Check out these empowering portraits of drag queens in China


Like in so many other countries, it isn't easy to be transgender in China.

A widely-cited report released last month by the New York-based NGO Asia Catalyst detailed the abuses and discrimination that female transgender sex workers encounter there. "Although there are no outright legal penalties for being a transgender person in China, the absence of non-discrimination laws, lack of professional medical services for transitioning, and a lack of targeted HIV programming and services, mean there is no effective protection," the report noted.

Of course, it's not just sex workers who are marginalized for being transgender. It's an identity that's officially stigmatized by medical definitions and limited legal protections.

"The Chinese Society of Psychiatry classifies individuals seeking to change their gender as suffering from a mental illness," Jess Macy Yu wrote in The New York Times last month. 

But these images by photojournalist Kevin Frayer are one sign popular views on gender identity may be changing.

In January Frayer, who works for Getty Images, photographed cross-dressing performers at Nanning's Chunai 98 club, in southern Guangxi Province. The club is "a rare showcase of performances by a small group of cross-dressing Chinese men," Frayer writes, and "has slowly gained some local acceptance."

"Many of the performers come from small cities in other provinces, having left their families in search of acceptance, employment and a sense of community."

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