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The Internet is Divided Over this Celebrity Son’s Gender-Bending Selfie

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A femme photoshoot has China’s internet in a stir.

The son of Annie Yi — a Taiwanese singer who solidified her fame on China’s Got Talent and Sisters Who Make Waves — recently posted a string of selfies on Instagram. All of the account’s posts have since been deleted, but not before the photos were captured and shared on Chinese social media.

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In the photos, NYU Tisch Freshman Harrison Yu stuns in a sheer pink tutu and dramatic eye shadow, a look that has prompted online discussion over gender expression.

“The cutest people are the ones who are really living their lives the way they want,” reads the top-rated comment on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

“I really like this peach blossom make-up,” echoes another. “He looks beautiful, and he’s enjoying himself […] why would I be up in arms?”

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The majority of commenters expressed support, but with public discussion around gender identity still rare in China, some objected to the glamorous shoot while others tied the issue to questions of “mental health.”

“Personally, I feel uncomfortable […] burning eyes, nausea,” writes one user. “Not all diversity is good, and boys dressing like girls is a mental illness,” one blogger wrote flatly. “Whenever possible, no one wants to have a son who wears women’s clothing.”

Related:

From “Little Fresh Meat” to “Wolf Warriors”: Understanding Chinese Masculinity in Pop Culture

It was only in 2001 that same-gender love was removed from China’s official list of mental illnesses. Now, conversations around gender identity and sexuality are beginning to enter China’s mainstream, though not without regular pushback from the government.

An official report blamed the rise of “little fresh meat” (a slang term for young, beautiful men with delicate features) on American CIA interference, and last year, men were barred from appearing on TV with earrings.

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers. He blogs about China and Asia on Instagram: @this.is.adan