Images of passers-by stopping to hug Duy (aka Do Vo Tra An) have gone viral, garnering thousands of likes, shares and comments on TikTok and Facebook.
She videotaped the entire thing for a communication contest in a transgender beauty pageant.
In the clip, the 22-year-old can be seen in a white T-shirt, a face mask and high heels with her arms outstretched next to the sign saying, "I’m transgender person, you want to hug or throw water when you see me!"
Strangers hug trans woman Do Ba Duy on Nguyen Hue Street in HCMC’s District 1 on July 2, 2022. Photo courtesy of Duy
In the beginning, she was "very nervous" and thought no one would interact as people kept looking at the board, staring at her and walking away.
After 15-20 minutes a woman approached and gave her a hug, and that opened the floodgates and soon many others started doing the same.
Just like that she was embraced by over 100 strangers, including elderly men and women, young children and even people from the LGBT community.
"While wives hugged me, their husbands smiled and shook my hands."
She was even hugged by two foreigners.
"One Indian woman approached me and hugged me, but said nothing," she says. "A white man hugged me and told me, 'Good job, baby!'"
Two foreigners hug trans woman Duy on HCMC’s Nguyen Hue Street on July 2, 2022. Photo courtesy of Duy
People also complimented her and encouraged her, saying things like, "You are very pretty," "You are very strong," and "You are so brave."
One man approached her and asked for her three bottles of water. She admits she was "worried" for a moment and expected the worst. She was moved, however, when he said, "You do not deserve to be thrown water at," and drank the water.
But there was also some mocking and strange looks.
"I overheard a man saying to his friend, 'I dare you to dump water on her'.
"Another joked, 'Should I make a sign to get hugs from girls?’"
Though no one dumped water on her during the nearly 90 minutes she stood there, she says if someone had she would have simply thanked them for their time and wished them a good day.
Duy, a marketer for a home appliance company, carried out the experiment with the help of some friends.
A portrait of Do Ba Duy. Photo courtesy of Duy
She was taken aback when her clip and other videos about the social experiment went viral on social media and received positive feedback both online and offline.
"These compliments give me more faith and strength to face life's challenges."
Duy, the youngest child in a family of two boys and a girl, is grateful her family supported her after she came out at 17.
Since she was a child she enjoyed playing with dolls and other girly stuff. Her father immediately accepted her for what she was. But her mother, Vo Thi Phuong Loan, 48, is still struggling to accept her gender orientation.
"She still asks me from time to time 'When are you getting married?’ and tells me ‘You look more handsome with short hair’."
When she showed the clip to her mother, she smiled and cried tears of joys to see society’s acceptance of her child.
Duy is grateful for the overwhelming support she has received from her family and society. She is pleased that more and more Vietnamese are becoming accepting of LGBT people.
"I hope the clips about my social experiment will inspire those in need to think more positively in life as well as help spread awareness of LGBT [issues]."
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