Viet Nam News
Fending off 26 competitors from different parts of the world, Nguyễn Hương Giang from Hà Nội was crowned this year’s “Miss International Queen” in Thailand at one of the world’s top beauty pageants for transgender women. Bồ Xuân Hiệp speaks to Giang in Bangkok about her plan to fight for the LGBT community in Việt Nam.
Inner Sanctum: Can you speak about becoming a transgender woman in Việt Nam, where being LGBT is not widely accepted?
Although I was born unlike who I am today, I’ve never stopped trying my best and improving myself to become who I am today, a symbol of pride in Việt Nam.
When I decided to go through with sex reassignment surgery, I faced severe objections from family, relatives and friends. The objection comes as a result of prejudice of society.
I had to go through the time alone, with no one beside me, and I had to be strong to get what I have today. There was a time I thought I was going to die.
In Việt Nam, a majority of people still hold the belief that transgender people have neurological problems. But for me, becoming a transgender woman was a turning point in my life as I found myself living the real me.
Inner Sanctum: What inspired you to participate in the Miss International Queen competition this year?
At one point, I thought I would not participate in beauty contests for transgender people. A Vietnamese friend who lives in Thailand advised me to participate in the contest. I was fortunate to have been chosen as Miss International Queen to the surprise of the Vietnamese public.
In addition, I received great support from my colleagues as well as Thai Supermodel Lukkade Metinee who also encouraged me to join the contest.
As a result, I was really determined to enter the competition as I wanted to prove that transgender people are also talented and beautiful.
Miss International Queen is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious transgender beauty pageants held annually in Pattaya, Thailand.
When I woke up the next morning after the coronation, I still thought it was a dream. I want to thank my parents, my team and my fans, especially the LGBT community, all of whom have always supported me.
For the finale, many people even flew to Thailand to cheer me on. They gave me more strength during the night. I’m grateful for them.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us about the challenges you faced when participating in the pageant?
In the competition, I had to pursue a lot of skills, including communication, shooting, catwalk on the stage, questions to answer for the contest, and interviews with media.
Every morning I had to get up at 4am and work until 10pm. To prepare for the pageant, I put in a lot of hard work. In just two months, I lost 7kg to achieve my desired body figure.
Although the schedule was tight, I was always ready for any challenge like working as a volunteer for social activities and meetings with sponsored brands.
I found the challenges to be a driving force for me to get the crown.
Inner Sanctum: It’s a great honor to win the pageant for the first time for Việt Nam. What do you think it will mean to the Vietnamese LGBT community?
This victory is not only for me and my fans in Việt Nam but for the entire LGBT community in the country.
I was highly motivated to win the crown as this was the first time that Việt Nam participated in the pageant. The crown is a positive symbol that will help people recognise that the LGBT community has people who are talented and thus deserve respect.
My triumph comes at a time when the government is considering legally recognising sex reassignment. I hope the Government will soon do this to ensure the rights of the LGBT community.
Inner Sanctum: What do you plan to do, especially for the Vietnamese LGBT community?
The first thing I will do is to fight for equality for transgender people in Việt Nam, because to me, everyone in the world has the right to be happy.
I also plan to join projects targeting the local LGBT community, which I have been wanting to do for a long time.
In addition, I also plan to bring Miss International Queen or Miss Tiffany to Việt Nam to help transgender people in the country to shine.
I think the Government should consider changing identity papers for transgender people because it’s very important for them to be recognised officially on paper.
Today, transgender people have not been able to change their identity papers, which makes it difficult to find a job, go to school, and go abroad, which affects their lives a lot.
Inner Sanctum: As a transgender woman and the winner of Miss International Queen, what message about LGBT people would you like to spread?
We all want a good life where we are treated like everyone else and not discriminated against.
Everyone wants to be happy, and so do transgender people.
Like everyone, the LGBT community is always trying to live a good life to contribute to the society’s development.
Please don’t ever look down on anyone because everyone needs happiness and transgender people also need happiness. Everyone in the world has the right to be happy. — VNS