The moment Vu Lieu came out to his family, his life changed forever.
“I was cut off from my family,” he recalled. “And I realized that if I didn’t start to fight for my rights, nobody would do it for me.”
But Vu didn’t stop at standing up for himself – he has carved out an impressive career working to empower LGBTQ youth in Vietnam and across Asia, lending his voice to a community that is often marginalized to the point of invisibility.
H.C., a young transgender woman in China, is also on the front lines of the LGBTQ movement. When she couldn’t find a trans group to join in Guangzhou, the city in southern China where she lives, she thought: “Why not build one by myself?”
That was the birth of the Trans Center, a community center that advocates on behalf of transgender people in China while working to eliminate discrimination and violence.
As Pride Month– celebrating hard-won victories for equality, and acknowledging the work that remains – is recognized around the world, Levi Strauss & Co. is particularly proud to champion leaders like Vu and H.C., who are fighting similar battles for acceptance and recognition around the world. LS&Co. recently supported Vu and H.C. to attend a three-day Global Innovative Advocacy Summit put on by the Human Rights Campaign in Washington D.C.
They, along with other global innovators in the LGBTQ communities around the world, shared stories, ideas and inspiration for tackling some of the common challenges to global equality.
H.C. brought her experiences organizing the first summit for transgender and gender non-conforming advocates in China, and Vu shared lessons learned from a project expanding PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) groups to 63 towns – a crucial step forward in a society where parents are revered.
Looking back on the experience, Vu was particularly inspired by the attendees who are working with the trans community in different countries – including H.C., and a woman from India who is using performance art to connect with the public and policymakers to raise awareness of trans issues.
“I was also impressed by the years-long same-sex marriage movement in Taiwan,” which recently ruled that same-sex marriage should be legal, Vu said. “I hope other Asian governments can learn something from it, and follow suit in the near future.”
He doesn’t plan on letting those lessons go to waste. Vu works for ILGA Asia (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), and is planning the ILGA Asia Regional Conference in December. Inspired by the people he met at the HRC summit, he plans to include a session on regional strategizing for trans advocates, and a session where marriage equality activists from Taiwan can share their experiences with others across Asia.
LS&Co. first supported HRC in 1998 and continues to contribute to Project One, a program with the ambitious goal of changing hearts and minds in the face of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer discrimination and stigma in three southern states in the United States. We’re also proud of the fact that for the last 13 years in a row, we’ve received a perfect score of 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which also earns us a place on their list of Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.