Category: City: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

My Mom and I in Vung Tau, Vietnam

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

I came out to my mom when I was 26, and then it was never talked about again for years. Literally not a word. Every so often, she would make a comment that maybe it was a phase, to which I would reply it wasn’t, and that’d be the extent of it. I always said my mom accepted it, but she’d never be the type to walk in a gay pride parade with me. Which was fine, it was just how it was.

Well, I think that changed in Vietnam, when she went with me to all the shoots I did for the Gay Men Project. Essentially she was my translator for all the Vietnamese men I photographed for the project and participated in all the conversations. Many of you have had that conversation with me, so you know what it’s like, and I didn’t filter anything just because my mom was there.

She recently sent me this email after seeing the blog for the first time (she just got internet at her house), and I wanted to share it, because no matter what happens with the project, whomever I’m able to reach, I now know I’ve reached at least one person–my mom. And really, that may be the most important.

P.S. mom, i will make a book, and i will share it with the world.

“Hey Kevin:
It’s good that you brought home pictures of your friends from Vietnam. Reading June’s storyremind me the time we were in Vietnam, and I was glad to see him in person when I read his story. He is an honest person, and his story was good to read. You should made a book of your Gay friends with their consensus, and publish it to share with the world.

If you have more of your Vietnamese friend’s story, I will translate for you. I think it’s fun since I don’t have a job now.

Love, take care. Mom”

I think everyone’s journey to acceptance (of anything in life) is a process, and it’s worth reading this story she wrote for me last year, regarding me being gay:

For My Son

Thach, Wardrobe Stylist, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Thach, in his own words: “When I was 18, I told my Mom that I was gay. Both of us cried a lot. She was worried that I had been affected by my gay friends and she wanted me to go to see doctors. I explained to her that I was not sick, it was just who I am. After calming down, she said she could not force me to be someone else and told me to become a good man and make my family proud.

After that, facing my Mom was a challenge to me and it took quite some time to normalize the conversations between me and my family members. Having support from family is the greatest thing to me and it’s not easy for other people to have that.

My family and my life are important to me now. I don’t pay attention to what people say and think about my sexuality. I just live and work well to make my family proud of me as I promised. And I have never regretted or never blamed myself for being gay. I even think that is a gift affectionately granted to me by God.”

Jun, Make Up Artist, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Jun, in his own Vietnamese words: “Tôi không hỗ thẹn mình là gay, ngược lại tôi hạnh phúc khi nói rằng trời vẫn sinh chúng tôi ra để thế giới muôn màu hơn, vì nhiều lãnh vựt chúng tôi làm được nhưng chưa chắc các bạn làm được và các bạn làm được chúng ta cũng đã có người thành công.
Tôi sống thật với chính bản thân tôi, không vì 1 lý do nào đó để lừa dối tình cảm 1 người con gái, đó là điều tốt chưa chắc 1 số đàn ông làm được…. ^^

Thử thách lớn nhất là tôi phải đối mặt với ba mẹ khi công nhận tôi là gay lúc đó tôi 20t, chỉ biết diễn đạt bằng những lời mình cảm thấy là thuyết phục nhất..
—–“con xin lổi ba mẹ, không không lấy vợ và sinh cháu cho ba mẹ được đơn giản con không muốn tổn thương 1 người con gái nào đó, không đem lại hạnh phúc cho người ta thì đừng cố gắng bên nhau. con đặt trường hợp xấu nhất là cô không chịu được cú shock và chết vì biết chồng mình là gay, thì ai là người gieo mầm tội lỗi đó?”
Mẹ tôi khóc, ba tôi không nói câu gì vì giận. 1 thời gian dài 2 cha con nhiều tranh cãi và ông ấy đã nói câu tôi không bao giờ quên : “tôi sinh ra mày được thì tôi giết mày được”
Tôi hận bản thân mình và càng chứng minh rằng tôi như bao thằng con trai khác,, thể thao, học tập, cuộc sống hằng ngày ….. rất bình thường. vài năm sau tôi nhẹ cả người khi nghe câu nói đùa của mẹ : “con gái không kêu bạn giới thiệu thằng tây nào cho con đi” ^^
tôi không thuộc tuýp người năng động và chinh phục thế giới nên tôi chẳng có thành tựu lớn nào, chỉ biết đừng làm mẹ thêm buồn… ^^

