Crossing the gender divide
This post may appear a bit from the left field. The Youku video below is a performance by Ye Zihan (叶紫涵), who cross-dresses and performs as a woman. Some may even think he is very pretty. What’s more interesting is the Q&A with the judges that follows.
Naturally, one judge asked Ye whether he considered going transgender.
Allow me to digress a little first. Chinese language content on the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds. According to this article, such content now comprises 24% and will soon surpass those in English. A bit hard to believe, but I can see that, given Chinese netizens make the largest population group on the Internet. As Warren Buffett not so long ago observed, China is unleashing her people’s potential. That also means China is brimming with just about everything imaginable, manifesting in all media, especially on the Internet.
When it was the third judge’s turn to vote, he offered a story as a caution to Ye to not cross the line. I know what some readers at this point might think. Is the judge expressing some kind of transgender phobia? I don’t think so. In order to understand where I am going with this though, I ask that you drop your value judgement on that issue. That is not where I am heading.
The judge essentially says that there is a proper function to everything. Perhaps defying nature might sow disharmony, he continued. He advised Ye keeping his on-stage identity separate. (Though in answering the first judge, Ye has already said that he is dressed as a woman more often than not.) He laments “losing” a good friend from a top Shanghai university (which he explicitly didn’t want to name). That friend was researching into the plight of prostitutes. Over time, she took gradual steps to learn the environment and talk to sex workers. Eventually, she would cross the line and become a prostitute her self.
Implicitly, the judge advises Ye to not blur the line, otherwise Ye will become a transsexual.
What really struck me about the video has more to do with the discourse in Chinese media about these sort of issues. This judge’s view is unvarnished, and done so in a very respectful tone. Some may argue that the ‘political correctness’ phenomenon hasn’t gripped Chinese society as it has the West. Definitely true. In my opinion, I think it can also be viewed as a good thing. I think what is perhaps more important is tolerance and respectfulness. Isn’t that the most conducive way to maximize pluralism in a society?
Politically-correct all the time with intolerance or polarization bubbling beneath the surface versus unvarnished but tolerant and respectful speech; which is better?
This finally brings me to what I wrote two years ago, “If Confucius is alive today, he would advise the Western media: ‘中庸’.”
In thinking about 中庸, my choice is definitely unvarnished, tolerant and respectful speech.