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Proof: it's not always a man's world
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-19 05:23

The tender eyes and long hair, the floral scarf and slim hands with nail polish, the soft voice: all make it hard to believe this person is a man.

But he is, although not for much longer. After living with a male body for 25 years, Xiao Ying is impatient to become a real woman. He is expecting to have sex-change surgery very soon, probably this week.

Almost all parts of his face, throat, genitals and breasts will go under the knife in the next two years.

His memories of early childhood are full of his curly hair, red lips and flowery skirts, all indicating that he really is a girl.

"My parents wanted a daughter so much that they brought me up exactly like a girl," said Xiao, who lives in Beijing and attended a recent transsexual seminar in the capital.

"But I had to dress like a boy after I got to school age, though I was unwilling to."

His facial bone structure and stature still show some trace of the fact he is a man, although he hides it well in a loose coat and scarf.

"There is fear, of course, and there are obstacles," he said, referring to the surgery. "My family doesn't support me because it might all be too dangerous. But I want to end the torture and live as a normal woman."

Xiao will soon be one of around 300 people in China to become a transsexual (a person who has undergone a sex change), according to his doctor Chen Huanran, a top sex-change surgeon with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

It is estimated that between 13,000 and 26,000 people in the country show transsexual tendencies.

"We have little difficulty technically," Chen said. "Transsexual woman can even go through a pre-marriage check without being discovered. But major obstacles lie in the lack of social understanding."

Chen said a significant number of his patients who have successfully mutated into the opposite sex hide their gender history from friends and spouses because they are scared they would be discriminated against.

"About 20 per cent of my patients cannot live normal lives because they fail to gain understanding from people around them," he said.

Chen said being transsexual is natural. "Sex and gender is different. Sex is physical form and function while gender is a component of identity. Transsexuals suffer because they are trapped in a body of the wrong sex."

Hormonal alteration of the nervous system of developing foetuses might be the cause.

Chen said the conflict over identity is almost always obvious from early on, and is the cause of enormous suffering; globally, some 50 per cent of transsexuals die by the age of 30, usually by their own hand.

The "best way to correct the 'mistake' is to have surgery," said Chen. Fortunately, most of Xiao's friends support him, but "it's a wild wish that everyone around can understand me," he said.

The surgery may cost more than 200,000 yuan (US$24,700) and Xiao has to take estrogen pills for years to flush out his male hormones. He said he had earned some money by being a tour guide and the rest would come from his friends.

Xiao said he once liked a boy but dared not let him know. "I have never loved or been loved, but my biggest wish is to find a normal job and have a normal family after the surgery."

"I want to marry a man who loves me for what I am," he said, adding that he wants a baby although it is still technically impossible.

Doctor Chen said he was confident that in the near future it would be possible for men to have babies with the advance of technology.

(China Daily 12/19/2005 page3)

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