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As part of our COVID-19 Trans Resilience Campaign, APTN will be highlighting some of our COVID-19 Community Support Fund partners who have stepped up to provide vital support to the community during the pandemic. During this week of TDOV we are highlighting an organisation working on raising awareness of the experiences of transgeder people through art as advocacy campaigns.

Name of Organisation:

IT’S T TIME

Where we work:

Hanoi, Vietnam

Who we support:

As an independent trans-led organization exclusively for transgender persons in Vietnam, we aim to assist fellow transgender and gender diverse people to claim their safe spaces so that they can amplify their voices. We also alleviate some of the everyday hardships that trans people often face during social and medical transitions and promote active, effective participation of the community so they can live the life they deserve.

What We Do:

  • Community mobilization

Building skills and raising community awareness of physical and mental health. Developing autonomy, active participation, and strong connection of transgender communities in different programs and fields through periodic safe and open sharing spaces.

  • Initiatives and Policy Advocacy

We work towards equal and inclusive policies for transgender and gender diverse people. We offer initiatives and policy advocacy campaigns targeted at governmental agencies to create legal changes that will improve the quality of life for the transgender population.

  • Community-based research

We explore issues related to the Transgender and Gender Diverse community in Vietnam. We have conducted the first qualitative research on Living Experience with Gender Dysphoria of Transgender people in Vietnam.

  • Support and Companionship

We assist Transgender persons throughout their transition journey. Providing pre-counselling, connecting, and transferring them to a network of medical experts, psychologists, gender experts and community-based organizations which supporting transgender people.

Why We Do It 

If we use the estimated 0.3% of the population is transgender, then there are approximately 300,000 transgender people living in Vietnam.

Nonetheless, transgender people still do not have access to scientific information and knowledge about themselves. Transgender people in Vietnam are facing many challenges in finding safe spaces, medical and social support. And foremost, the existence of transgender people has not been recognized and protected by the current legal framework in Vietnam.

In the future, IT’S T TIME envisions a society in which transgender people not only survive, but thrive, with accepting families and communities, full self-determination over their identities and bodies, and freedom from disrespect, discrimination, and violence. For this vision to become a reality, we must also create equity, equal opportunity, safety, health and economic well-being for all people over their entire lifetime.

The three most pressing issues facing trans people during COVID-19 in our community…

  1. Learning and sharing opportunities to gain more knowledge and better preparation or improve self care during lockdown
  2. Higher demands and needs to access medical services (sources of hormones, professionals to consult and help inject hormones.)
  3. Online job opportunities

What we did with our grant from the Community Support Fund

It’s T Time developed a social media strategy with effective active participation of transgender

people to respond to COVID-19. The strategy focuses on developing comics about transgender characters living in an imaginary world in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The comic was initiated, created and collaborated by a group of trans artists and writers recruited from the community who we were able to support with salaries through this project.

The inspiration for the comics comes from the lived experiences of the Vietnamese trans community during COVID- 19, including their challenges, difficulties and the way they are standing side by side to support one another in a time of crisis. These challenges and experiences include access to health services and transition, livelihood and daily needs, Family, Love and Relationship and Stigma, Discrimination and Injustice Fight. 

This project has given us an opportunity to sharpen our  knowledge and gain more insights from the community. It’s essential for us to move forward with our mission, vision and implementation process which can reflect the voice or sensitize to the need of transgender people in Vietnam. It also helps us to narrow  the gap of mutual understanding between our organization and potential partners, different stakeholders and allies.

What were some of our challenges?

This is the first comic to portray transgender people in Vietnam. In trying to address their issues and situation, we find it hard to express complicated issues using the language of a comic or the image of imaginary characters. But by creating, sharing, and learning sessions with different cartoonists and LGBTIQ+ groups who have experience in using art and comics for storytelling purposes we were able to create a well-adaptive workplan and SMART objectives.

We don’t want just short, small projects, but a more sustainable one. We really need technical support in order to strategically plan for upcoming phases of the project and how to draw attention of potential partners and stakeholders.We would like to create a suitable platform for artists and trans people who are active in art and creative designs to come together and develop an interest for future initiatives. 

What we are hopeful for…

Our hope is that if we can continue sharing our story and inner experiences with the public, they can understand and become our allies. In order to change the mindset and public perception,  we need to possess an ability to flexibly tell our stories with different angles and  languages since the topic of sexual diversity and transgender are still new to a large number of Vietnamese populations. Already, the project has created a lot of positive changes. For example, when new audiences are  getting to know more about trans issues, the more allies we can have in our movement.  

Support and follow us here

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ITSTTIMEVN/

Comic 1: Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated

Hey folks, do you remember the peak days of COVID pandemic in our home country. Together with other trans folks who have been running out of hormones (testosterone), I was about to cry.  There is no pharmacy or medical facility providing hormone therapy to transgender Vietnamese, who must rely on unprescribed hormones that often cause a host of side-effects. Vietnam is still on the process of building the law governing hormone therapy or Gender affirming intervention for transgender population.

Comic 2:Shape, circle

Description automatically generated

Many of our brothers (trans masculines) have been growing beards during lockdown. … Cafe recommends combing your beard daily, as this will help keep it detangled, he says. Not only will it make your beard look fuller, but there are plenty of other benefits to combing it regularly.

Comic 3:Shape

Description automatically generated 

The weather has been frustrating, and the binder was tight, then soaked with sweat. Café seems sad because while wearing it, acne often visits him. If we, trans masculines don’t have to wear it during summer, it will bring great comfort but to live with our dysphoria and gain more confidence, we must wear it. 

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, April 1st, the local authorities issued a new Directive measures to contain the pandemic after the recent cases of local transmission. These include the wearing of face masks and using hand sanitizers, avoiding unnecessary gatherings, and strict quarantining for those returning from overseas. We come back to social distancing and lockdown in certain provinces and big cities. In the meantime, regardless of the current situation, trans masculine people can be able to exhale a little bit since they don’t have to wear binder 08 hours per day anymore.

Comic 4: Graphical user interface, diagram

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

For transgender community in Vietnam, this is a perilous time. Vietnamese government has already implemented gender-based quarantines, meaning that transgender people who cannot change their gender markers could likely be subject to harassment, fines, and abuse. The government has not issued guidance to protect the rights of transgender people during COVID-19 yet. 

Local authorities have mandated a 14-day quarantine for those returning from some northern COVID-19 affected areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted people’s lives around the world, including transgender people in Vietnam, who suddenly face additional burdens and vulnerabilities.

Many areas in Vietnam, which as of February had a total of 2,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have put in place measures, such as physical distancing, to curb the spread of COVID-19. While effective in responding to the disease, many people have been impacted by the effects of physical distancing on the economy.

COVID-19 is restricting access to health care for many transgender people. Due to COVID-19, many people are fearful of seeking care. Access to HIV and trans-related care is also being restricted, as medical providers prioritize COVID-related care. Trans people are more likely lack access to adequate medical care, paid medical leave, and necessities and so may not be able to engage in preventative measures as they look for resources to support their families. Moreover, they continue to experience discrimination from providers and staff in many health care settings so they may be reluctant to seek treatment.

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