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Society didn't accept him but is changing with her

By Xu Wei (China Daily)

09:13, July 05, 2012

Wang Maoli says she doesn't regret the sex reassignment surgery she underwent 21 years ago.

But that doesn't mean life has been easy, she says.

She has spent the past two decades in the media spotlight as the first person known to have undergone the surgery in Chongqing municipality and the second in the country. She's also perhaps the country's first person to change the gender on her ID card.

"I might not have survived if I hadn't done the surgery," she says.

While hardships have persisted, the Sichuan Opera performer says the procedure lifted her life's greatest burden.

"I'm living a pure and moral life," she says. "My status is legally recognized by authorities. I make people happy with my shows. I don't see why I should be ashamed."

She had been haunted by gender issues since she was a little boy, she says.

She was good-looking. Her father even dressed her as a girl, which she believes influenced her gender identity.

"I often got love letters from girls but just didn't feel anything for them," she recalls.

Wang, who's in her 60s but refuses to reveal her exact age, decided to become a woman in 1958, when she was performing for a local opera troupe.

Wang asked numerous hospitals for help and even requested assistance from a former Kuomingtang medical officer, who lived in a village in Sichuan province. But the officer said it would be illegal for him to make Wang "disabled".

She used every performance opportunity in Shanghai to consult with hospitals.

The hospitals told her she would need a permit from local police, her family and the local mental health facility.

Wang sent a request to the police. The officers replied: "You're insane." Wang spent a year in prison during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), when authorities intercepted a letter she wrote to a hospital in Taiwan province asking if she could do the surgery there.

But Wang's persistence paid off in 1991, when a hospital in Chongqing accepted her request.

Wang says society has become more accepting of transgender people over the past 21 years she has lived as one.

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