Life Beyond My Body with Lei Ming and Willy Wilkinson
Join us for a very special event with Lambda Literary Award-winning writer and trans activist Willy Wilkinson and with Lei Ming, writer of the first known book by a trans man in China. Come hear Lei Ming share about his book Life Beyond My Body: A Transgender Journey to Manhood in China and his singular experiences.
Born in a rural Chinese village and identified as a girl at birth, Lei Ming, is barely cared for during his childhood. Often lonely, terrified and abused, he learns early to fend for himself and look within for answers, but there he discovers a paradox that threatens to undo him. Although he does not yet know the word “transsexual,” at 16, Ming sets out on a secret mission to find relief. Life Beyond My Body tells the true story of his quest to find answers in a society that is closed-mouthed about men like Ming.
Along the way, Ming finds solace and judgement in the Christian church, loves and loses a woman, begins his physical transition using black market testosterone, is jailed over his identity, and arranges for top surgery without blowing his cover. But ultimately, understanding the true meaning of being a man will require reckoning with God.
Willy Wilkinson was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1960’s, assigned female at birth, the fourth child of a Chinese woman and Caucasian man, whose interracial marriage sparked controversy in 1950’s American society. Scrutinized for his racially layered appearance and transgender expression, Willy emerged into a culture and society that sought to silence him because of his differences. His identification with people on the edges led him to develop street-based interventions for sex workers and drug users, and organize Asian lesbians and transmasculine people of color for self-reflection, visibility, and empowerment. Ultimately he found his voice as a public health consultant who helps community health organizations, businesses, and educational institutions improve access for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.
Willy’s story is a historical journey through queer and trans social and public health movements, and speaks to the inner workings and motivation of pioneers who lay tracks where none exist. At the same time, it is an individual story of belonging and not belonging, and a tribute to embracing life’s challenges without regret. This well-crafted blend of personal storytelling with lessons from the field reflects the intimacy behind policy, the societal shift that demands greater cultural competency, a call to community engagement and institutional leadership. Innovative, moving, and accessible, this multifaceted memoir explores the liberation of finding one’s voice in a world that prescribes silence, and offers a fresh look at ways to systemically affirm diversity throughout society.