Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for their opinions on the possibility of legalising trans-gender operations in Viet Nam and received many interesting replies. Here are some:
Kevin Nguyen, Vietnamese, Los Angeles
The first thing I want to mention is that only a minority in the homosexual grouping wants to change their sexuality. I'm gay, but I never considered doing so. I'm completely satisfied with the way I am now.
"One of my favourites (dishes in Ha Noi) is strips of pork marinated with chilli, ginger and garlic and barbecued in racks," said Tom Kime, a world renowned chef commenting on the signature street food of Ha Noi in the Independent newspaper in London.
"The smokey smell of the pork will waft into your nostrils when you are blocks away, compelling you to seek out its source, the sizzling bun cha (rice noodles and barbecued pork). Seating is provided, although this can be rather a grand word for tiny plastic stools, similar to those you might find at a kindergarten party in England."
Actually, street food in Viet Nam, especially Ha Noi and HCM City, has been praised and ranked by dozens of foreign newspapers and tourism and travelling websites.
HCM City has just been listed in the Top Ten Best Street-food Cities by Business Insider, theVancouver Sun and Virtual Tourist, a tourism website with nearly two million members. Ha Noi has also received a similar attention on CNNGo.
Have you ever tried street food in Viet Nam? How do you feel about it? What type of dish is to your taste? Is street food an important attraction? What can Viet Nam do to turn street food into internationally recognised specialties and make them more popular with tourists?
Please reply by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, September 20.
Second, I believe that people going through such change want to live their lives in the gender that is right for them, not to draw attention or for other reasons. Many transgender people describe an inherent feeling of "wrongness" in their former bodies. That's why they change.
Finally, sexual transformation is expensive, consumes a great deal of time and can be very risky. Not to mention that transsexuals are likely to be discriminated against whatever they do.
Nobody will make it through such a process unless they have a burning desire to live lives their own way. This is a considerable sacrifice. That's why the thought that sexual transformation can become a trend in society is irrational.
Alan Tran, Vietnamese, American, Atlanta, USA
The United States was one of the first countries to recognise the rights of gays and lesbians. Forty five states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalising various types of sexually biased violence or intimidation.
Just recently, legalisation of same-sex marriage was proposed to the Vietnamese Government. It's commonly thought that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic. Such opposition can be motivated by religious belief, political ideology, homophobia, or other factors.
I think the right to sexual transformation is one of the basic human rights. However, one would ask whether the legalisation to change gender may perturb the stability of Viet Nam society.
A natural question to ask is whether people really benefit from sexual transformation. Vietnamese people seem to respect men more than woman, and if sexual transformation is legalised, those in between may opt to become males.
Other issues include Government recognition of sexual changes for the purposes of marriage or adoption – plus the legal requirement to change one's identity in documents such as a birth certificate.
However, since constitutional protection for sexual privacy hasn't been established in Viet Nam, I think sexual transformation should not be legalised for the time being.
Thomas Clark, American, Ohio
I believe one's sexuality is a completely personal matter and I refuse to judge the morality of homosexual relationships. I don't see it as being any of my business or concern.
Sometimes I view the US as a racial Petri dish open to the world's scrutiny, a sociological experiment that tests the racial tolerance of every citizen in this country. The US Declaration of Independence declared that "all men are created equal", but racism has always been an ongoing problem in American society.
Not until 1964 were civil rights legally guaranteed. During my lifetime I've learned to be tolerant and to look beyond ethnic origins, treating people for who they are and not what I would wish them to be. In the US, even the structure of the Government's constitution encourages all citizens to be egalitarian and tolerant of others' differences.
This, however, is not to say that the US has become an exemplary Government even in this regard. If you are an African American man in New York City hailing a cab, you will probably wait longer than a Caucasian. Racism (and sexism, for that matter) are still prevalent here.
But even promoting respect toward fellow citizens in this country does not justify what I consider to be aberrant foreign policies that have been corrupted by corporate greed. It's as if the US has legislated that we be good citizens toward each other within our borders, but then does not provide a good example as a nation for other global citizens.
Many people in the US remain ignorant of the effects this country has on the rest of the world. It appears to be blissful ignorance. Many people may disagree with me, but I see ethnic origin and sexual orientation to be quite similar.
Heterosexuals tend to view homosexuality as a perversion and not a normal state of being. When homosexuals make unwanted sexual advances or try to convincingly masquerade as the other sex in order to deceive the unwary, I find it offensive.
Other than that, I think when we are consenting adults that don't wish to hurt or deceive anyone else, we should be free to be ourselves and to be honest with one another. Our bedroom issues should remain private.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Congratulations to Viet Nam's first ladyboy. Some people feel strange or different when they are born and growing up into their gender identity of strong men and beautiful women. Many cultures do not accept homosexuality and consider it a deviant lifestyle or a voluntary choice.
There are however, a number of people that are transgender and would like to become one of the opposite sex. Modern medicine has advanced enough that it is possible for a man to have a permanent, life-altering sex-change operation. I say that if you can afford it, why not?
It took me until my third trip to Thailand to become aware of this "third sex". There is an expression that things come in threes, or third time lucky. On that trip I met a ladyboy by accident. It was only the next day that I realised the person was a ladyboy!
I was fooled. After that, I spoke to other tourists, and local Thai people. I was amazed. Then I started playing a personal game: spot the ladyboy! If the Thai lady is extra sexy, very tall and plays with her hair, she is/was probably a he.
If the Thai people are OK with this, and the individual has taken a personality evaluation or psychological check-up as required for sex-change operations, then I do not see a problem in going through with it.
Many women get operations on their nose and other body parts. There are many Asian women who want to change the shape of their eyes to look Western. I think changing into a woman is up to you and as long as you don't trick me, I see no problem why it should not be accepted. But just remember, there's no turning back!
Tran Ngoc Linh, Vietnamese, HCM City
I admit to crying as I watched Viet Nam Idol's last episode, which featured the touching story of a transgender contestant. I know all reality shows exploit moving stories to their advantage and have things planned to appeal to the audience, but I was still moved.
Seeing this beautiful contestant expressing her desire and determination to be true to herself despite all hardships, I was full of admiration for her courage. I do believe her story will inspire the homosexual community and encourage them to live the way they want.
And I don't think this will become a trend because sexual transformation is said to be a painful, prolonged experience. Only those with tremendous courage would be able to do that. Not to mention that it is very costly and only a few can afford to do so. — VNS