The latest public transgender figure in China is 19-year-old beauty and dance influencer Abbily, who has garnered broad public support following an announcement about her successful gender-affirming surgery.
“I have become a real girl now, I hope everyone can be inclusive towards me,” wrote the internet star in a candid post published to her 2.2 million followers on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.
Abbily’s announcement received over 900,000 likes and prompted numerous supportive messages. A related hashtag has also attracted over 610 million views on Weibo.
The most upvoted comment on Abbily’s post reads, “There are four kinds of gender identities, and each one deserves respect.”
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“You are awesome,” writes another user.
Together with the statement, Abbily has shared some comments on her journey thus far, detailing experiences of bullying and attacks. “I’ve always had gender identity disorder and I hoped people could see me as a girl, but I was too naive — the comment section [of my social media] has been filled with questioning from all over. You guys might just be curious, but this only adds pain to me.
“To be honest I would never have posted this kind of Weibo in the past. I did not have the confidence, and I did not want people to know my identity, which would cause me more pain,” Abbily continues. “But now it is different, I can actually face my past. Please kindly call me xiaojiejie [little big sister, a Chinese internet slang term]. I am 19, I am sure I will shine.”
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Although there have been a number of major setbacks for LGBTQ+ rights in China in the last couple of years — including a controversial court ruling and interference with the country’s largest Pride organization — this particular news has been met with a reasonably sympathetic sentiment, even from state media outlet Global Times, usually known for ultra-conservative and aggressively nationalistic editorial lines. Similar supportive reporting can be seen on other media outlets including Tencent and NetEase.
Known for makeup tutorials and dancing videos, Abbily is a rising influencer who has gained popularity on Chinese social media channels including Weibo, the TikTok-like Douyin, and video-sharing site Bilibili.
While there is still no explicit legal framework on transgender rights, China’s courts ruled last year that a tech company had acted illegally to fire an ex-employee who underwent gender-affirming surgery in a landmark case. Younger generations, especially those in China’s biggest cities, have also become more open-minded on such issues.
Nevertheless, while Abbily’s brave announcement should be celebrated, there remains significant work to be done – on transgender issues and on attitudes toward LGBTQ+ acceptance in general – so that more young people can feel comfortable making similar decisions and able to discuss them openly.
Cover image: screenshot from a dance video posted on Abbily’s Bilibili account
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