Human Of Courage – Miss Long

“Barely did we have any knowledge in the past. There was a friend of mine who died on the spot because of hormones injection and breast injection.

The syringes look much more proper now; the ones I used for injection back then looked like the one for pig. That big iron syringe. That man poked it into my chest, one here, turning the needle and inject some on the other side, and so on. They were injecting and applying ice to the skin at the same time to lessen the pain, without anesthetic.

We didn’t even know what type of hormones we were injected. The seller was also the one giving injection with no guarantee. I used to drink one pair of hormones tubes every day in the past, but I already stopped.

I am taking methadone to give up the drug and treating HIV with ARV. My doctor asked: “Now, do you want to be beautiful or want to die? If you want to die, feel free to use hormones. If you want to live, don’t use hormones or anything else, because you will get tired”. So I stopped using hormones two years ago.

I stepped on drugs in 2003, because I felt down. 

In the past, my brothers got furious with me because I was “becoming gay”; they hit me quite often. When my hair grew long, they shaved it off so I looked like a monk. I had to wear a hat to hide it and lived several years like that.

Back then, there was no such thing as wearing make-up so publicly. Some boys would throw rocks and stuffs at me on the street. It was only when the sun came down that we dared to go out, mostly to go singing at funerals together. People would get drunk, harass and say hurtful things to us. We were called “dog gay” so often, it was humiliating! Sometimes, we had to hide, otherwise people would chase us all. 

In 2004, my mother sent me to a rehab center. She thought going there once would help me stop the addict. But it only got worse inside the center. I was lured by other more experienced drug addicts who showed me which drug to use and how to get high… So after some time in the center, I got out, got bored and continued using drug. Then I got in the rehab center again. I spent more time there than outside.

It was one time in the center that I caught HIV from my boyfriend there. 

When the news broke out to my family, my sisters wouldn’t let me sit down to eat with them, telling me to eat alone in a corner. After being discriminated by my brothers for being gay, I was denied by my sister for living with HIV. My mother saw that I was upset; she yelled at my sisters to go eat somewhere else if they were scared and leave me and her alone. It made the situation better. 

But my health was getting worse. My liver was having problem, together with tuberculosis, osteoporosis and knee degeneration all at the same time.

There was a time when I thought I couldn’t live, my neck was getting swollen glands… I thought dying might not a bad idea to end this life. But then I was able to sit up. I bowed before my mother, pledging that I would help people like me if I was given one more chance to lived. Then I survived. 

After that, I joined the peer group, supporting people who inject drugs and people living with HIV. Now I’m the leader of Night Star group, specializing in helping transgender women living with HIV like me. The group has 20 people but one member would die once in a while. Now we have 10 people alive, I help them receive medical assistance and support from sponsors.

Occasionally, I also share my story with people working in the health sector. I talk about transgender people, so they know our difficulties and make better policies for people like me.

Sometimes I’m sad because I’m not born at this time. Now, homosexual people could raise their voices, they could be somehow recognized and respected… Some young people are only at their teens, but are educated and able to work to support themselves and pay for sex reassignment surgery. I feel happy for them. In the past, I didn’t have a proper education, so I didn’t have any job. The family and society also did not support being gay.

So, if there were a wish, I wish I could live my life again. Back when I was a teenager, I would live a different life. I would stay away from drugs, not getting HIV, and even would dare to leave home to follow my love.

For now, I just want to be healthy to take care of my 81-year-old mother at home. Going to support the community once and for all, I feel more than enough.”

Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi, Viet Nam