Kendy Nguyen is at the top of his game.
The 29-year-old professional Vietnamese bodybuilder has been competing for seven years and has more than two dozen medals. This includes the two bronze medals he won at the National Fitness Championship last year.
For Nguyen, medals aren’t the point of competing and neither is the income (which isn’t sustainable anyway with only $330 a month). He just wants to be seen as the masculine and manly person that he feels like on the inside.
Nguyen grew up as a girl in Hai Phong, Northern Vietnam. Despite that, he always knew that there was a difference between the sex he was born with and the gender he identified with. That said, he held his tongue about it for many years, according to the Southeast Asia Globe.
While Vietnam’s strict communist rule has transitioned into socialism, the cultural environment was not so fast in its change.
That said, both the country and Kendy Nguyen himself had to acknowledge the existence of transgender people both outwardly and inwardly.
In high school, Nguyen began to change. He changed his wardrobe, spoke in a deeper voice, began idolizing Arnold Schwarzenegger, cut his hair, and started his journey into the world of bodybuilding.
Now, Nguyen is a professional bodybuilder who’s considered a mentor to the Vietnamese trans community and the bodybuilding community.
As fellow Vietnamese bodybuilder Ly Duc said about Nguyen, “As an athlete, Kendy is independent and active. He can compete with any male if he wants to. He’s a hard-working role model for anyone, not just trans [bodybuilders].”
One other way that Kendy Nguyen leads is by being an example of how to alternatively transition. While sex reassignment surgery became legal in 2017, many consider it risky. As such, Nguyen has become an advocate for using bodybuilding as a “gradual” and “healthier” way to transition.
Unfortunately, Nguyen’s wish to not go under sex reassignment surgery has affected his career in bodybuilding and forced him to compete with women.
“In Vietnam, we don’t have such messy discussions about gender in sports because they only look at your papers and decide your gender based on your paper,” Nguyen told the Sea Globe.
The Vietnam Bodybuilding Federation refuses to allow Nguyen, from taking part in the division of his gender identity unless it aligns with what’s on his identification card. Since in Vietnam, you can’t change your gender on your ID unless you go through surgery, Kendy Nguyen is stuck.
As such, Kendy Nguyen is now becoming an advocate for LGTBQ rights in order to help trans bodybuilders and trans people in general.
A landmark law could give Vietnam’s transgender citizens the ability to legally change their official gender without having to go through sex reassignment surgery. Right now, that law is just a proposal and sitting on the parliamentary docket, but Kendy Nguyen is speaking out to support the bill.
Despite his efforts to spotlight the bill, Nguyen admits that “It’s going to take time.”
In the meantime, he’ll be at the gym six days a week, for five to six hours sessions, and staying committed to weightlifting and his way of life.
h/t: The Southeast Asia Globe Magazine