In recent years, equal rights for the LGBTQ community have increasingly been recognized as basic human rights. As Vietnam is still in the process of unlearning years of homophobia, there will be people who love, and there will continue to be people who hate. Chapter 03 will give an insight into the lives of queer Vietnamese people. Additionally, Chapter 03 will provide inforgraphics and statistics regarding the LGBTQ community in Vietnam.
Mối Quan Hệ
In Vietnam, there is a common misconception that “true love” does not exist in the queer community. Unlike heterosexual couples, at first sight at least, queer couples do not have the traditional family obligations, such as marriage and children, to “hold them back” once the love dwindles. As a precaution against heartbreak, many queer people in Vietnam chose not to love deeply. One important question arises: how can you enjoy the moment if you are constantly worried about the future? If you want someone to reciprocate your love, then you have to give that love in the first place.
In fear of family and society’s prejudice, when two queer people love each other, they are stuck in between being in love and having to hide that love. You only live once, so live for yourself. If the love and connection is strong enough, it will persevere. If it isn’t, appreciate it as an experience. This is a challenge for all relationships, not just for queer people. Be content with that you have! Allow yourself to make new experiences, meet new people - give your attention to people who deserve it.
“If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Love comes hardest for transgender people. Due to society's pressure to have a family, many heterosexual partners often cannot commit to be in a relationship with a transgender person. Transgender people have to make many sacrifices: accepting to be someone’s secret partner, having no power in the relationship, etc. But remember, you have to love yourself before you can love anybody else. If something is meant to be for you, then all you have to be is you to receive it.
“Ally” is a term used for people who support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Typically, people think it refers to non-LGBTQ people who want to show their support. However, it can also be used for people within the LGBQT community to support each other (i.e. you can be gay and also be an ally for transgender people). Everyone benefits from the support of allies, as it is our collective effort to create a more educated and understanding society. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Here are some simple things you can do to be an ally:
Learn more about the LGBTQ community
The simplest way to be an ally is to be knowledgable about the LGBTQ community. Especially if you are heterosexual and do not get discriminated against, you should use your platform to protect queer people. Since you want to show support for marginalized groups that you do not embody, you may not be able to understand their experiences fully. Therefore, what you can always do is learn more about their experiences, stories, laws, and policies. When you understand and empathize with the marginalized group that you want to support, your actions and words will be more effective.
Use correct pronouns
This is especially important for transgender and non-binary people. Most transgender people want to be recognized and addressed according to their gender (note the difference between sex and gender). For example, if a biological man transitioned into a woman, she would want to be addressed as she/her. If you do not know how to properly address someone, the simplest way is to ask what they want to be addressed as. This can be a bit difficult to get used to, especially if you have known that person for a long time - but, after all, it is extremely important; you are making a statement that you welcome and support their identity.
Participating in events, advocating for protection laws, attending pride parades are some of the things you can do to encourage support for the LGBTQ community. When you hear anyone spreading negative or inaccurate information about the queer community, use this as an opportunity to inform them. Especially if you are heterosexual, your support will be a great contribution in promoting equality for the queer community.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
— Nelson Mandela
Outside of home, schools are where most children and youth generally spend most of their time developing. Sadly, queer students often have to deal with a lot of violence and bullying in this environment. Many of them are subjected to assaults and discrimination from their peers on a daily basis. Since there are no laws protecting students against this kind of discrimination, many students have to drop out of school due to an unsafe learning environment.
Because Vietnam’s education system is heavily controlled by the Government, even for private schools, education on sexual diversity and gender identity is not included in the formal curriculum. From teachers to counselors, queer students have nowhere to look for support at school. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to advocate for sex education to be included into the formal curriculum, in addition to sensibility training on sexual diversity for teachers and educators. Both teachers and students need to be taught to respect diversity and eliminate discrimination. Education is a very important foundation for any child's development, and queer students have the right to a safe and welcoming learning environment - as do all other kids.
Although the Government has allowed people to legally change their gender. Currently, Vietnam has sufficient facilities and technical expertise to meet all of the requirements relating to transgender surgeries: breast implants, vaginoplasty, facial feminization, voice therapy, etc. However, the Government has not legalized these surgeries for transgender people yet. Many transgender people have to travel all the way to Thailand to receive these surgeries; a solution that is both expensive and dangerous. Many transgender people have to save up enough money to get these surgeries abroad, and then have to go back immediately afterwards because they cannot afford to stay in the hospital for too long. Insufficient periods of recovery and a lack of medical supervision are only some reasons for why there are many botched surgeries for transgender people in Vietnam.
A research study conducted by iSEE has shown that the two biggest reasons why transgender people do not seek medical services in Vietnam are either because they do not know where to look, or because the healthcare facilities do not offer any services for transgender people. Further reasons include them being scared about their well-being and other people’s prejudice - a state that is both unfair and unsustainable. Healthcare facilities in Vietnam need to take action to improve the safety of LBGTQ people when accessing health services. Additionally, health departments need to offer information and counseling on transgender related health services (medication, hormone therapy, and surgery) by trained medical staff.
Transgender people are among the most disadvantaged people in the field of employment. Many employers refuse to accept transgender people based on their appearances. Even if the transgender person is perceived as “passing”, employers still make it very difficult when their names and sex do not match the paperwork. In Vietnam, one out of two transgender people applying for a job will be rejected regardless of qualifications. Some people have to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to find a job. Even after they are hired, the psychological pressure has a big impact on their productivity. Currently, Labour Law in Vietnam does not have any laws preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Luật Bảo Vệ
Vietnam currently has no laws protecting queer people from discrimination. A queer person may be fired, denied work, refused housing simly because of the sexual orientation. Moreover, sexual abuse against LGBTQ people has not been addressed by the law. Vietnam merely recognizes sexual abuse/ rape in cases of non-consual intercourse between a man and a woman. Therefore, male-to-female transgender people who have not yet changed their gender legally do not have sufficient legal protection to bring charges against their attackers.
In a study conducted by the iSEE, only 2% of queer people reported instances of discrimination to the police or local authorities. The most common reasons that prevent them from reporting is because they think the incident is too minor (63.7%), they do not believe the problem can be resolved (46.7%), they do not want to expose themselves (26.3%), or they are afraid of the police’s reaction (17.7%). Of those 2% who reported, only 14.3% of cases were completely solved.
The statistics above show that any anti-discrimination laws in Vietnam are inaccessible and ineffective for queer people. Civil rights for the LGBTQ community need to be recognized by the Government; same-sex couples need to have legitimate rights (marriage, adoption, etc.), and anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ people need to be introduced.
Infographic about Vietnam's LGBTQ community
Phân Biệt Đối Xử
Question: During your encounter with family members, have you ever been through any of the following situation because you are deemed as LGBTQ?
* Transgender group has a highest experience rate in all discriminatory acts compared to the homosexual and bisexual groups.
Percentage of respondents who have come out with families, neighbors, friends, colleagues
Question: How many people have you come out as LGBTQ to?
Currently, Vietnam does not have any laws to protect
queer people from:
LGBTQ community in Vietnam: