“Moving Like a River” a journal by Chu Thanh Ha

We are beyond proud to introduce Chu Thanh Ha, our Hate Crimes and Violence Monitoring Officer, as the elected Trans Representative of the ILGA Asia Executive Board Member for the year 2022-2024. In this post, you can read his short journey in advancing transgender rights in Vietnam and regional Asia.

Moving Like a River
by Chu Thanh Ha

My name is Chu Thanh Ha, please call me Ha. It means river in Vietnamese, by the way. I am the elected trans representative of ILGA Asia’s Executive Board member this year.

As an openly trans man, I have lived and witnessed unfair treatment, injustice, and crimes against members of our community, simply because of who we are and whom we love. This has been going on for decades at an institutional level. I have been advocating for legal gender recognition in Vietnam since 2015 and started joining the national movement in 2018 as a SOGIESC trainer, engaged with LGBTIQ rights. One of my first international exposure to the LGBTQI+ community and organizations was back in 2017 at the ILGA-Asia Conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This is the chapter of life when I started learning how to move like a river.

People often see the world in categories, and separate boxes that limit our perception, so we are stuck in our ideas of how things are supposed to be. As the universe is ever-changing, and most things are more complex than our minds can comprehend, a more fruitful approach to life, would be one that is flexible, tangible, that enables us to flow along. You know… a bit like water.

Working on legal gender recognition in Vietnam has taught me that policy-makers can be our allies and great supporters. That’s why for the first time gender identity terminologies and trans-related issues have been incorporated for the first time in our legal documents.

Hundreds of trans folks have participated effectively in policy dialogues, improving the way they can contribute to the movement by sharing their ideas, stories, and living experiences as the evidence-based and human rights approach to give feedback, and recommendations to the gender affirmation draft law.

My new chapter in life also started in 2016 when I started working with APTN.
The regional movement has brought me to a new place where I can expand my network to support other trans and gender-diverse folks continuously. Getting myself familiar with regional work means extending my understanding of hate crimes and conversion therapy, and gathering knowledge regarding community-led monitoring research and mobilization.

This is why on 24th November 2018, I decided to establish IT’S T TIME – a community-based organization working for the rights and empowerment of trans people in Vietnam. We have made steady progress throughout the years and have turned opponents into allies.

Throughout my years working as an activist, I have heard people referring to our community as vulnerable, underrepresented, and marginalized – that we are at the edge of society with minimal legal coverage and protection. I want to change that. I want to ERASE THE MARGINS, extend the legal framework, and bring equality to us all.

Embracing ILGA-Asia’s mission to promote respect, equality and empowerment to all LGBTQI+ people, I strongly believe that with my experience in advocacy, coming from a grassroots organization and now engaging with the regional movement, I can strengthen the work of ILGA Asia in the transgender movement and continue to provide support to our transgender community of all identities.

With respect,

Chu Thanh Ha
APTN’s Hate Crime & Violence Monitoring Officer,
Elected Trans Representative of ILGA Asia’s Executive Board (2022-2024)