Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Genealogies of Sex Change in Sinophone Taiwan

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Amaltas, Lower Ground Floor

The Chinese-speaking community met their first transsexual, Xie Jianshun, in Taiwan in 1953.  Throughout the 1950s, Xie was frequently dubbed as the “Chinese Christine.”  This was an allusion to the contemporaneous American ex-G.I. transsexual celebrity Christine Jorgensen, who had traveled to Denmark for her sex reassignment surgery and gained worldwide fame immediately afterward due to her personality and glamorous looks, and it reflected the growing influence of American culture on the Republic of China at the peak of the Cold War. As was the case with Jorgensen in the United States, extensive press coverage in Taiwan of Xie’s transition shifted common understandings of sexuality and gender, introduced the concept of transsexuality as something distinct from intersex conditions, and amplified the roles of both medical science and mass media in the construction of modern identity.  Press stories of Xie and other gender variant individuals illustrate how the Republican government reclaimed sovereignty in postwar Taiwan in part by deploying and demonstrating its mastery of the Western biomedical epistemology of sex. The rapid transfer of Western biomedical technology to such locations during the Cold War, coupled with their relatively open social and cultural milieus, enabled the Sinophone articulations of transsexuality to emerge first and foremost along the postcolonial East Asian Pacific Rim.

Howard Chiang

University of California, Davis, United States

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