Written by Chu Nguyên Hạnh, Trần Thị Phương Giang, Phan Thanh Ngân, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Ân of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (VNUHCM)
Quoc Minh, a 19-year-old Medical student has been to over five LGBTQ+ workshops, talk shows, and forums since the beginning of June. While Vietnam didn’t have elaborate Pride Month events this year, various organizations and Gen Zs like Minh are striving to raise the rainbow flag as high as possible.
“It can be a bit strange that I have attended plenty of such events, but it’s a lovely way to show support to my beloved community,” he said.
But Minh admits that amidst social progress in LGBTQ acceptance in Vietnam, traditionalists are set in their unbending ways and it’s hard — if not impossible — to make them see the color and vibrance the community has.
“It can be challenging for Pride events to thrive, at the moment, because of the conservative ways of the older generations and their perception towards the LGBTQ+. Some youths, too!”
Two steps forward, one step back
It can’t be denied though that Vietnam has made some incredible strides in making this country a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. Media organizations have done a great job in raising awareness and providing platforms for conversations. Reality shows centered around the community have been well-received, too.
Shows like Just Love, Nguoi Ay La Ai, and Come Out have become instrumental in putting the spotlight on the rainbow flag and what it represents. These have opened spaces for homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals to express their authentic selves, and to tell their stories openly. Some even use this opportunity to get the support they so need from their families. They want to be happy and feel loved for who they are — and they deserve nothing less.
However, there remain counterproductive effects due to pressure from social media or the orientation of the communication unit. Some stories get exploited or are used in misleading ways for mere attention.
The society has become a little accepting. But, unfortunately, it comes with conditions. It’s two steps forward, one step back.
Vietnam is a country that when pushed, will readily pass laws allowing people to change their sex in Article 37: “The sex change is done in accordance with the law. Individuals who have changed sex have the right and obligation to register for a change of civil status aligned with the law on civil status; have moral rights in accordance with the converted gender, the provisions of this Code and other relevant laws.”
But traditions that have existed for generations are hard to ignore, let alone change. In some parts of the country, parents and elders still have total say over who their children marry. Having children to carry on the family name and inheritance is also one of the most common reasons that hinder members of the LGBTQ+ community from fully coming out to their families.
Then there’s a person’s social contribution. A person’s individual worth is tightly linked to how much they can contribute to their own family and country. In other words, each new generation is taught to keep their heads down, work hard and not make trouble. Self-awareness and self-care are somehow seen as selfish acts. Youngsters don’t feel like they should express themselves openly to family and on social media because they are afraid it might result in harsh judgments or ridicule. LGBTQ+ youths experience even worse.
The future is still colorful
The LGBTQ+ community has been through hardships, and little by little, they’ve overcome those and come out stronger and prouder. There are still several challenges to take on, but with organizations, virtual spaces, and people like Minh, the future is still colorful.
And though there aren’t grand celebrations in Vietnam this month, it is still an occasion for people of the LGBTQ+ community to find solace and support from people who respect their rights and are willing to fight the good fight with them.
Perhaps street parades or extravagant parties aren’t needed here at all. The colorful LGBTQ+ community and their allies celebrate in their own ways, be it by changing their Facebook profile frames, putting a rainbow flaglet on their doors, dressing up, hosting a forum, or as simple as patting a friend on the shoulder and saying “You are seen and you are loved.” Perhaps that’s more than enough.