Vietnam Art Books -- Vietnamese censors OK first transsexual singer's musical debut (October 27, 2006)

Vietnamese censors OK first transsexual singer's musical debut (October 27, 2006)

Hanoi- Communist Vietnam's conservative Ministry of Culture has approved release of the debut music CD by the country's first transsexual singing star, an official said Friday. Cindy Thai Tai's release Sentiments features a selection of Vietnamese standards, including such love songs as Sweet Pain.

Reached by telephone Friday, the singer said the news was doubly welcome as she was celebrating Vietnamese National Women's Day.

"I'm so happy," she said. "It means that the society accepts people like me."

Born Nguyen Thai Tai, the singer was well-known as a make-up artist to other celebrities before she traveled to Thailand in 1999 to begin a series of operations to transform her into the diva known as Cindy, named after her role model, Cindy Crawford.

Homosexuality and transsexuality used to be condemned as "social evils" by the ruling Communist Party, but the government this year lifted a ban on operations for sex changes.

Approval of Tai's album by the Ministry of Culture, which must approve all music, books and films in the country, signals that the stigma is changing.

"There was no extra consideration when we granted the license to her," said Luong Dung, director of the culture ministry's Music Publishing House. "We just see her as a normal female singer."

Pham Dinh Thang, of the ministry's Art Performance Department, agreed that decisions on musical releases are made only on the content of the songs, not the orientation of the singer.

"We totally support [transsexuals'] works if they abide by the law and sing the approved songs," Thang said.

However, he was unsure whether Vietnam might someday rival the transsexual entertainers in nearby Thailand, where entire nightclubs and revues are built around "katoey" or "lady-boy" dancers and singers.

"It is too early to predict about the development of a 'lady-boy' entertainment industry in Vietnam," Thang said. We do not yet have orientations for that development."

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