Former gay Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said: “It is absolutely imperative that the freedom and human rights of every human being are respected, everywhere in the world. Sigurðardóttir’s message, delivered while defending LGBTQ + rights at a 2014 Pride festival, would certainly have been welcomed by LGBTQ + communities as far away as Vietnam, a country that, like much of Asia, has yet to fully advance LGBTQ + rights.
Columnist Thoi Nguyen has been item “The fight for LGBT rights in Vietnam still has a long way to go” was published in The Diplomat and it is fair to say that the prejudice, discrimination and stigma against the LGBTQ + community occupies an important place, despite the continuous efforts of local activists.
Nguyen’s article gave a concise history of the evolution of LGBTQ + rights since homosexuality was declared a “social evil” by public media in 2002. Although same-sex marriages have been permitted since 2015, couples are not. not fully recognized or protected by a gap in the law regarding personal and real estate matters.
AT Honoring pride month, The Diplomat decided to follow Vietnam’s LGBTQ + family and interviewed a selection of community members to find out how they fared throughout the pandemic.
Dave Khanh *, who wished to remain anonymous, is a 26-year-old working part-time as a professional dancer and English teacher. Khanh is gay and recently spoke to The Diplomat on Zoom.
“I hope that same-sex marriage will be fully legalized over the next 10 years, when the younger generations have more power and voice,” Khanh said.
“It’s always quite difficult to be gay in Vietnam, especially in the northern and central regions, while in the south, like in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s a little more open.”
Khanh said he had “rough times” in high school, where he was sometimes bullied for feminine ways and suffered what he called a form of “psychological trauma”. He went on to say that he wasn’t ready to go out with his parents, but said he would soon. Even today in Vietnam, it is not uncommon for parents to send their children to a doctor if they think they are gay or lesbian.
To 2020 Human Rights Watch report outlining the details of homophobia and stigma in Vietnam concluded the need to make the necessary changes. “The first steps will be to correct the persistent and widely held notion that homosexuality is a disease and needs a cure, ”the report said.
Even more worrying is the prevalence of suicide among Vietnam’s LGBTQ + community. “A lesbian friend of mine attempted suicide… not so long ago because of family and societal pressure on her,” Khanh said.
During times of lockdown, Khanh worked online, read books and watched documentaries on psychology. In central Vietnam, there aren’t many gay bars, and the most common way for gay couples to meet is on social media. He admitted that the pandemic period has been tough on his love life as he is currently estranged from his boyfriend, who resides in the United States.
Tri Le is a 24-year-old medical student from Danang. Unlike Khanh, he was able to come out to his mother who, fortunately, supports him.
“More and more people of the younger generations in Vietnam are coming out now, but their families are not always as supportive as mine and the older generations tend to have a negative attitude or prejudices towards this new trend,” a- he declared.
Le believes that LGBTQ + issues are like all other human rights issues and he hopes the Vietnamese government and society in general will be able to deal with them as such.
“My mom is pretty supportive of my sexuality and hasn’t forced me to marry anyone, so I’m lucky. I think same-sex marriage will be fully legalized in the future, but it will probably take another 10 years or more. More and more people are accepting the gay culture and with better education in schools we hope the situation will improve for us, ”said Le.
He thinks that educating young people is the biggest obstacle regarding LGBTQ + issues in Vietnam and he sees it as a fundamental health and safety issue: “A lot of young people want to get information about their sexuality and therefore they are looking for information. often on the Internet about it. but sometimes it is not useful and can be dangerous.
Nguyen Thi Hang is the head of the Proud team in Danang. She manages an LGBTQ + Facebook page, Faiths of Danang’s LGBTQ + community, and is also a board member of a women’s group, the Vietnam Women Love Women Network. During the day, Hang voluntarily oversees an LGBTQ + drop-in center that offers free HIV testing, Preparation, condoms and information brochures on LGBTQ + issues.
“The center has grown over the past two years and more and more young people are coming for free HIV tests and other support. Almost 30 percent of the people we tested this year have tested positive for HIV and this is due to the lack of proper education about safe sex, ”Hang said.
Hang connects people with HIV to a medical center in Danang and if they have health insurance and are from Danang, they can receive free HIV medicine.
“Not all health workers in Vietnam know enough about LGBTQ + health issues, so I send people to a specific health center, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) which has experience in treating people. living with HIV and other related diseases. ”
In Hanoi, there is another organization that does important work called the I see Institute, which, in its own words, “supports and empowers all communities and individuals to promote and protect their rights and the rights of others in their lives. Vuong Kha Phong is currently the group Coordinator of the LGBTQ + program and takes care of the promotion of Pride events in Vietnam.
“We provide strategic, technical and financial support to the LGBTQ + community across Vietnam and implement projects that address local issues. For example, we have a grant program called ‘Hands & Voices’ which covers Viet Pride events, local initiatives for same-sex marriage and cross-collaboration with under-represented people, such as transgender people, ”said Phong. .
The institute engages in political advocacy to improve the protection and recognition of LGBTQ + rights within a legal framework for Vietnam. An ongoing process includes the amendment to the Civil Code (2015), legalizing the rights of transgender people to access legal gender recognition, and the ‘I want it’ campaign, which started in 2013 and advocates for marriage homosexual is fully recognized under Vietnamese law.
This month, iSEE launched a crowdfunding campaign for “I Do”, raising more than 150 million Vietnamese dong (approximately $ 6,500) from more than 1,200 people, money that will be distributed by the through the “Hands and Voices” grant program to support local initiatives supporting same-sex marriage. The organization hopes to raise awareness among the LGBTQ + family in all provinces and cities of Vietnam.
“Vietnam Pride Month is actually in August and September of every year and we are a member of the Hanoi Pride Organizing Committee, so we will also provide technical and financial support to the pride organizations through the Vietnam to organize pride in the popular provinces and support the Viet Pride working group to coordinate all these events, ”said Phong.
One of Phong’s colleagues, Luong The Huy, was the first openly gay candidate to run for Vietnam’s National Assembly a few weeks ago. Huy received a lot of reaction in the local media during his campaign and despite taking a break from all kinds of commercials he was able to comment to The Diplomat: “I hope we are all safe, not just because we are in the middle of it. pandemic, ”he said,“ but also because the LGBTQ + community has been in danger for so long that we know how important a safe place is. “