One of the strangest international espionage cases to ever be recorded, the Chinese opera singer and spy Shi Pei Pu was able to convince a French embassy worker he was a woman for over two decades.
In fact, the story is so great and awe taking that it inspired a whole Broadway show M Butterfly. Shi died in Paris in 2009 but was actually convicted of espionage in 1986 with his lover Bernard Boursicot. Shi who was thought to be around 70, had pretended to be a woman for years which made Boursicot the laughing stock of France for a couple of generations.
Boursicot was living in Beijing when they first met, he worked as an account for the French embassy and Shi was teaching Chinese to diplomatic wives. At this time Shi was living as a man when he told Boursicot a secret that created the instant love story between the two. Shi’s father had always wanted a son so forced him to live as a man! Shi told Boursicot that he was, in fact, a woman.
To push the story home, and convince Boursicot completely he even presented a four-year-old, Shi Du Du, who he claimed was “her” son. And as Boursicot was only 20 at the time with very limited sexual experiences, it seems that Shi was able to completely convince him.
In 1982, Boursicot arranged for Shi Pei Pu and Shi Du Du to move to Paris. Living with him, this is when they were arrested pretty much immediately on espionage grounds. During the police interrogation, Shi Pei Pu came clean that he was indeed a man. Showing the medical staff his secret on how he hid his genitals.
Nothing much is known about their espionage charges, however, they both received a 6-year prison sentence.