Liu Peilin, 63, became famous when she was seen in a news video escaping from her burning house. Up until that fateful day in 2012, Ms. Liu, a resident of Shandong province, had lived in relative obscurity. But in that split second her life, like her home, came crashing down in a blazing inferno of transphobia.
This is just a part of her story as masterfully told by journalist Phoebe Zhang.
“It was a gloomy January day in 2012. A local television crew in Qingdao, Shandong province, was on location to cover news of a burning building on Weixian Road, a ghetto that had been awaiting demolition for decades. The cameras rolled as flames lapped the walls, smoke billowing out. As firefighters trained their hosepipes on the blaze a figure emerged, stumbling out of the narrow entrance passage and into frame.”
“The individual wore a pink jacket and an ankle-length black skirt, face covered in white powder, black eyeshadow and bright-pink lipstick, and with two thick ponytails festooned with pink flowers.
A man rushed forward to help, inquiring whether the resident had been home when the fire started. As it turned out, the fire had spread from this tenant’s flat on the first floor, lit to keep warm during difficult times.”
The tenant was understandably panicked, voice hoarse, but unexpectedly deep: “I wasn’t home, I put out the fire before I left.”
The footage went viral, with hundreds of thousands of people asking who this man dolled up as a woman was. Netizens soon discovered the video’s subject was a transgender refuse collector named Liu Peilin and nicknamed her Brother Daxi – “Big Happiness”.
Having been driven from her Weixian Road flat by the fire, Liu, 63, has since been forced out of home after home by transphobic landlords. But she has also received messages of support and donations of food, supplies and money from those who watched the video and learned of her story.
Liu Peilin’s brush with internet fame as a transgender person brought discrimination. Now living in rural China, ‘Sister Liu’ would like to get married and start a family https://t.co/OnUoykKBp6 pic.twitter.com/HyRGCQmf4S
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 18, 2019