Genderqueer Bodybuilder Siufung Law Is Both He and She (and Could Still Kick Your Ass)
Law was born female, is socially male but competes in women’s bodybuilding internationally.
You’re socially male but you compete as a female bodybuilder. Why? A few years ago I identified as a trans man, but I now describe myself as “genderqueer” because I’ve come to believe that gender identity is fluid. The term has a very broad definition—in short, it’s about challenging gender assumptions and stereotypes. According to traditional transgender theories, the “self” is fixed, and you arrive at the conclusion that your gender identity differs from the one you were assigned at birth. I believe that the “self” is ever-changing. [In everyday life] I use the male bathroom and people refer to me as a “he.” But in the bodybuilding world I’m a “she,” because my legal documents still say I’m female.
What made you want to become a bodybuilder? To me, bodybuilding is an experiment as well as a sport. I wanted to find ways other than surgery to achieve my ideal body, because I’m a perfectionist and wouldn’t want to feel disappointed if surgery didn’t go the way I expected. Bodybuilding culture is fascinating partly because it’s very contradictory: It subscribes to the gender binary and gender assumptions, yet it’s also where you find the world’s most muscular women. In Hong Kong, certain other divisions of female bodybuilding are favored over the “physique” and “bodybuilding” divisions, so there are very few local competition opportunities for people like me because we’re considered too “ugly” or “manly” for the market. Many people assume that women who use steroids or anabolic drugs become men—which is completely untrue. When will we start seeing bodies as bodies and not as “female” or “male” bodies? Some people criticize athletes for taking steroids because it’s “unnatural,” but what does “natural” mean? Why would you consider working out natural and using steroids unnatural? They’re both forms of body modification.
What challenges have you faced as a genderqueer individual? During a summer exchange program four years ago, I hung out as a guy with a group of guys, but was constantly afraid of them finding out I was actually a trans man. I was never completely myself, which was a shame because they were good guys. A lot of trans people are so focused on transitioning that they don’t prepare themselves for what comes after—how to associate with members of their chosen gender, or address questions about their identities...
How do you deal with prejudice? I’m now freeing myself from past identities and burdens. I used to be angry with the people who discriminated against me. To be consistent with my bodybuilding identity, I’ve been using the female changing room at the gym. That’s caused a lot of misunderstandings. I’ve had someone open the shower curtain on me to see what sort of genitals I had. One time, a woman asked why I was in the female changing room. When I showed her I was wearing a bra, she said my breasts weren’t female breasts. I used to argue with people like that, but part of liberating myself is becoming better at dealing with negativity. Nowadays I try to be patient and educate people who don’t understand.
Does your family support your identity? I never came out to my parents as transgender or genderqueer, but I like keeping things somewhat ambiguous—it’s how we get along best. My dad used to get defensive when people addressed me by male pronouns. But he’s changed. One time, a salesperson asked if I was his son, and dad just said, “Take a guess!” When people compliment me on my size, dad tells them I’m a competitive bodybuilder. My mom used to say my muscles looked ugly, but now she’ll ask me when my next competition is so she can watch. Sometimes mom still emphasizes that I’m her daughter, but she knows I’m a different kind of daughter.