cũng là lúc tôi cho ba mẹ và mọi người xung phải là 1 chứng bệnh là 1 thứ chạy theo hiện đại hay chỉ là 1 trò chơi như mọi người nghĩ. chúng tôi cũng có trái tim cũng yêu bằng chính trái tim đó như bao người. hiện tôi có 1 bạn trai đã quên nhau được 6 năm tuy chúng tôi không chung sống bên nhau được, tôi rất buồn vì điều đó nhưng biết như thế nào hơn khi số phận đã ngăn cách ta giữa 2 bờ đại dương. mọ

gia đình chúng tôi không phản đối nên càng cho chúng tôi động lực để chứng minh cho mọi người rằng gay không có gì là sai trái cả. càng tạo niềm tin về 1 ngày nào đó rằng chúng tôi sẽ vượt qua số phận mà được sống bên nhau

Tôi nghĩ cũng như cộng đồng Mỹ, ngày phát triển và được nhiều người chấp nhận và đồng cảm hơn. nhưng chưa thật sự có những hoạt động tô điểm cho cộng đồng.
Nhà nước VN cũng đã thảo luật về việc cho gay kết hôn.”

English Translation:

I am not ashamed to be a Gay, in the contrary I am very happy to say that God has given me a life in this world with a different aspect of this colorful universe. Because on many levels with regards to talents, we can do better than others, and some (gay men) are very successful.

I live for myself, there is no reason to fake my emotions to a girl, which is a good thing since others may do something like that.

The big challenge to me was when I had to come face to face with my parents to declare that I am Gay, I was 20 years old. I tried to use simple words to convince them “Please forgive me, I am sorry, I can’t marry a girl, I can’t give you grand children. Simply, that I don’t want to hurt that girl, if I can’t bring happiness to her, then I should not live with her. I give you one example: it would be worse for her to find out that I am Gay, it would be a shock which could lead to her dying, then who should we blame for causing such a tragedy?”

My mother cried, my father was silent because he was angry. It was a long time since my father and I always argued and quarreled, and he said to me one sentence that I have not forgotten, “I gave birth to you, and I can kill you, too”.

I felt sorry, and tried to prove that I am just like other boys: exercise, study hard, and live a normal life. A few years later, I felt relief to hear one of my mother’s jokes, “My girl, why don’t you call your friend to introduce you to a Western boy.”

I am not the type of person to conquer the world that’s why I don’t have any big success, but I only know how to make my mother less sorrowful.

It’s time for me to let my parents and others surrounding me know that it’s not a disease, or chasing a new style, or playing a game as people thought. We have a heart to love just like everyone else. At this present time, I have a boyfriend, we know each other for six years. Although, we can’t live together. I am sad about that, but what can I do when destiny has separated us between the two big oceans.

Our families do not object, so it’s our motive to demonstrate to every one that being gay is nothing wrong. It’s our hope that someday we can overcome our destiny and live together side by side.

I think that the community in the USA has more progress and many more people have been accepted and sympathetic than in Vietnam, in which there has not been much activities to contribute to our community. Although, Vietnamese government is discussing allowing us to get marriage.”

Trung, Creative Director/Cofounder of Bitch Party, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Trung, in his own words: ” With regards to being gay, probably I have to believe in who I am then when I can come across this fear then I can face with life with my parents with my partners. Sometimes you got a great idea but this society haven’t accept you yet. They aren’t ready yet. As a person running a gay event I try my best to let my customer got comfortable in their own zone where they can feel safe. We did get some eye staring and talked from our back . I will never let it happen or come to my customer. But so far we did it well.

Gay community (in Ho Chi Minh City) is like a secret underground group. Everything came from Words of Mouth. They are conservative. They only go wherever they feel safe or big group of people doing this. It’s all about the gossip world. They are still close minded for themselves. But there is an upcoming younger group is dare to do anything they want.

(With my coming out) Well let’s say it’s all start by my 1st bf who is American . He taught me of everything I need to know about being a gay man. I still remember he said there is nothing wrong for born gay. You should feel it gifted. From that moment I believe more on what I do , anything I do until June 2010 I started my BITCH event that’s when I say it out loud and proud who I am and scared no shit about being shy.

I think over 85 millions people living in this country only me are the gay guy starting to do this party which connect all the gay guy together as well as create a network for those who are drag queen had a house to go. It gave me such a big push on my confident then I starting to believe this is ME. I born with this special gifted then I share my story to the my friend to the world wherever I go.”

