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It's never too late to be yourself

By Xu Jingxi (China Daily)

08:56, July 05, 2012

While Qian Jinfan wanted to become a female from age 3, it wasn't until age 80 that she did.

And in June, the 84-year-old Foshan native in Guangdong province became the country's oldest person to open up about her transgender identity, bringing a media maelstrom that has led her wife and son to "ground" her.

However, she snuck out of her home to speak with China Daily for an exclusive interview because she believes it's time Chinese society understands its transgender members.

"People may ask why I come out as a transgender person when I'm so old, but I ask, why can't I?" Qian says. "Chinese stereotype the elderly as people who can't do anything but wait for death. But I've just entered the best time of my life. I can finally be myself."

Qian's decision has caused conflict within her family and brought public derision online.

While many admire her courage, others call her "a nasty old man" and "attention-seeker".

Qian says she doesn't relish the attention paid to her as an individual but hopes to use the interest in her story to advocate tolerance and understanding - despite the objections of her family, who says she has made them a "laughing stock".

"I won't reach out to media but won't hide from them either if they approach me," Qian says.

"I haven't done anything wrong. My life as a transgender person doesn't harm anyone. Why should I hide?"

Qian also believes her identities as a famous calligrapher and painter, and as a retired civil servant of the bureau of culture, radio, television, press and publication in Foshan, can help the public overcome misconceptions that male-to-female transsexuals are "abject" and can't do anything but stage nightclub performances as "ladyboy" dancers.

"Transgender individuals aren't marginal and shouldn't be marginalized," Qian says.

Qian becomes visibly angry when talking about a doctor in Sichuan province, who was fired after undergoing sexual reassignment surgery and was forced to become a stripper.

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