Celebrating Diversity: 33 Stories of Transgender Individuals and Communities in Viet Nam

By Pham Kieu Loan, UNDP Human rights & Inclusive Governance Analyst

December 10, 2023

As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), we reflect on the journey towards fulfilling its core principles: equality and non-discrimination for all. In this celebration, we spotlight the transgender community in Viet Nam, a vibrant and diverse group of individuals who have long sought recognition and equal rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt once noted that universal human rights begin in small places, close to home. Over the years, the UDHR has expanded to protect the rights of gender minorities. Article 1 emphasizes that the list of prohibited grounds in Article 2 is illustrative, not exhaustive. The international community, through instruments like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, continues to create norms, acknowledging sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for protection.

At the global level, the UN Human Rights Council has taken historic steps, adopting resolutions expressing concerns and affirming protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These resolutions build a global consensus, recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds of discrimination under international human rights law.

In Viet Nam, the draft Gender Affirmation Law has been included in the legislative agenda of the National Assembly in 2024. Anticipated for adoption in May 2025, this law symbolizes progress for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) communities seeking recognition and equal rights since the amended Civil Code of 2015, which recognized the right to gender transition.

Stories of Transformation:

For more than eight years, individuals like Duong, Minh Hero, or the Gau Soc family have awaited this moment. The law, when enacted, will impact their daily lives significantly, from job applications to routine medical check-ups. Beyond legal recognition, the law represents a symbol of progress and the fulfillment of fundamental human rights.

True progress goes beyond legal acknowledgment; it requires a transformation in social attitudes. Creating safe spaces for transgender individuals to express themselves is crucial. During Hanoi Pride week in September 2023, UNDP facilitated a knowledge exchange and dialogue, bringing together policymakers, the transgender community, and academics to discuss draft Viet Nam's first Gender Affirmation Law.

Under the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign, 33 short stories were collected as part of "The A4 Sheet - Happy Beginnings" initiative. These stories feature authentic and touching portrayals of events in the lives of transgender individuals and gender diverse communities across Viet Nam. The initiative aims to contribute to national unity, promote diversity and inclusion, and convey the message that everyone deserves love, respect, non-discrimination, and the full enjoyment of all rights.

In celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are delighted to share these 33 stories to amplify the voices of transgender individuals, promote diversity, and foster understanding and inclusion. Through these personal narratives, we hope to contribute to a more tolerant, and equal society in Viet Nam and beyond. (Read the Vietnamese version of "Happy Beginning")