Transgender women have a long list of unique challenges, obstacles and prejudices that they face anywhere, as well as struggling with violence directed at them, depression, and oppression.
This is true even in the freest and most progressive nations in the world, like the USA, Canada, Sweden, and Germany. So it comes as no surprise that inside repressive China, life for transgender people is incredibly harsh.
A recent report from a major poll on transgender people and issues in China is the first of its kind from this nation, and it details numerous troubling statistics. The most sweeping observation is that transgender people there live in even worse poverty than the rest of the population and don’t have much in the way of access to medical care.
The 2017 Chinese Transgender Population General Survey Report was created with the intention to “provide government departments, international groups, and non-profit and for-profit organizations with a statistical foundation for an up-to-date understanding of China’s transgender population. It further seeks to improve the visibility of social issues relevant to the Chinese transgender population, advocate for laws and policies that are specific to the needs of the transgender community, promote the rights and interests of transgender people in society, and finally, oppose discrimination against transgender people. This is the first nationwide quantitative survey of China’s transgender population.”
Clearly, such a document is desperately needed, and hopefully this is the first of many steps forward.
The vast majority of the more than 2000 respondents were under thirty, urban dwellers, and educated (with many holding university education) which makes the poverty and lack of access to jobs and economic security all the more alarming.
Aside from workplace discrimination and the inability to find appropriate, safe job positions, transgender people in China suffer from an outrageous lack of access to medical care. Very few physicians in China have a clue about hormone treatment and other transgender therapies, and there is little access to necessary surgical procedures.
Those who wish to seek therapy and counselling often don’t because they don’t feel that mental health and counselling practitioners have much experience with or knowledge of transgender clients.
The survey found that the lack of access to treatments, specifically hormone treatment, led to high risk behaviours, depression and anxiety, self mutilation, and feeling forced to go to illegal channels to purchase hormones.
Poll respondents also faced a lack of understanding at home and among peers and their larger communities, with more than 90% expressing that their families did not accept them.
What can we do from here?
There is little we can do as individuals to change the ideas of the Chinese government, but our acceptance and support of the Chinese transgender people we know can have more impact than you think. The more people who educate themselves about trans issues and stand up against bigotry for their friends, family, and lovers, the wider the circle spreads, even to other parts of the world.
It may not seem like much, but to a transgender woman from China, it can mean hope, which is everything.