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People's Daily Online>>Life & Culture

Men who are princesses

By Gan Tian (China Daily)

13:30, April 24, 2012

(Male students from the Alice Nisemusume Association dress up as female cartoon figures for a performance. Photos by Shepherd C. Zhou / For China Daily)

Theatrical cross-dressing, a common practice in traditional Chinese opera, is now a popular trend among Wuhan undergraduates. Gan Tian reports in Beijing.

'Xiao Lu' is an undergraduate who likes to don fake long wavy blonde hair, wear colorful leggings and put on fake eyelashes. He also borrows some female garments and cosmetics from his girlfriend. Part time drag queen? Xiao Lu (his stage name, not his real name) does not want to be associated with that term. Cross-dressing is a new trend among Wuhan's undergraduates and Xiao Lu is considered as a trendsetter. He co-founded Alice Nisemusume (pseudo-girl in Japanese) Association and his favorite role is to dress up like Shihodani Yujiro's character in the Japanese manga, Princess Princess. The manga tells the story of three boys, chosen to dress up as girls, in an all-boy school.

Xiao Lu, a student from Zhongnan University for Nationalities, first dabbled in cross-dressing three years ago when he and a few friends volunteered to play the female roles in a small cartoon performance.

It was a huge success and his team attracted so many fans that they decided to form the Alice Nisemusume Association, a group where all male members play female roles.

"I just want to bring alive the beautiful cartoon characters in Japanese manga," says 20-year-old Xiao Lu, adding the association is now one of the most well-known campus groups in Wuhan, as many undergraduates are fans of nisemusume-type stories.

The association boasts 300 members from various universities in the city, including Central China Normal University, Hubei Radio and TV University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology. It has been invited to major cartoon exhibitions and talk shows throughout China. For each event, they are paid 500 yuan ($7.90) a person.

While Xiao Lu is basking in the success of his favorite pastime, his friend Liu Peng (also a stage name) is not amused by the attention.

Twenty-one-year-old Liu Peng is one of the earliest members of Alice Nisemusume Association. He said the popularity of nisemusume has attracted unwanted attention, with many conservative observers questioning the actors' masculinity. Liu Peng's mother was one of them.

"I feel very uneasy about my son's interest in dressing like a woman. His behavior will cause confusion about his values on gender and sex. That's why I've stopped him from joining such activities," Liu Peng's mother says.

Sun Yunxiao, deputy director of China Youth and Children Research Center, says pop culture like nisemusume conveys the wrong gender message to youths.

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