more about the lives of people like her.

Among the common objections to transsexuals are complaints about their revealing clothing. Other Chinese people, Jin notes, only know about transsexual people through the negative publicity generated by Thailand's sex tourism industry. Yet most transsexual people lead ordinary lives as lawyers, engineers, and workers. They are no different than the rest of us: neither in their appearance and clothing nor in their heart and spirit.

Sadly, however, many people just dislike transgender people instinctively.

A mother, and freedom fighter

Jin appears to be a very strong person in public -- both for her fame as a successful dancer, and for her great courage and spirit of freedom. She has been leading the "Shanghai Jin Xing Dance Theater" for 12 years.

While most think such people are unlikely to be victims of discrimination, Jin was indeed banned from a TV program. Some even dared to say that Jin Xing devotes her time to her work and family in order to atone for the sex change she has committed. Jin was furious: What atonement? Is it a crime to change gender?

Due to her own experiences, Jin, 44, has become very aware of discrimination of all kinds: against children, the disabled and homosexuals.Through her weibo account, Jin also criticized Li Yang, China's most famous English teacher, for beating his American wife. Li Yang blamed the family conflicts on cultural differences between China and the U.S.

Living a life in the performing arts, she says, the highlight has been as a mother of three adopted Chinese children and wife of a German husband. Jin says that she has always put her family ahead of her career, but after her first priority: her freedom.

Read in E.O.

photo - Venice Biennale

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Searching For Marianna, A Pregnant Doctor From Mariupol Held Captive By The Russians

We’ve heard about the plight of the soldiers-turned-prisoners from Mariupol. Here are some traces of the disturbing fate of a young female doctor who’s been taken away.

A paper dove reads "Mariupol" at a shelter for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

Paweł Smoleński

"Wait for me, because I will return…"

Marianna Mamonova wrote these words to her family, among the text messages and short phone calls that are the only remaining fragments used to piece together her recent past. We also have a photo of her, posted on Russian websites, where she looks into the lens, gaunt and exhausted, signed with a number like a concentration camp prisoner.

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Until the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mamonova’s biography was available to anyone who wanted to know. She was born in 1991, studied at the Ternopil Medical University, and later at the Kyiv Military Academy. After completing her studies, she was sent to work in the coastal city of Berdiansk. Her mother says that this is where her daughter's dream came true: She’d always wanted to be a military doctor, and worked in Berdiansk for three years, receiving the rank of officer in the Ukrainian army.

Beginning in 2014, she’d worked stints as a front-line doctor in the Donbas region, and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February she went to war again. This time in Mariupol.

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