Li Yinhe: 17 Years with a Transsexual Man

December 19, 2014
Editor: Kiki Liu

Li Yinhe, China's first female sociologist on sexuality issues, declared in a December 18 statement on her blog that she has been living unmarried with a transsexual person for almost 17 years. The announcement was made to dispel the rumor that she was a lesbian, a rumor that began when people got wind of the fact that Li's long-term cohabitant was female -- by birth, at least.

Li posted the update on her blog, where she clarified that her cohabitant is a male who used to be a female before undergoing sex reassignment surgery. Li added that her cohabitant played the role of a husband in their daily life, while Li herself is a wife who is not a lesbian. As part of her announcement, Li gave her own opinion on the difference between a lesbian or gay person and a transsexual person.

The well-known sexologist and activist explained that mentally and psychologically speaking, her cohabitant is a male but remains a female in physical aspects even after the sex reassignment surgery, which cannot completely remove all female physical traits. As far as Li is concerned, the reason why she refers to her cohabitant as a transsexual person instead of lesbian is that "lesbian" is used to refer to those who possess both the physical makeup of a female and a female's psychological or social identity. Thus, according to Li's explanation, a person who is born female but who identifies -- either simply as a transgendered person or as a transsexual person, who undergoes reassignment surgery -- as male is not considered to be a lesbian if that person seeks a female partner, given that from a purely psychological standpoint the relationship is still male–female.

"My cohabitant's sexual orientation is heterosexual, because now he is likely to be recognized as a male in terms of his male traits in both physiology and psychology after several transsexual operations. He is a pure man in my view; one whose sexual preference is female, like me, (making us a heterosexual couple)," clarified Li.

Li's opinions and comments about transsexual identity caused quite a stir online.

In order to help netizens understand further, Li gave an account of their love story, writing, "Love is so simple and spiritual. It is not related to social status, age or even sexual identity."

Li met her cohabitant at a friend's party. At that time, Li was still in a difficult place, still trying to cope with the tragic death of her first husband, Wang Xiaobo (1952–1997), a renowned contemporary Chinese novelist and essayist. Her later-to-be cohabitant introduced himself to Li at the party, later confessing that he was keen on initiating conversation with Li because he secretly fell in love with her at first sight. That night, they exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch.

Several days later, he asked Li out on a date; however, the romantic nature of the invitation was unbeknownst to Li, who thought the occasion to be nothing more than an interview about trans-sexuality. They met at a Beijing McDonald's, which at the time was a popular place for young love-struck Chinese couples.

But when her later-to-be cohabitant, who regarded their meet as a romantic date, insisted on treating Li to dinner at the McDonald's, she was truly touched. In China, there is a saying that if a boy wants to pursue a girl and win her heart, he must wine and dine her, treating her to dinner and the evening's festivities.

They talked on and on, to the extent that Li even forgot about her other engagement with her old friend, whom she had promised to meet with after her "interview." This, Li mentioned, said a lot, given that she seldom misses an appointment with an old friend.

Li confirmed that she indeed fell in love with him that night. In 1997, they decided to live together, ignoring other the objections from friends and relatives. Li expressed to them they needed to respect her private life -- whether she chose to settle down with a transsexual person or any other.

(Source: and edited by Women of China)

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