VietNamNet Bridge – It took only a few minutes for Jessica, 26, a
transgender woman, to pass through the customs gate at Noi Bai
No one interrogated her about the difference between her appearance
and the gender printed on her passport.
The customs officer only smiled and suggested she should change her name.
However, she is not legally allowed to do so.
The country’ s LGBT population, now more than 1.7 million, enjoys far
greater social acceptance than just a few years ago. Yet
discrimination is still a major problem.
Still, speaking at Viet Nam‘s first National LGBT (lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender) Community Dialogue, Jessica was upbeat about
the country’ s progress.
When she first planned to switch genders several years ago, she got no
information or help from Vietnamese experts. Left on her own, she took
hormonal supplements that negatively affected her bones as well as her
But today, LGBT community forums offer those in her position plenty of
advice, she said.
Tran Thi Hanh, mother of a gay child, said clubs for parents of LGBT
individuals have also come into operation, helping parents understand
the problems their children face.
“All parents are shocked to be informed about their children’ s real
gender identity,” she said. “Appropriate information can help them
feel closer to their children.”
Huynh Minh Thao, officer of Information, Connecting and Sharing (ICS),
a community organization of LGBT people, said the media had played an
important role in changing people’s opinions.
“LGBT people are just like us. They deserve to be respected and
treated equally. They should have all the rights that we do,” said Ha
Thu Le, a Hanoian student.
She welcomed the government&# 39;s removal of gender-specific terms from
the draft amendment of the Constitution 1992 as well as ongoing
discussions to legally recognise same-sex co-habitation and
“Such recognition would be a significant cornerstone in eliminating
discrimination and achieving equality for all,” Chamberlain said.
However, many laws continue to further discriminate against LGBT
individuals. Transgender people are not allowed to change their names
and same-sex people are still not permitted to get married.
LGBT individuals also continue to face discrimination in schools,
health clinics, workplaces and even at home.
Jessica said many health clinics refuse to treat her and accept her
Albert, from central Da Nang City, said many LGBT people are beaten
daily by their parents.
“Their parents love them but it is impossible to accept them,” he said.
Rather than accepting their children, many parents bring children to
hospitals for treatment and force them to marry people they do not
love, Albert said.
UNDP Country Director Louise Chamberlain said the findings from
today’s discussion would be included in a report on the situation of
LGBT people in Viet Nam and a publication on being LBGT in Asia.
The dialogue was part of Being LGBT in Asia, a regional research
initiative by USAID and UNDP to promote understanding of the
challenges LGBT people face in terms of stigma and discrimination and
move towards LGBT-inclusive development within USAID, UNDP and
development partners through research reports and multimedia products.
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