China: Film by Beijing Students Explores Being Young and Transgender in China

The 18-year-old student out for a stroll at night was wearing makeup and a skirt and high heels when a passer-by suddenly collided with him. “Sorry, miss,” the man said before continuing on his way. The student turned and stared at the man until he was out of sight, clearly delighted to have been taken for a woman.

This episode from “Escape,’’ an unlikely new film by a team of Beijing high school students about being young and transgender in China, depicts the first time that the student ventured out in women’s clothes. The film shows his struggles with his attraction to a boy and his ultimate acceptance of what he feels is his genuine female identity.

Over the past several weeks, the 75-minute film has received four screenings, including at the Beijing LGBT Center and the Wuhan Tongxing LGBT Center, with three more scheduled for this month, and has been the subject of largely positive articles in People’s Daily and other state news outlets. More than a hundred copies of the film have been sold online, and its 18-year-old director, Hu Ranran, plans to post an English-subtitled version on YouTube.

“I wanted to speak for transgenders and acquaint more people with this disadvantaged group,’’ Ms. Hu said in an interview. “Many people regard transgenders as very different. I wanted to make this film to tell people that they are as normal as anyone else.’’

Wider circulation of the film, however, is proving challenging in a country where gender identity remains a sensitive topic. Chinese law allows individuals to change their gender on personal identification cards, but only if they have undergone sex reassignment surgery, and this is illegal for people under 20. In June, the China Netcasting Services Association, a government-affiliated industry group, issued regulations to remove online videos that violate socialist values, including those “demonstrating ‘abnormal’ sex relations or acts.’’ These did not mention transgender people, but included homosexuality, even though it was decriminalized in China in 1997 and removed from the official list of mental disorders in 2001. Read more via New York Times