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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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Migrant Lives

Latin America's Migrants Trying To Reach The U.S.: Risk It All, Fail, Repeat

Searching for a safe home, many Latin American migrants are forced to try, time after time, getting turned away, and then risk everything again.

Photograph of thousands of migrants marching  to the US-Mexican border under the rain.

06 June 2022, Mexico, Tapachula: Thousands of migrants set off north on foot under the rain.

Daniel Diaz/ZUMA
Alejandra Pataro

BUENOS AIRES — With gangsters breathing down his neck, Maynor sold all of his possessions in Honduras, took his wife and three kids aged 11, 8 and 5, and set out northwards. He was leaving home for good, for the third time.

"I had to leave my country several times," he said, "but was deported." He was now trying to enter the U.S. again, but the family had become stuck in Mexico: "Things are really, really bad for us right now."

Migration in Latin America is no longer a linear process, taking migrants from one place to another. It goes in several directions. Certain routes will take you to one country as a stopover to another, but really, it's more a lengthy ordeal than a layover, and the winners are those who can find that receptive, welcoming community offering work and a better life.

The aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) calls this an international, multidirectional phenomenon that may include recurring trips to and from a home country.

Marisol Quiceno, MSF's Advocacy chief for Latin America, told Clarín that migrants "are constantly looking for opportunities and for food security, dignified work opportunities (and) healthcare access." These are the "minimum basics of survival," she said, adding that people will keep looking if they did not find them the first time around.

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