How do transgender men and transgender women make a living in Vietnam today? In Vietnam, as in many countries, research suggests that transgender people are caught in a web of poverty and find themselves struggling for self-determination in a hostile economy. However, many studies focused exclusively on transgender women leaving the experiences of transgender men out of the picture. This left some fundamental gender questions unanswered.
This article shares insights from mixed-methods research into the economic opportunities and obstacles that both Vietnamese transgender men and women face in a fast-growing economy mainly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises. We found that transgender men have opportunities and benefits that transgender women do not have. Economic inequality between trans men and women mirrors and reenforces wider social norms on gender roles and practices which disadvantage and burden women. They also show that small businesses and entrepreneurship play an important role in creating legitimate and satisfying employment for transgender people.