Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vietnamese Transgender Journey

TransGriot Note: As I and others continue to point out, being transgender cuts across all economic, class, and ethnic lines. We can also be found all over the globe and represented on almost every continent. Here's the story of Vietnam's most famous transgender person, Cindy Thai Tai

Transgender Journey

From Thanh Niem

After years of living in shame and torment, Cindy Thai Tai underwent sex reassignment surgery and says she’s never felt happier.

Cindy Thai Tai is ecstatic with her new life, she says. After undergoing gender reassignment surgery in 2005, Tai became one of just a few Vietnamese to speak publicly about her transsexuality.

“I make no secret about my gender transformation as I want people to accept me and others like me as we are,” says Tai. “There are those who are not brave enough to make their sexual orientation known in order not to be treated as social outcasts. I don’t want to be like them.”

Tai, whose full name is Nguyen Thai Tai, always felt different, even as a little boy.

He preferred girls’ clothes and games and felt he simply wasn’t meant to be a male.

As he grew up, Tai increasingly yearned to be a woman but was tortured by thoughts of becoming a social outcast if he were to reveal his true feelings.

Unlike countries such as Thailand, where transsexuality is more widely accepted, Vietnam remains conservative and transgendered individuals are commonly stigmatized. Yet the ' harder Tai struggled to engage in “normal” life, the more mental torment he suffered.

His family had wanted him to become a tailor, but Tai secretly had his heart set on becoming a dancer or make-up artist.

Eventually, Tai came out and told his friends and family he was considering sex reassignment surgery.

Over the next two years, Tai underwent four major operations costing more than US$30,000 at the Yanhee Hospital in Thailand – famous for specializing in gender reassignment surgery.

Tai says she is very pleased with the results and would rather have 20 years taken from her life than live unhappily as a man.

“The operation was a miraculous rebirth for me and I’m very happy to be the person I’ve long aspired to be. I regret not doing this earlier,” she says.

“Many think I underwent this major transformation to draw attention to myself or to please the men I love, but I did this totally for my own sake,” she adds.

“I know I’ll never cease to be an object of ridicule among gossip lovers… but I’m used to others’ inquisitive looks and malicious remarks and are no longer hurt by them.”

Tai is now a well-known make-up artist and has even taken up singing.

She captivates audiences with her mellifluous voice and contemplative songs, drawing inspiration from her painful past and journey to inner freedom.

“People probably come to my performances out of curiosity first, but they’re soon mesmerized by my songs,” she says. Tai released her debut album, Noi long co don (Loneliness) in late 2006, which won lavish praise from audiences.

In 2007, she released her second album, Tinh yeu da mat (The Lost Love), a selection of famous Vietnamese oldies mixed with dance, hip-hop and house – also a commercial success.

Tai is set to make another album featuring songs written by famed local composers. She has also acted in films including Saigon tinh ca (Saigon Love Story) and Trai nhay (Bar men) in which she was cast as a transsexual singer.

Earlier this year, Tai was involved in a sex blog scandal when a pornographic entry appeared on her blog.

She said the blog was opened and run by her former manager, and maintains she had nothing to do with the entry.

Tai is currently in a relationship with a German businessman who says she is more attractive and feminine than any woman he has ever dated.

The singer also plans to publish her biography, revealing her life’s journey and detailing the suffering and anguish she has endured.

“I don’t want to improve my image through my biography as many think. I simply hope that through my book people will understand more about transsexuals, empathize with us, and accept us as we really are,” says Tai.

Reported by Nhu Lich


genevieve said...

I read Cindy's story the other day. She's a beautiful woman and courageous. I'm proud that she is choosing to be open about who she is.


Monica Roberts said...

That she is. said...

Hello there!!

She's so pretty.

Her nose looks a lot like Michael Jackson's...

{raised brows}

Why is it that the transpersons who have gotten the MOST plastic survey are the ones who receive media attention in mainstream publications?