In October, Asia Catalyst supported the #StrongerTogether Summit, a groundbreaking meeting of LGBTIQ leaders from across Vietnam, organized by Lighthouse Social Enterprise. We went to Hanoi to join the activists, and interviewed three dynamic people at the forefront of this movement to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

Doan Thanh Tùng is an LGBTIQ and HIV activist, and the Executive Director of Lighthouse Social Enterprise, one of the first and largest LGBTIQ community-led organizations in Vietnam.

Q: Tùng, now that the first community-led national summit on LGBTIQ has wrapped, what’s next? What did it mean to you, putting on this ground-breaking summit? 

A: This was the first national LGBTIQ summit in Vietnam, and also the first time we had the opportunity to bring diverse communities together – with over 70 LGBTIQ activists and representatives from all over the country. The Summit covered milestones in Vietnam’s LGBTIQ movements, sustainability models, community challenges, and opportunities for collaboration.

We are particularly delighted with the Summit Statement, a powerful call to recognize the rights of all LGBTQ people and work together to build an equitable, sustainable and healthy future for everyone. An inclusive and diverse technical working group formed to disseminate the statement and address the issues faced by LGBTIQ community.

Our belief: together, we glow brighter, we grow stronger. Hand in hand, side by side, we can embrace an inclusive society with equity and health for all.

Tùng is a recipient of a 2019 APCOM HERO Young Achiever award. To learn more, contact Tùng at

Mia Nguyen is a counselor, professor, activist, speaker, and writer in Ho Chi Minh City. Mia works on transgender and LGBTIQ advocacy with the United Nations, governments, and community organizations.

Q: Mia, what is your role in supporting LGBTIQ mental health, and what are some of the most pressing issues facing the community?

A: My role is providing training to clinicians, professors, healthcare providers and teachers on LGBTIQ issues, gender equality and equity, human sexuality and sexual health across Vietnam. I build pressure against “conversion therapy,” which some social workers or therapists are still practicing. I also help my students and colleagues to incorporate “inclusive practices and gay affirmative approaches” in therapy and social work. This is an important starting point to understand what LGBTIQ clients need.

In Vietnam, the law is based on binary genders so LGBTIQ students so have no protection at school, work, and in the community in general. LGBTIQ youth are generally not accepted, so they often rely solely dating apps to explore their sexual orientation and gender identity in hope of finding a partner. They easily become victims of sexual abuse. Sex education and health is not taught at school.

Today, the young generation wants to come out and express their sexual orientation and gender identity as soon as possible. Still, some issues have not progressed much. Transgender people are still not protected by laws or supported by healthcare providers. Same-sex marriage is not permitted. Last but not least, suicide and mental health issues are common in the community and there is not enough attention to help people in the healthcare system.

Mia is part of Vietnam’s Network of People Living with HIV and was nominated twice for “Most Inspiring Person of the Year” by Vietnam’s ICS Center. To learn more, contact Mia

Ha Thanh is a transgender activist and researcher who is passionate about raising the voices and visibility of Vietnam’s transgender community.

Q: Ha, Last year, you founded “It’s T Time VN.” Tell us about how you became a leading trans advocate. What are your dreams for this year?

“It’s T Time” was founded late last year, and with other trans-led organizations in Vietnam, we have been strong advocates for passing a Gender Affirming Law. You can read about the legal struggle here. We have worked closely with the community so they could participate effectively in discussions with the Ministry of Health. 

This year, we conducted research on the experience of trans people living with gender dysphoria, with funding from USAID and presented our findings in Seoul at ILGA Asia. For the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we organized the largest Pride event ever for the trans community in Vietnam. The event sent a powerful message on tolerance, equality and diversity. We also alleviate some of the hardships trans people face during transitions so they can live the life they deserve. 

My hope for next year is that “It’s T Time” keeps moving forward, stronger, to assist fellow trans men and women claiming their safe spaces and raising their voices.

For more info, contact Ha at

Thanks for reading and supporting inspiring activists like Tùng, Mia, and Ha. 

With gratitude,