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Almost all the transgender people turn to black market hormones for self-treatment

Nov. 5, 2018

Almost all the transgender people turn to black market hormones for self-treatment. Consequently, many people have died or experienced some health problems due to hormone self-treatment or silicone self-injection.

For the past few years, the presence of transgender people in Vietnam is increasingly significant. The number of them is estimated to reach about 300,000 to 500,000 people.

According to Mrs. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy - a Specialist of Legal Department, Ministry of Health - transgender people have gender identity or gender expression that differs from their biological sex.

Transitioning is the process of implementing medical treatments so that their biological sex at birth will be in line with their gender identity. Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s own gender about if they are male, female or non-binary. Gender identity can correlate with biological sex at birth or differ from it.

As reported by Mrs. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy, barriers in society, culture and law have made transgender people become vulnerable groups. They are bullied at school, stigmatized and discriminated in family and public areas. Their opportunity to get access to jobs and medical supports are also limited, especially to the people who bravely come out and live with their identity gender.

Mrs. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy also shared that there were 3 medical treatment facilities in Vietnam which are permitted to redefine gender, including Vietnam National Hospital of Pediatrics, Vietnam-Germany Friendship Hospital, Ho Chi Minh city’s Children Hospital.

Through the process of sex reassignment, these hospitals perform endocrine treatments and breast surgeries from men to women, from women to men, genital surgeries: mutilating genital or shaping genitals.

A study of female transgender people living and working in Ho Chi Minh City shows that 45% of them were rejected from job due to discrimination based on gender identity. This partly explained the fact that only 4% of the participants in the survey got their jobs in the formal sector (with labor contracts and the benefits of workers). There were up to 13% of people earning their living by working as sex workers.

The situation of sexual abuse and violence in the transgender community is also alarming. 23% of people were forced to have sex, 16% of the people mentioned having experienced sexual violence

However, the figures cannot fully reflect the picture of transgender communities in Vietnam due to not mentioning the male transgender community, transgender people who haven’t come out and have not been up to adolescence.

While medical, social and legal services for people, in general, are becoming more and more advanced, the services for transgender people have been little, hindering the community from implementing one of the most fundamental rights to human - the right to enjoy a healthy life.

According to SCDI, almost all the transgender people turn to hormones at the black market because health care services for transgender people are illegal in Vietnam. There are a small number of transgender people being capable of affording treatments abroad or going to illegal treatment facilities in Vietnam to perform transgender surgeries. Many people have died or encountered health problems due to hormone self-treatment or silicone self-injection.


Many people died of hormone self-treatment or silicone self-injection


A trans man, 22 years old

“I’m transgender from woman to man. I’m 22 years old and have been studying in General Health. Since I realized my gender identity and changed my appearance to become who I truly am, I have been subjected to disapproval from my family, especially my mother. She thought that I just followed the trend and scolded me with many harsh words. I was beaten almost every day and my mother even once said that she had wanted to hire someone to rape me in order to let me know the smell of men, it was the most insulting offense to me when I was studying at 12th grade".


A trans man, 30 years old 

“I’m not lucky as my name has the word “Thi” though my appearance is quite masculine. I have been using testosterone for more than 2 years. When I applied for changing my name, the local officer determinedly refused my requirement though I had just asked for removing the word “Thi” in my name. When I consulted medical insurance, the staff repeated my name many times by his speaker and murmured about me. The attitude was also very different, which caused me many troubles in using medical insurance.”


Duy, a trans man

“I live in Ca Mau City and have applied for changing my name many times and presented lots of reasons hindering me with that name. But all of what I received was a stigma, offense, and boundless humiliation. I’m a student and gonna graduate so I really want to change my name to make my future work more stable. I really want to be recognized and respected”.


A transgender person shared her life story. Photo: NĐ


Constitution amendment in 2013 based on the foundation of respecting human right have led to the movement calling for the transgender people’s rights. The Civil Code amended in 2015 marked a milestone in the transgender people’s movement by recognizing transgender people’s rights;, however, this law hasn’t yet consisted of detailed decisions of rights in the different fields ofto transgender people. Currently, Draft Law on the transgender people has been being edited by the Ministry of Health for enactment in 2019 or 2020.


According to the timeline for construction and promulgation of Law on transgender people, the draft is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval in May 2019 session to promptly meet the desire of transgender people: being integrated into society and recognized by law. Yet, there are many reasons that the Law on transgender people has not yet been submitted to the National Assembly. This means hundred thousands of transgender people have continued to wait and postpone being offered fundamental citizenship rights. Every day they still have to hide in order not to be stigmatized, discriminated, and always afraid of being fired permanently because of being transgender people.


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