So, you’re gay. Or a lesbian, a transgender perhaps? Could be bisexual, or queer, maybe asexual? The real question is, should you tell others?
It’s normal to wonder about coming out, and it’s perfectly fine to feel terrified or unsure of what to say and how to break it. Truth is, it’s scary because you have no idea how people will react, no matter how close you are to them. On the other hand, it can feel like a relief.
However, in Vietnam, where the word conservative is pretty common and one of the things the older generation values the most, coming out is not as simple as a baby’s gender reveal or engagement announcement.
Coming out is a very personal decision that you have to be ready for, emotionally and mentally. Whether you decide to tell your parents or friends, it's easy to get swept by what they think you should do. But the truth is, no one knows better than you.
Some were lucky to have received a warm embrace after coming out, who got accepted instantly, without buts and ifs. But there are those whose families got disappointed, some disowned. And of course, those who haven’t found the strength to do it yet, or just didn’t see the point of coming out. However you see it, what matters is you are true to yourself and you are your number one believer.
In celebration of Pride Month, Vietcetera gathered a few members of the LGBTQIA+ community to talk about their coming out story, where some had it easy and some, unfortunately painful.
“I found out I was gay when I was 14 years old”, Kenny started sharing. At 26, Kenny has been through a lot in terms of dealing with his sexuality and self-identity, not just internally but mostly within his family. “After I found out I was gay, I tried to hide it and kept it from anyone. Then my brother discovered the “me” I was hiding from the world, we fought and I begged him not to tell my parents but he did. Up until today, every time I mess up, with the smallest of things, he brings up my sexuality and blames me for it.”
But his struggles didn’t end there, even though his parents accepted him for who he is, his father still considers his gayness as a sickness. “I was once forced to go for treatment, they thought I was sick and that a prostitute could cure me,” Kenny revealed it didn’t just happen once, his father used to take him to a cave with a prostitute and try curing him by having sex with a female.
“That year was terrible. Right now, I’m glad I made it through. I’m free now and can openly express myself as a gay person. Loud and proud!”
Tien, Aro Ace
Tien, an 18-year old Saigonese who identifies herself as aromantic asexual said her coming out story was more of a self-identifying moment. “I have been telling my friends that I’m asexual since I was in grade 10,” she shared. Adding that at that time, she thought of asexuality as just not interested in sex.
As time went by, she learned more about Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC), and the different identities in the LGBTQIA+ which led her to realize asexuality also includes aromanticism.
“I knew I’ve never been romantically attracted to anyone, but I couldn’t accept my aromanticity because of how the media and our society, in general, romanticize almost everything.”
As a way to reach out to those who are like her, Tien founded Vietnam Youth Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides and disseminates knowledge on sex education and LGBTQIA+ issues among young Vietnamese. “My time with VYA helped instill confidence and a sense of self-belief in me, and in October of last year, I finally came to terms with my asexuality as an aro ace.”
As for her coming out story, Tien came out to those close to her first, those who knew from the get-go, then to her family members who were “confused by asexuality but were already aware that I have been uninterested in romantic relationships since the beginning.” In the end, the people around her, the ones who really matter, supported her identity, even if it was something “confusing”.
“I’m proud to be a part of the Asexual community and share more knowledge about this minority sexuality to everyone else”, she concluded.
Questioning is a term that refers to someone who is not sure how they identify. Someone can be questioning their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity.
Dung, a 33-year old working in a bank hasn’t come out yet. “It’s not the right time,” she said. “When I was a little girl, around five or six, I just loved to play with girls and when I grew up, I realized that I am attracted to girls with long hair”.
Adding she’s not a tomboy but she’s not also a girly girl with long hair, Dung admitted she loves to take care of girls. “I am not sure what kind of LGBT or which letter I belong to, but I have not come out yet because I have not found the true love that can make me realize who I really am.”
Benny, Gender Fluid
“I have not come out to my family, at least not to all of them,” Benny revealed. “I feel like I’m not fully accomplished yet so I kinda don’t want to come out 100% but my friends and colleagues know my sexuality.” Benny identifies himself as gender fluid, someone whose gender changes over time.
Benny works as a marketing communications manager for a multinational engineering and technology company handling Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar, and is focused on building himself to get better each day.
“I think it's more important to feel comfortable about yourself and stay true to who you are rather than coming out.” To him, coming out is important but not a must, it’s more of a choice. “As long as you know you’re making the right choices then that should be the way you choose to be.”
When asked what advice he can give to those struggling to embrace their identities he said, “I have friends and I know people who are "discreet" and I always tell them this: This life is yours, you are the only person living it. People come into your life and eventually, they will leave, even your family. Only you will stay with yourself, so listen to yourself.” Adding, “Don't give a shit about all those negative things that people tell you. This world is beautiful thanks to diversity. So don't try to hide your beautiful self, express it.”