Vision at Penn

How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying.

I still vividly recalled seeing Lam, a male-to-female transgender, being sexually assaulted after school. In full view of people, a group of boys surrounded her and pulled off her pants to “scan” her private parts. As she stood there powerless, quivering and drenched in tears, other students jeered instead of coming to her aid. Although I wanted to wrap my arms around her to comfort her, I was afraid that my sexual identity would be exposed and thus did nothing. When I later discovered that she had dropped out, I was relieved that my identity was safe but ashamed that I was just as culpable as her assailants for not acting.

After coming to terms with my sexuality in high school, I joined PFLAG Vietnam, a local LGBT+ support group where I learned that Lam’s incident was not one-off, but that assaults against LGBT+ members at schools are pervasive. Given non-existent or inadequate Sexuality Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) education, Vietnamese students are predisposed to shaming queer individuals. Against such a hostile environment, it has been reported that 43% of harassed LGBT+ students drop-out, placing them at a significant disadvantage in a society that already marginalizes them.

Breaking the vicious cycle of abuse...

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