Photo: Quinn Dombrowski
1. There are serious laws in place to protect citizens with HIV.
In January 2006, the government passed laws to protect citizens infected with HIV/AIDS from discrimination. It is regarded as one of the strongest pieces of AIDS legislation in the world. There’s also no mention of gays as a risk group for HIV and AIDS (unlike in many Western countries) and under this new law it is a “Prohibited Act” to refuse to provide medical examination or treatment to a patient for knowing or suspecting that such person is infected with HIV.
This is also important because it prevents a “HIV” stigma preventing employees having their jobs terminated just because they are infected with HIV.
2. Vietnam has never had any anti-sodomy laws.
Whereas gay communities in other countries have had to overcome this as the first step to equality, Vietnam is already way ahead of the game.
Even compared to the West, this is progressive: the UK had sodomy laws in place until 1967 and in the USA it wasn’t until 2003 when anti-sodomy laws were completely struck down in the US in the Supreme Court Lawrence v Texas ruling.
3. They’ve recently taken steps towards legalising gay marriage.
On January 1, 2015, the Vietnamese government passed the Law on Marriage and Family, which outlaws the ban on gay weddings. While this does not actually legalise gay marriages, it’s a large stepping stone in the right direction, allowing couples to marry without fear of being arrested or fined.
Vietnam leads the way in Southeast Asia with this law, whereas neighbouring countries like Brunei and Indonesia have actually taken steps to criminalise the LGBT community.
4. Viet Pride is held every summer in Hanoi.
The first Viet Pride took place on August 5, 2012 in Hanoi and has been going strong each year ever since.
Viet Pride is usually led by a colourful convoy of people on bicycle and motorbikes carrying rainbow flags and messages of equality and includes a flashmob performance, a film festival and of course a rockin’ After Pride party.
5. There’s a growing awareness of LGBT in Vietnamese media.
Gay characters have started to make their way in the media across Vietnam over the past 15 years, increasing awareness of the LGBT community in society.
In 2000, crime journalist Bui Anh Tan’s novel, A World Without Women (Một Thế Giới Không Có Đàn Bà) was the first fictional Vietnamese book to deal extensively with gay people and then turned into a TV series in 2007.
In 2012, a soap called My Best Gay Friend debuted on YouTube in 2012 and was the first ever popular Vietnamese gay sitcom. It is based around 3 young gay twentysomething housemates sharing an apartment in Saigon. It was so popular that most episodes generated over 1 million views. Unfortunately, there are no plans to televise this series in Vietnam.
6. They have a gay US Ambassador.
In December 2014, Ted Osius was appointed the US Ambassador to Vietnam and is the first openly gay American ambassador in Asia.
Ted arrived in Hanoi to take his office with his husband, Clayton Bond, and baby son, Tabo, in hand.
7. There’s a happening gay scene in Saigon and Hanoi.
Saigon has an extremely popular and busy gay scene. There’s a gay hotel called Pink Tulip with a ton of gay bars and clubs like Babylon, Republic Club, and Centro.
Hanoi is a smaller city but still punches its weight in the scene with its annual Viet Pride in the summer and bars like Bar GB (Golden Cock) and recently opened Hanoi Panic!
8. There’s solid transgender awareness.
There’s definitely a lot of lady boys around Vietnam in all areas of society, whether working in a local supermarket, or granting your visa on arrival at the airport.
In 2009, teacher Pham Le Quynh Tram became the first transgender woman to be legally recognized by Vietnamese authorities as a woman and change her sex from male to female. Pham also changed her name to Pham Le Quynh Tram from Pham Van Hiep.
Although this was revoked in 2013, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health is now finalizing a draft amendment to the civil code that will formally acknowledge transgender people in the eyes of the law for the first time.