As a member of the Youth Leaders Club, Viet* and his peers organise events in Hanoi to raise awareness about bullying, harassment, discrimination and gender-based violence in schools. The clubs are part of a project led by Plan International Vietnam and the UN Trust Fund, which aims to ensure that all schools are safe, inclusive and free from discrimination.
Viet*’s story (in his own words)
When I was young, I did not want to play soccer, I wanted to play with dolls. If my classmates had a dress on, I felt envious. I did not understand what this meant. It was only until I was older that I understood. More friends began to accept me, and I felt that I should be more open.
If I can live my dream, I have dreams of becoming a girl. I do not have plans to have surgery, nor do I want to openly dress like a girl; I do not want to ‘come out’ until I have a stable job and income. I know I would be kicked out of my home if my parents knew I wanted to be a girl.
Bullying at school
Some people accept me, but others want to change who I am. My darkest time was when I would sit in my classroom and no one would want to speak to me.
I wanted the time to fly by. My teachers did not speak to me nor pay any attention to me. It wasn’t harassment necessarily; I just do not think they liked me.
At the beginning of grade 10, students began to tease me. They would gossip about me, touch me, tear my shirt. Other classmates would just stand there and not really do anything.
The biggest change happened when I joined the Youth Team Leaders Club.
Initially, I was very shy and timid, but I received such a warm welcome from my friends. They treated me like family. My peers respected me for who I was.
I have been a part of the Youth Leaders Club for 3 years now. Things have changed a lot since then; teachers have joined the project and are better able to understand issues of violence and gender.
When I first joined the club, I played a girl in a show, which was part of a larger school-wide communication event where we raised awareness about gender issues and gender-based violence. I had freedom on stage and could finally be who I wanted to be. That was my proudest moment.
With my family, it feels different: I don’t feel right to come out, but I will do so when I have a stable job. I want to tell them that I am no different to normal people, I just want to be a girl.
Raising youth voices
I dream of attending the Academy of Journalism and Communications in Hanoi, so I can be a journalist and write about LGBT-related issues.
In University, some people may or may not support me, but I want people to understand me. I want to be more active and raise my voice. I can apply my experience from the youth club to my future.
10 years from now, I see myself as a television producer and the creator of a global transgender beauty competition. I also want to join the transgender Miss Saigon beauty pageant. I would play my part and have more of a voice to raise my issues.
Because of budget and other obstacles, I know it is very hard, but this is my dream.
Miss Vietnam shared a quote that I really like: ‘Life always offers you a second chance. It’s called tomorrow.’ The quote has always inspired me, because I believe that tomorrow will be a success.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual