It is certainly food for thought — is a woman who used to be a man a “real” woman? China’s organizing committee for the Miss Universe contest first thought Yes, but apparently now thinks No.
Chen Lili, a 24-year-old trans-sexual from Sichuan Province, was shut out of the Miss Universe contest by organisers, saying she is an artificial woman.
In a fax to the Sichuan organising committee, the Miss Universe headquarters says Chen is disqualified because she is a transsexual. It says there never has been any such case in the 53-year history of the contest.
Lili was granted permission early this week to participate in the international event by Miss Universe-China contest officials in New York.
“A sex-change woman registering for the Miss Universe contest is something that has never happened before,” Miss Universe selection committee chairman Mr Zhang Ruiling told reporters.
Mr Cao Gang, a beauty contest expert in Shanghai, offered his support to Lili: “She has been granted the status as a woman, and is protected and recognised by law. There is no reason to kick her out.”
Gay and lesbian groups around the world had hailed her entry in the contest as a new precedent. Maybe next time….?
(For those interested, Danwei’s got some before & after photos Chen Lili here.)
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.