Never before have we seen as much LGBT art and activism coming out of repressive Asian countries like China, Singapore, and Taiwan. Transgress Press recently published Lei Ming’s Life Beyond My Body, the first book written by a transgender man in China. After a neglected childhood in a rural Chinese village, Ming left home at 16 to find answers to who he is in a culture that still doesn’t speak of men like him. Ming, who is in the U.S. for a spring book tour of the West Coast, tells of using black market testosterone and being jailed over his identity — but most of all, of finding his place in the world.
Meanwhile, in May, New York Review Book Classics releases Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile, with a new English translation by Bonnie Huie. Hugely popular among college-educated lesbian and bisexual women in Taiwan and mainland China (though she was never published there), 26-year-old Miaojin stabbed herself in the heart with an ice pick (or knife) in 1995. Her pre-suicide depression never tampered her brilliance, though, and just after her death she was given one of Taiwan’s most prestigious literary prizes for the book. Interest in Miaojin, who is credited with birthing the LGBT movement in Taiwan, crosses national boundaries. A Hong Kong filmmaker recently released a Chinese-language documentary on Miaojin as well.