The laws in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam promote equality for all citizens and refer to ‘persons’ rather than ‘men’ or ‘women’. However, because of traditional gender norms, transgender people in Vietnam are facing severe stigma and discrimination in public, in schools, at home and in the workplace (CCIHP 2011; Hoang 2012; ICS 2015; iSEE 2013).
Parents, teachers and policemen are among the most common perpetrators (CCIHP 2011, 2012a, 2012b). Before 1975, homosexuality and transgenderism were considered ‘social diseases’, ‘social evils’, and were targets for elimination in government health and public policies; after 1975, there was a higher emphasis on this as the public saw them as remnants of American neo-colonialism (Blanc 2005). People who were found to practice same-sex sex could be sent to an education centre (Blanc 2005). Transgender people have difficulty accessing services and rights as they cannot change their personal identification (ID) card, which is an obstacle to obtaining social services, housing and work. Gender roles and norms affect the employment practices, options and preferences of transmen and transwomen differently.
This study, undertaken by the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) and Institute of Development Studies (IDS), does not claim to report on behalf of all transgender people in Vietnam, but we hope to gain more insights into both the opportunities and the obstacles that transmen and transwomen face and to understand how they could be supported to increase their livelihood options.
First, the research involved a case study on transgender people and livelihood opportunities which sought to answer the following questions:
- What are the different employment options and preferences for Vietnamese transmen and transwomen?
- What are the links between stigma, education and employment?
Second, it involved testing an integrated application of new quantitative online participatory methodologies on young transmen and transwomen communities, alongside qualitative face-to-face methods to reach elderly transgender people and employers who are not members of online communities. Qualitative interviews also help understand these communities better and provide information that can inform their development.