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China's first trans women, Zhang Kesha publishes autobiography

Living in Sacramento for 17 years, she has a newly published book called, "The Life and Times of Zhang Kesha: China's First Transgender".

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A book signing happened Sunday for an autobiography about one of China's first trans women living in Sacramento.

Her name is Zhang Kesha, but she goes by Sasha Eastly, and she underwent her first transition on Jan. 10, 1983 in Beijing, China.

Living in Sacramento for 17 years, she has a newly published book called, "The Life and Times of Zhang Kesha: China's First Transgender", detailing her life in the military, her transition, and in finding love.

"I never knew I was a boy because from when I was little, maybe two or three years old, I liked to play with dolls," said Eastly. "I never knew I was a boy since I was a little bit older, before I went to school. Maybe 4 or 5 years old?"

Eastly was born in Dalian, Liaoning Province in 1962 and when she was 16, she entered the military. The military was very difficult for Sasha. She said having to share a room and bathroom with eight men did not feel right.

After the military, it was hard for Eastly to find a job. 

"They were supposed to give me a job, but they didn't," said Eastly. "They said, 'When we sent you to the military, you were a boy. Now when you come back, you're a girl, so we can't give you a job. You have to go back to the military to get proof you're a girl.' And that would take a long time, so I couldn't get a job. I had to go someplace to find labor work."

Eastly ended up working at a factory that makes children's toys where she not only worked with hundreds of women and girls together, but she had to live with them too. At that time, she was still a boy, but nobody knew.

After discovering a magazine ad about sex changes, Eastly responded directly to the doctor and said she really wants to make the transition.

"I really wanted to change my sex, so I said 'Can you help me?'," said Sasha. "The doctor said, 'If you come to Beijing, I can take you to see a doctor that can help you.' And from there, that's when I had my transition."

Eastly mentioned that she didn't know how much it would cost and just brought all the money she got from the military and the factory to Beijing. The surgery turned out to be a good price, a little over $100 for the full operation at the time, and she expressed how lucky she was.

After her operation, however, Eastly never thought about having to face thousands, millions of people. While working at a Friendship Store, a store that sells exclusively to foreign visitors and tourists, the word got out that Eastly had her operation and crowds would gather there daily. 

"They wouldn't go to the store to shop, they came to look at Sasha like she was from another planet," said Bruce Eastly, Sasha's husband. "The word got out she had a sex change operation, so people were wondering what she looks like and what was different about her."

Bruce and Sasha Eastly both lived lives before meeting each other online in 2003. They were searching for companionship and searching for a partner and found that within each other online and then in 2004 in person. 

"We met face to face and seemed to make an agreement that we'll give it our best shot," said Bruce. "Sasha ended up coming over here in 2005 and that's when we got married."

However, Bruce had no idea that Sasha was previously a male and just found out this past summer. 

"We were married for 17 years but just looking at her, I couldn't see any masculine features," said Bruce. "Until she started to tell me about her life, I couldn't believe it. Her life was in turmoil quite a bit in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and once she got here, she wanted to find some peace and tranquility." 

Now, Sasha and Bruce have been married for 17 years and early on, Sasha really wanted to get involved in her community.

"We both got involved in the Lions Club and eventually, Sasha was prodded into forming her own club," said Bruce. "She got a lot of ladies together and became the charter president of the Camillia Lions Club."

Bruce mentioned how since finding out, Sasha's friends, family and colleagues haven't treated her any differently and they're not questioning anything. 

"Moving forward, we're just going to enjoy life and we're just hoping that this COVID would go away so we can travel a little bit more like everyone else," Bruce said. 

The book signing took place on Sunday at The Elks Lodge on Riverside Boulevard. There were about 200 people in attendance and Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen and Elk Grove City Councilmember Darren Suen all spoke at the book signing too. 

"I love Sacramento," said Sasha. "This has been such a great community and a great place to live."

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