China’s most popular TV hostess just happens to be trans

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If you thought Caitlyn Jenner was the most famous trans woman on the planet, you’d probably be wrong.

In fact, that honour surely goes to China’s Jin Xing, whose TV show draws 100 million viewers a week, and who has been openly trans since 1996.

(Photo MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s most popular TV hostess, often dubbed the country’s Oprah, began her career as a dance prodigy.

From age 9 she was recruited to be part of the Chinese military’s dance troupe, a major part of the army’s propaganda machine.

There she found herself training in ballet, opera, dancing and acrobatics, alongside firing guns and detonating bombs.

After leaving the military, she studied as a dancer in New York, where she first found the language to express her own identity.

“Now I was free to discover myself,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Maybe I’m gay? But I didn’t think so.

“Then I went to the gay bars, met a gay friend, but I said, ‘No, no, I’m not gay.’ My sexuality is still like a female’s.

“That’s when I discovered words — transsexual, transgender. I said, ‘OK, I belong to that small island.’ Then I started researching.”

After several years training in New York, then touring and teaching in Europe, Xing returned to China in 1993. Three years later she became the first public figure to transition in the country.

“I saw doctors in the West, but I needed to go back to China. I wanted to be close to my mom because the first life she gave me, I was born as Chinese.

“So the second time I gave myself a birth again, I wanted it to be in China, too. I’m Chinese. I can live in New York, I can live all over, but I am Chinese.”

Complications during the surgery nearly cost the dancer her career however, as she was left with one leg paralyzed after the flow of oxygen was disrupted.

“I almost [died by] suicide. I wanted to become a woman, but I didn’t want to be handicapped. I didn’t want to lose my leg.

“Maybe I needed to sacrifice more to get to what I wanted. It’s not that easy to get what you want. If it was so easy, everyone would do it.”

Determination, hard work and extensive physical therapy saw her recover and return to the stage however, performing for the first time as a woman.

From there, she worked back into the spotlight with appearances as a judge on the local version of So You Think You Can Dance, earning the nickname ‘Poison Tongue’ for her withering takedowns.

She now hosts her own weekly series, The Jin Xing Show, drawing an estimated 100 million viewers.

It’s not been entirely smooth since she transitioned, however. Being trans isn’t illegal in China, but the government has done little to support or defend trans rights.

She was even dropped from a TV talent show in 2011 because she was trans, amid speculation that the government itself had blocked her appointment.

Still, it’s reassuring to see a trans woman with the kind of pull that Xing has – especially after Caitlyn Jenner has struggled to have the same impact in the West.

Her show I Am Cait was cancelled after just two years after plummeting ratings, but even at its best it drew 2.73 million viewers – a fraction of Xing’s.