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In Viet Nam, society alienating gays and lesbians

HANOI, Viet Nam -- Gay people in Viet Nam are struggling to overcome social prejudice and family opposition to live true to themselves and find happiness, heard a workshop held recently in Ha Noi.

“When my mother found out I was gay, she took me to a counselling centre and asked the counsellor for a cure,” Nguyen Thanh Tung (not his real name), shared in an interview conducted by the Information Sharing and Connecting group (ICS), a community of LGBT, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in early December.

Tung said he had wanted the counsellor to help him find ways to explain to his mother his sexual orientation and make her accept the fact, but was otherwise disappointed because the counsellor did not understand anything about homosexuality.

“She said we had to wait until I reached 28 years old to be sure whether I was gay or not, which led my mum to believe that I could still become “normal,” addded Tung.

Tung is not alone in facing his family’s denial of his true sexual orientation. Many other LBGT people also expressed their desperation in persuading their family to accept their sexuality. Le Van (not his real name), another gay youth, was even locked at home once after his family found out he was gay.

He said his family’s opposition pushed him to seek counselling as he wanted to find the courage to confront his parents.

According to an online survey conducted by ICS with 1,020 respondents, 78% of those surveyed had sought counselling to find help for their problems revolving identity confusion, social prejudice and relationship problems. Among them, nearly 30% were forced into counselling services by their families because their parents wanted to find a cure for their homosexual status, which was seen by them as a disease.

Counsellors at the workshop said strong social prejudice against homosexuals was a major challenge to the quality of counselling services offered to the LGBT group.

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