Ten years ago, to be a part of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transexual (LGBT) in Vietnam was very difficult. It is truly difficult for Vietnamese LGBT to come out to their family and friends. But now, with presenting of some homosexual organization in this country, being “People Like Us” became more thriving and the negative attitude towards LGBT community slowly changed.
Homosexuality in Vietnam
To talk about being gay used to be very taboo in Vietnamese culture many years ago. The fact is, LGBT has not been taught in school and it is also not been portrayed or published in media like now. This is such a bias towards the LGBT community and makes them feel afraid to come out. On 2002, some media claimed that being homosexual was a “social evil”. There is also no detailed sex education in school for youth. The teacher normally will skip the chapter of Human Reproduction by asking the student to read on their own at home. Next, there is no further discussion about the topic. Besides that, the syllabus in the textbook is only covered about heterosexual practice only instead of other sexual orientation.
But now, being part of LGBT in Vietnam is very flourishing. Some say that Vietnam is one of the ungay places in the world. There is less discrimination and less violence towards the LGBT community here. There are many friendly gays and lesbians in bars, coffee shops and pubs especially in centre of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The current fashion supply for men in Vietnam also mostly more into feminism which is the influence coming from the Korean and Hong Kong entertainment scene which is very LGBT friendly. Some straight guys in the city called them as “Metrosexual” which is very particular in terms of personal hygiene and care, choosing their wardrobe and in fact they are willing to spend a lot of money to ensure they look good and well-trimmed. The difference between metrosexual and homosexual is that they are still practicing heterosexual activity instead. But compared to other countries like America, Europe and Australia being a part of LGBT can result in you being subjected to certain stresses. They can be beaten up and the violence can bring suicidal problems. There are thousands of such cases reported on social and printed media about the increasing number of gays but it is rare to hear such things in Vietnam. With more awareness and acceptance from media, more LGBTs start to come out such as Vietnamese actors, singers, business people and some other high profile leaders.
The Vietnamese Conservative Culture
Although being gay and lesbian can slowly be accepted in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, it is still a real challenge for LBGT from the countrysides of Vietnam. When parents know or at least can sense that their kids are “abnormal”, they will keep their kid’s ID in order to avoid them from running away from home. Conservative culture always clashes with the LGBT community norm. As a boy, parents are expecting their kids to grow up, have a good job, and get married and to care their family. Same goes for the girls, they need to grow up, and get married with a great man to support the family. However, Vietnamese saving face culture is stronger than anything else. That is why many LBGT are hiding their sexuality in order to ensure the family ties stay tightened up and not to disappoint their family rather than living openly as a gay.
Wave your Rainbow Flags. Photo by Erica Joy (ericajoy) on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
In short, being a part of LGBT community in Vietnam is still relevant towards 2013 with government currently considering to acknowledge same sex relationships. But anyhow, the LGBT communities still need to respect other ideology and perceptions especially from the old generation. It is okay to be open, but you need to limit yourself and you might be slowly accepted.