Being Transgender in China: Trans Celebrity, Queer Activism and Feminist Politics

This talk examines trans issues in contemporary China by comparing the lives of three trans women celebrities: celebrity dancer and talk show host Jin Xing, trans and queer activist Chao Xiaomi, and social media celebrity Daxige. It asks when and under what circumstances trans issues can be articulated with feminist and queer politics in contemporary China. Jin Xing aligns herself closely with state and neoliberal feminism while self-consciously distancing herself from queer issues. Chao Xiaomi actively participates in queer activism and manifests the clearest queer and trans feminist stance among the three. Daxige, a trans person from a working class background, identifies themselves as neither a feminist nor a queer person; they articulate their subject position from the socialist political position of human dignity and class equality. From the examples of these three trans celebrities, it is clear that trans articulations with feminist and queer issues are contingent and subject to complex and intersectional interplays between structural issues and individual agency. There are multiple forms and possibilities of trans politics, and not each one celebrates gender and sexual equality and diversity. The future of trans politics in China therefore cannot be taken for granted. This talk suggests that we pay acute attention to how gender, sexuality and class participate in the global, regional and national neoliberal projects to create new genders, sexualities and desires; and these new identities carve out new forms of spaces, alliances and potentials.