Asia-Pacific

Jin Xing: Dancing Golden Star

A high-ranking Chinese military officer transforms himself into a transsexual modern-dance icon: It sounds like the story line of a sassy soap opera. But this is the life of Jin Xing, 33, a former soldier who after a sex change has become China’s most admired dancer. Jin is China’s “most famous transsexual,” whose life achievements “border on the revolutionary [and] overturned traditions long upheld in China,” wrote Sylvie Levey in London’s Daily Mirror. “High-ranking representatives of the Communist Party, dressed to the nines, pay a fortune to watch her perform from their seats in the front row.” But Jin believes her transsexuality is not the source of her success. Born in Shanghai, Jin Xing (“Golden Star” in Mandarin) exhibited exceptional grace at the age of 4, and, he says, by 6, he knew that he was different from other boys. When he was 9, he staged a hunger strike until he convinced his father, a military man, to allow him to enroll in the Chinese army’s dance school. At 18, after grueling years spent entertaining the nation’s troops, he was declared China’s best dancer and went on a scholarship to New York. There, he was “introduced to an alternative lifestyle in the gay bars on Broadway,” writes Levey. But Jin didn’t feel like a homosexual. He felt like a woman. In 1995, after his sex change, Chinese opera houses overflowed with crowds eager to see this unusual dancer. Tickets went for the equivalent of half the average monthly salary. “People complain about the system, saying there is too little freedom in China,” Jin says. “But there is always enough space to accomplish something incredible.”

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