Jiao Jiao: A Portrait

Chinese American Arts Council/Gallery 456, 456 Broadway 3/F, New York
24 April – 23 May 2013

Jiao Jiao
Jiao Jiao was Tai Zhang’s schoolmate growing up in Chongqing, China. He had a feminine identity since childhood, and as he grew up found that the call to become a woman become stronger. He began dancing in nightclubs and effectively living as a woman, although his body was still male. During 2008 – 2010, Jiao Jiao underwent two operations, first a breast implant procedure in China, then later surgery in Bangkok to remove his male reproductive organs. What should have been the crowning achievement in her journey to womanhood instead created a feeling of displacement due to severe hormonal imbalances, and created a need to recraft her identity entirely.

This story focuses on Tai’s meeting with Jiao Jiao on the occasion of their school reunion. Jiao Jiao was visibly anxious as the reunion approached and smoked heavily, as the insecurities around acceptance that she had to navigate on a daily basis were now about to manifest themselves in a very acute way. When the date of the reunion finally arrived, people’s reactions to Jiao Jiao were unexpectedly accepting. Almost no one showed visible discomfort, and welcomed her with the same degree of warmth as they gave to their other schoolmates. This anticlimactic affirmation from her schoolmates gave her new confidence and hope for integration as she continues to form her identity as a woman in her community. Jiao Jiao now lives in Shenzhen and works in a teahouse, where she is part of a network of several transgender people who live there.

The story of Jiao Jiao has broad implications as a benchmark of the state of LGBT life in China, as well as the general state of the country’s social development. China is still perceived to be a highly conservative society, where LGBT people are not comfortable to come out to their family or friends for fear of rejection. Within this context, how is it possible that a transgender person can be so openly accepted in spite of the social implications such a friendship might have on her friends’ own social and professional networks? LGBT life in China is without doubt evolving past our dated expectations of conservative restriction. The country’s economic expansion has brought new ideas, which when combined with inherently Chinese values like social harmony, have created something of a safe zone for gay and transgender people. While people may feel confined by the expectations of individual relationships (one’s parents or employer, for example), at a broader level they are aware that they live in a peaceful society where they have little risk of physical harm for their life choices. This is in stark contrast to some more advanced economies, where there are news reports of continued threats of physical harm for LGBT people.


美華藝協會/Gallery 456, 456 Broadway 3/F, New York

嬌嬌,中國重慶人,是攝影師張泰的同學,自幼就具有女性特質, 隨著年齡的增長,成為女人的想法越來越強烈。當他還是男兒身時,已經在夜總會反串表演舞蹈,生活中也打扮成女性。 2008-2010年間,嬌嬌經歷了兩次手術,先是在中國完成了隆胸,然後在曼谷進行了男性生殖器切除術。然而生理巨變所帶來的荷爾蒙失調,讓嬌嬌在追求變性的道路上悵然所失, 卻期待來修正某些不如意。

拍攝線索來自泰和嬌在一次同學聚會上的重逢。起初嬌嬌在臨近聚會日前,明顯焦慮不安, 擔心自己全新的女性身份不被老同學們接受。到了聚會當天,老同學們對嬌嬌的變化不但沒有排斥,相反非常自然的方式迎接她,就像對待其他同學一樣,這讓嬌嬌感動之餘更堅定了以女性身份生存下去的決心。目前嬌嬌在深圳經營著一家茶店,生活在一群有類似經歷的變性人圈裡。