[Humans of Courage] Lo Kim Thuy, transgender from Khang minority

Back then, every time during Tet, I was jealous of my sisters because my parents would buy them new dresses of Khang ethnic people to wear.

“I still remember vividly as if it were yesterday when my sisters dressed me up in their Khang ethnic traditional coóng shirt and piêu scarf. I was only 8 years old. I sat on a traditional rattan chair in that gorgeous skirt; and my two sisters, on different sides, carried it like a palanquin. I felt beautiful and thrilled when I was carried like a princess.

Back then, every time during Tet, I was jealous of my sisters because my parents would buy them new dresses of Khang ethnic people to wear. I could only look at them, wishing and hoping. Only when I was home alone by myself did I dare to steal my sisters’ clothes to wear and gaze longingly at myself in the mirror. One year, I threw a tantrum begging my mom and dad to buy me the same new clothes. But my dad said: "Are you crazy? Why are boys wearing skirts?"

When I was a teenager, everyone had a girlfriend to take out during Tet holiday, so I asked a girl in the neighboring village to be my pretend girlfriend. Everyone in my family was really happy and whispered to each other that probably I was going to marry a wife. Deep down inside, I just wanted to marry a husband. 

By the time I finished high school and moved to Son La for work, I got to know, for the first time, of the LGBT community here. Some asked me to participate in the catwalk performance in the programme “Cau Vong Luc Sac” (“Hexagonally Rainbow”) – a campaign for the LGBT community. At the time, with my short hair, I went to pick for myself a very first wig and a dress to walk that stage. As I walked down under the limelight with my wig and dress on, the memories of my childhood wishes came rushing back. I was finally me – myself.

That day, I decided to call up my parents to confess to them the truth, that I wanted to be a girl. My dad was furious. He wanted to cross my name of the household registration (family book), and chased my out of the house. My parents would not pay for my college. My grandfather protested my truths until his passing. When I went back to the village, they would, without blinking, say straight to my face: “You have gone insane. You must be under some voodoo to be wanting to like men.” Everyone denied my identity and with that, my existence. I remember everything vividly. It was when my manager, out of pity, pulled out a VND 50,000 bill on 8 March (IWD) when other women in the company would be honored with a crisp VND 500,000 bill. It was when I had to share the room and live with 12 other stranger men at a job. It was when I was touched inappropriately because they couldn’t figure out whether I was a boy or a girl.

The more people refuse to accept me, the more I want to be myself. I decided to grow out my hair. Though with it, my life becomes a little harder: it is more difficult for me to find a job, employers will try to reject me from a position with all the excuses possible so I have to earn every meal. But my long hair has inspired many of my transgender friends to not curl into a ball and hide themselves again. Keeping this hair means trading a lot of things, but I will always hold on to it as if it were my life. 

Since I started joining the movement and being part of a community, I gradually and quickly realized my purpose. Even though every day I still have to face stigma and violence, I would still have to continue to fight for the rights of transgender people like myself. My dream is to organize a pride parade for the LGBT community in Son La. One day, we can all walk down the street with pride, so that we – and our existence – are recognized.” - Lo Kim Thuy, transgender from Khang minority

#16Days #HumansOfCourage  #NoSexualViolence #Safety4Women #OrangeTheWorld

Written by
Author
Doan Thanh Ha
Communications Consultant
UN Women
Author
Nguyen Thi Nhung
Communications Consultant
UNAIDS
UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
UNAIDS
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS