A choir of transgender singers in China's southwestern city of Chengdu sang on stage the empowering lyrics of Jolin Tsai's anthem 'Me' moving the audiences to tears. The choir was singing at the Milk LGBT Gala in Chengdu, a city known for being more open about LGBT issues than other places in China, where attitudes are still very conservative. The members of the Trans Chorus were not professional singers and came from across China as they shared similar stories of their struggle with identities in a country where being transgender is still classed as a 'mental illness'.
According to global media, Fang Yuran, a social worker and a singer in the choir shared her personal experiences of growing up transgender in Hefei city, eastern Anhui province. Fang was born a girl but now choose to go by the non-gender specific pronoun 'ze', grew up wearing dresses and putting on make-up. After leaving high school for university, Fang began to identify as a lesbian and, thinking of it as an illness, even sought gay conversion therapy. But in 2015, Fang began to identify as trans and started taking testosterone tablets daily.
Speaking about the current situation in Hefei, Fang said, "In the last two years, Hefei has developed really well, but people's attitudes and mindsets still need to catch up with the times. Earlier I didn't have much of a mind of my own, so I would ask myself: 'Who am I actually? Who should I listen to?' Around the same time, a friend said to me that I should find myself, and listen to who I am. So slowly I began to discover the person I am now."
Fang also spoke about her relationships with her family and how it took years for her to mend. "When I cut my hair, and my mum saw me, she scolded me. But during that conversation, when I spoke of my partner, my mum would just furrow her brow, and never gave a big reaction. Their current attitude is that as long as you're with someone, it doesn't matter who. I think that the way they think is ingrained in them." Fang recalls.
The executive director of LGBT advocacy group Milk spoke about the initiative taken by the group to help the LGBT community He said, "We hope that we can present the many different aspects of the LGBT community because most of the time we are still discussing gay men or parents of gay children. I hope that we can show that there is more to that."
According to a survey in 2017 by the Beijing LGBT Centre, 61 per cent of people had suffered some level of depression while 46 per cent considered suicide as a result of being transgender. While homosexuality was removed from China's list of mental disorders in 2001, being transgender is still there and trans people still face prevalent discrimination and deep-rooted stigma.