LGBTQ+-themed song is removed from Jolin Tsai’s Changsha gig


The song commemorates a Taiwanese teenager who died after being bullied in school for appearing ‘feminine.’

LGBTQ+-themed song is removed from Jolin Tsai's Changsha gig

Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai performs at a concert in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016.

Authorities in the central Chinese city of Changsha removed an LGBTQ+-themed song from the setlist of Taiwanese pop star Jolin Tsai, according to her publicity team.

Tsai’s song “Womxnly” – which commemorates a Taiwanese teenager who was found dead in a school toilet after being bullied by classmates for his “feminine” appearance – is nearly always included in her shows, and has become an anthem for the island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and questioning community.

Unconfirmed social media reports said officials in the southern city of Guangzhou had already denied the singer the use of a rainbow spotlight during the song.

By the time Tsai and her entourage reached Changsha, the song had been cut from the setlist entirely.

“2023 Sep 2nd Jolin Tsai Ugly Beauty Tour in Changsha. Womxnly is not performed during this show,” a Jolin Tsai fan account on X, formerly Twitter, reported on Sept. 3. 

An entry on the singer’s publicity website added: “The setlist included 42 songs. Womxnly was scrapped, most likely because of censorship…”

The song, penned by Tsai and rapper Razor Chiang, includes the lyric “Who decides which soul goes into which body? Who turns a body into a prison?”

“You were innocent – the world is guilty,” it says of the teenager’s death. “There’s no crime in living as a human – no need to apologize.”

“The best revenge, the best way to fight back, is through beauty,” it concludes. “Never let anyone change you – someone will love you [regardless of pronouns].”

Rainbow symbols denied

The censorship of Tsai’s song comes after Chinese officials removed a LGBTQ+ anthem titled “Rainbow” by Taiwanese pop star A-Mei from her setlist from a recent concert in Beijing, while security guards forced fans turning up for the gig to remove clothing and other paraphernalia bearing the rainbow symbol before going in, according to media reports.

Sherry Zhang, who goes by the stage name A-Mei, wrote the song for all of her LGBTQ+ friends, and it is frequently heard at Pride events on the democratic island of Taiwan.

Jolin Tsai’s song commemorates Yeh Yung-chih, a former student at the Kaoshu Junior High School in Taiwan’s Pingtung county.

“Jolin Tsai’s song Womxnly was banned in Changsha, which is very Chinese,” Taiwanese cultural commentator T.C. Chang said via his X account. “This song won the Song of the Year at the Golden Melody Awards in 2019, which was not long before the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan.”

“It has been 19 years since [Yeh] was bullied by his classmates because of his gender difference, and was found dead in the school toilets,” he wrote.


Cheng Chi-wei, head of social work at Taiwan’s Tongzhi (LGBTQ+) Hotline Association, said both A-Mei and Jolin Tsang support gender diversity, which is at odds with the growing suppression of the LGBTQ+ community by the Chinese Communist Party.

“A lot of big Taiwanese stars are gender-conscious,” Cheng told Radio Free Asia. “A-mei and Jolin Tsai’s gender-friendly expressions are inconsistent with China’s main theme tune, which is the suppression of sexual minorities and diverse voices.”

While homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, and removed from official psychiatric diagnostic manuals in 2001, President Xi Jinping has ushered in a far more conservative attitude to sexuality than his predecessors.

Activists have said the crackdown stems in part from the government’s fear of civil organizations as a threat to party rule.

In April, two LGBTQ+ students from Beijing’s Tsinghua University lodged an administrative lawsuit against China’s Ministry of Education after being harassed and threatened by the authorities for leaving rainbow flags out for people to take in a campus supermarket.

“A popular song about gender, like Womxnly or Rainbow, will trigger social discussions and put the focus on gender equality and diversity in China,” Cheng said. “I  have huge admiration for these artists, but … the powers that be have brought down their sword, and said they can’t sing [these songs].”

‘For every free soul’

Tsai said in her acceptance speech for the Golden Melody Award for Womxnly: “[Yeh Yung-chih] reminded me that I could at any time be part of a minority, and that I should have more empathy for those around me.”

“This song wasn’t written for a specific person, or group of people, but for every free soul – always remember to choose yourself and support yourself,” she said.

Online comments took issue with the ban.

“This song hasn’t offended anyone – it’s quite obviously an anti-bullying song, which is very positive,” said one.

Others said the decision might have been “random,” as Tsai was allowed to perform the song in Shenzhen.

A Taiwan-based writer who uses the pen name Shangguan Luan and who grew up in Chin, said local governments vary in their attitudes to censorship, and that a comedy company that was fined in Beijing could run into no problems in Shanghai.

Much depends on a culture of pro-government informants, who complain about content they find “offensive.”

“If the little pink conservatives report it, then official websites will usually take something down,” Shangguan Luan said. “Taiwanese artists are usually very careful and conservative in China, and won’t be impromptu or rash about the songs they perform.”

“The culture of informants is very strong in China.”

Translated with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *