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Trans people in China fear for their lives after being forced to illegally buy hormones on the ‘grey market’

Vic Parsons December 30, 2020
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Transgender people in China are being forced to buy hormones illegally

A man holds a rainbow flag after taking part in the Pride Run in Shanghai on June 17, 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty)

Transgender people in China are buying hormones on the “grey market” because of the difficulties of obtaining them legally.

In China, being transgender is classed as a mental illness, and trans people must be diagnosed before they can get hormone replacement therapy (HRT) legally.

The official process is expensive and stigmatising, with many trans people instead buying HRT through the “grey market” – online, or from other countries.

One 22-year-old trans man in Shanghai, Andy, told Sky News that he orders testosterone from Thailand.

“In China, the channel is hidden,” he said. “There is also a testosterone for fitness purpose, but you are not sure whether it is a real or fake.

“Many ‘brothers’ [transgender men] buy these, because they just buy whatever they can buy. But I don’t – I’m afraid of dying.”

A 2019 Amnesty International report found that trans people in China are risking dangerous surgery and black-market hormone treatments because it’s “impossible” for them to access healthcare.

Widespread discrimination against trans people, a serious lack of information about accessing gender-affirming treatment and restrictive eligibility requirements on who can access healthcare are the three main barriers to getting care for trans people, Amnesty’s report found.

“Hospitals ask you to get a ‘transsexualism’ certificate – they still think you are sick,” Andy said.

“In fact, this is not only an issue with hospitals, but also an issue about social awareness. Our community is hidden, and no one can see it. If no one sees it, the government does not care about it.”

Although the precise size of the trans population in China is not known, Amnesty’s report found estimates of the number of trans people living in China that varied between 100,000 and four million.

Andy told Sky News he is hopeful about the situation for trans people in China: “Just like before if the topic ‘homosexuality’ was mentioned, people would be like, ‘Eww… pervert.’ But now people can accept it with an open mind.

“I believe the future will be better.”

 

Related topics: China, hormone replacement therapy, HRT, testosterone, trans healthcare

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