Manny and Hye, Students, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Manny, in his own words: “Once I’ve accepted the fact that I’m gay, it means I’ve accepted me for who I am and thanks to the gay part in me, I’m who I am to day, a proud, ambitious, confident young gentleman. There is no problem with being a homosexual or a bisexual, your still a human, living or dead, and nothings wrong with it, and no need to change anything about it because that’s what makes you more special than the others, so be proud to say “I’m gay”.

When I was a kid, my dad, he used to tell me about gay people in despite, he told me that its not normal, that you were born to be a real men not “something” like that, I thought to myself that I should never tell him the truth. And I don’t remember there being any problems with keeping my biggest secret in school, I did what all the normal boys did, my friends, they even got me girlfriend, and we even kissed, that was kind of fun but watching the other gay guys being picked on, somehow, made me feel sad. Then I reached the age of 16 and 17 and confident about things. I remember coming out to my best friend first, then all of my friends, they were all support me. Then my family, it was a cloudy day, I was talking to my bro then suddenly he asked me if I was gay or not, I was surprised, I didn’t think my family know, then the next day is the family reunion day, I told my family I was gay but not willingly, my bro forced me to, my parents was frozen in silence, since then my dad stop talking about me getting married with a girl, but my mum, she still hope that someday I will change, I can tell by the way she talk to me.

I don’t think coming out is a really big deal to me (at least I think it’s a coming out), at first I thought I will be kicked out of the house, but I didn’t, your parents will always love you no matter what.

The gay community, not only in hcmc but also in Vietnam, has came to many many social websites that connect gay people from all over the country, it’s the place where we can share our stories, our experiences, and become friends.

I usually tell myself that “Don’t be pessimistic, think positive and everything will be ok”. Maybe I’m lucky to be gay.”

Hye, in his own Vietnamese words: Khi tôi là một đứa nhỏ… Tôi thích chơi chơi trò bác sĩ hơn là đá banh ngoài sân đình…

Khi tôi là một cậu nhóc cấp 1… Tôi thích nắn nót từng nét chữ hơn là nguệch ngoạc trong vở…

Khi tôi là một cậu nhóc cấp 2… Tôi thích những môn học yêu cầu tỉ mỉ hơn là môn Thể dục…

Khi tôi là một cậu nhóc cấp 3… Tôi thích cậu bạn học chung hơn là những cô bạn nữ dễ thương…

Gay không phải do tôi quyết định, khi mà đó chính là con người tôi… Tôi không có quyền quyết định giới tính của tôi… Nhưng lúc này, tôi có thể chọ cách tôi sống như thế nào. Lúc tôi come-out với bạn bè… Một số dè bỉu, một số khinh thường, nhưng một số vẫn luôn ủng hộ tôi đến bây giờ… Lúc đó tôi biết được.. Ai là người bạn thật sự của tôi…

Các Tổ chức LGBT trên địa bàn TP. Hồ Chí Minh rất nhiều và hoạt động công khai có, hoạt động bí mật cũng không ít… Từ đó, tôi biết được rằng, gay như tôi rất nhiều… Nhưng vì định kiến xã hội, vì gia đình, vì trách nhiệm, họ không thể nói ra. Dù trong họ, luôn âm thầm khao khát một tình yêu thật sự, tình yêu mà bị xã hội này xem là sai lệch, là bệnh hoạn… Giới tính không có lỗi, lỗ là do con người đánh giá người khác qua giới tính đó…

Tôi vẫn không đủ can đảm để cho người thân mình biết giới tính thật của mình… Bạn bè biết, có thể họ sẽ tránh xa mình… Nhưng người thân, tôi không chịu được cảnh nhìn khọ đau khổ, nhìn đứa con trai một duy nhất của gia đình lại thật sự là một người như thế… Tôi sợ nhìn thấy gương matwjthaats vọng của họ, khuôn mặt buồn phiền của họ…
Mẹ ơi… Con xin lỗi mẹ… Con đã không làm tròn bổn phận của một người con trai… Con không thể mang cho mẹ một nàng dâu, nhưng con sẽ mang về cho mẹ một chàng rể mà đặt tình yêu thật sự với con, một chàng trai mà con yêu bằng cả trái tim như con yêu mẹ vậy… Chàng trai đó sẽ không làm mẹ thất vọng… Phải không mẹ :)”

in English:

“When I was a little boy, I liked to play game pretending I was a doctor rather than playing a ball on the yard.

When I was in Kinder garden rather drawing sloppy on the paper I liked to write meticulous.

When I was in second grade I liked to study on serious subject more than doing a gymnastics.

