Bil Browning

Crossdressing Chinese reality show contestant gets rude treatment

Filed By Bil Browning | May 06, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Annie Rose, Chinese gays and lesbians, crossdressing performers, Liu Zhu, Super Boy, Super Girl

China's Super Boy is a spinoff of their Super Girl reality show. The two hits, like American Idol, are based on England's popular Pop Idol franchise.20100503liuzhu01.jpg

Liu Zhu (??), a regional contestant from Nanchong, Sichuan province, didn't get a very warm reception from the judges because he wore women's clothing to audition. One judge in particular was so blown away that she refused to believe Liu Zhu is a boy. First she asked for his ID and then she asked to examine his genitals!

According to the interview after, Liu Zhu has always been this way since he was young. He always dressed this way in everyday life, and his family has already accepted him. "This way is more natural, if I purposely dress like a boy just for this contest, I think it would be very fake." "I am in deed a boy, and I dress like this every day, but I think everyone has their own choice, their own way of life."

The judge called on Chinese "netizens" to do a background check on the boy to discover if he was tricking the judges into thinking he was a crossdressing boy instead of an "actual" girl so he could win the competition. I know I'm judging across cultural lines, but I'm having problems typing "he" instead of "she" since Liu Zhu presents as female all the time. Apparently my Trans 101 training took root!

Video of the confrontation after the jump along with an English translation.

20100503liuzhu19.jpgCheck out this video when she went on the show in front of the judges, she was repeatedly interrupted because one judge just wouldn't believe that he is a boy. Judge Annie Rose (????) first asked if his hair was real then asked to see his id, and then even asked to examine his gender.

"I am still suspicious about your identity. Can we examine your gender?"

"How do you examine?"

"Do you choose a male judge or a female judge to verify? I still have doubts about your identity. I think you are a girl."

"I didn't lie. Thank you."

"But I feel if you are lying, you are playing tricks on us and the viewers."

"I didn't lie or play tricks on you."

"Then I hope the netizens will human flesh search you! Can you swear on your dignity?"

"I can swear on it on anything..."


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You said "I know I'm judging across cultural lines, but I'm having problems typing "he" instead of "she" since Liu Zhu presents as female all the time. Apparently my Trans 101 training took root!"... but wasn't the contestant interviewed as saying that sie view hirself as a boy but prefers to wear that style clothing? I'm not so sure this is a case of Trans 101 as much as genderqueer and English-pronoun-category!fail.

The judge, on the other hand...well, anything I say will be based on a different cultural standard, so I'm going to hold my tongue.

I have a hard time not calling him "she" too. Though I suppose if he self-identified as female, he (she?) would have auditioned for Super Girl instead of Super Boy. Is the Chinese concept of transgender different from the Western concept where a transwoman is a woman, period?

One thing that amazes me is his voice: he sounds exactly like a woman. To the point where I, too, am kind of doubting that he's a boy.

It seems to me that is doesn't matter whether he is a 'boy' or a 'girl' based on body parts (or whatever else that judge wanted to examine), he identifies as a B-O-Y, and that is that, whatever clothes he wears, or whatever he has under them.

Genderqueer comes to mind. Wasn't that in Trans 101?

People have less difficulty addressing female genderqueers with the feminine pronouns if that's what they prefer.

Before we make too many assumptions, remember the #1 rule of reporting on trans stories... assume misgendering has occurred until proven otherwise.

Do we know, for instance, whether Liu Zhu was allowed to audition for "Super Girl"? Was this the only option Liu Zhu was given? A lot of young trans girls say "I'm a boy" when asked— that's not at all unusual. They're scared to say otherwise. Did anyone on the staff tell Liu Zhu how to identify? There are many, many unanswered aspects to such a story and, remember, it's all being reported on and filtered by outsiders who bring their own understanding (or misunderstandings) to the table.

I would find it hard to believe that someone who presented that way 24/7 would have a problem with female pronouns.

Also, I might remind readers about American Idol's season 4 auditions in Denver, when a female-presenting androgynous, singer named Zachary was ridiculed by Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson and then made an even bigger joke when the segment was shown on one of the early episodes of that season. Sounds like a replay of that. :-(

Trust in how people self-identify in the moment instead of assuming they've been manipulated or assuming they're going to transition to a gender in the future.

It's not wrong to go on how people self-identify even if they're unsure or decide to transition later.

I thought the rule was to assume misgendering has occurred when reporting on a deceased person since we don't have the opportunity to ask the person directly.

@Grrrl,

I agree, trust what comes out of their mouth. However, sometimes when you're dealing with young trans people, you also have to understand the social coercion and pressures to identify or explain yourself a certain way. (I'm a boy but I live all the time like a girl can mean genderqueer, it could mean crossdresser or it could most likely man trans woman). It's worth the extra step to ask the person what they would like to be called and what pronouns they ideally prefer.

As to reporting, a lot of time there are reports about living trans people where it's pretty much impossible to access them (eg they live in India) or in terms of privacy. Reporters often don't care how the person identifies, they care what the police say or the person who was their original intermediary source for the story. I've frequently called news stations to ask them about their stories (even about people who are still alive), after a minute or two of talking to them, I would say they are almost always misunderstandings about how the person identifies or taking the police's version of it at face value.

I do understand the social coercion and pressures to identify or explain oneself a certain way. When your sex, gender expression and gender identity don't align, the pressure from others to make them align so others can feel at ease and have a sense of clarity continues for a lifetime.

That's why I think it's appropriate to take Liu Zhu's quotes at face value and assume he wasn't coerced into entering Super Boy instead of Super Girl, else we are doing the social coercion. How he describes himself isn't set in stone. No matter the trend, he's an individual before a statistic. And since we can't see into the future, I'm going to go on the now.