When I was in third grade I liked a schoolboy more than a pretty schoolgirl.

To be a Gay is was not my decision, it was who I am. I don’t have an authority to determine my gender. But right now, I can choose how to live my life. When I came out to my friends, some looked down on me, some despite me, some understood and support me. Until then I knew who were truly my real friends.

There are many organization LGBT in TP Ho Chi Minh are actively support Gay’s right. There are other organization supporting Gay’s right in secretly. I know that there are many people just like me. Because of a prejudice of one society, because of a responsibility with their families, they can’t come out. Although; they are yearning to have a real love, which was condemned by a society that it was a wrong love or a sickly love. Gender has no wrong, it’s wrong when humankind looks at it and determined it.

I don’t have a courage to let all people that I love to know who I am. My friends know they may stay far away from me, but for my family I can’t stand to see them suffer, because I am the only son in the family, and I am different. I am afraid to see their desperate and sorrowful faces.

Dear Mom- I am sorry- I did not fulfill a responsibility of a boy. I can’t bring home to you a bride, but I can bring home to you a groom who loves me, whom I was truly in loved with all my heart, just like the loves of me for you. That boy will not be disappointed you. Right MOM?”

Hoang, Graphic Designer/Illustrator, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Hoang, in his own words:“People are born in a game of life and gay people are born in harder level of the game.

To me, being gay doesn’t mean anything, being yourself is matter. Because when you are who you are, what you are you will know what to do. During my “boy-time” being gay was all about discovering my own questions and gave myself the defend when hearing that is not ok, is freak and unnatural, especial with a shy boy like me.

My (coming out) story, it happened a bit late, I always wait for the right moment and it happened when I was 25. First I came out to my close friend, I think she is ready for it, and it was relief to me with her caring: “that’s why I took you to see another gay friend of mine”. That made me more confident to talked to another friends. But it didn’t work easy to my mom, she was confuse and hasn’t believed it yet, she still think everything has its cure… she believe it is a choice and can fix it. This gonna be a challenge, still is my challenge…

But now with more confident to be who I am , what I am to care less about people’s opinions to care more about what I wanna be and how I wanna be. As a gay man I believe we should not to sensitive about what people think and say about gay. I believe that love is fair to everyone, has no different and I believe gay is a part of the life, no one can deny. That is a fact and I’m happy to be a one of it.”

Coco Nac, Server, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Keivn Truong
photo by Keivn Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Coco Nac, in his own words:“Being gay means I had to try hard, work harder than the other and I’m happy with myself, my life.

The challenges are not only for me, but for all gays in VN, that they are not accepted by the community for the different life style and culture. It’s hard to come out. But for me, I’m luicky and my family accept it, although they are unhappy by the first time.

I do not know how to describe my coming out. It was easy for me because my parents are open minded, and they accept me and still love me like before, when I said “I’m gay.”

Marcus, Recruitment Specialist, Ho Chi Minh City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Marcus, in his own words:“No one was born twice, so live and enjoy your life at its best” one of my friends said. It lingered in my mind from a long time ago and I decided to come out with my family last year. My sister who is living in Germany came home to visit and on the occasion of Tet Holiday in 2013. I cannot forget that dinner. After meal, my father told us that he would buy me and my sister a house for each after selling his house with the purpose that It would help me to stabilize my life there in Ho Chi Minh city. I explained that now I am happy with my life and I would not get married with a girl to have the family. He was shocked from the beginning and he kept quiet. I really wanted to tell him long time ago, but for the fact that I was not so happy with my living and I was a bit stressed with my career so I did not make it happen. Since my mother’s stroke in 2011, I was so depressed and found out that If I do not make a move to change my life, I may not have chance to exposure to live as the way I like. And, coming out seemed to be the very best decision I have ever made. At the moment, I am enjoying life the most ever.

I am working in the education industry and I have had chance to visit a lot of countries and I have some comparison with the Gay Community. LGBT in Ho Chi Minh city is not mature, it is not easy to be found any long term relationship here. With the development of the smart phones and the applications, LGBT mainly use them to seek for the hook-ups. The majority is trying to be obvious and showing off too much instead of better their life by getting promoted at work. The floating part of the ice is not reflecting the truth which is lying deep beneath.

I am not so proud of/feeling sorry to be a gay. But, what I have found the meaning of life is how I can enjoy my life. I am what I am. I do not pretend to be someone else and act as the way people want me to. I have a good job, living independently and I own some good friends, and get my family’s loving me after my decision to come out.”