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Viet Pride 2013: Strive with Pride

in VIET NAM, 12/08/2013

The first weekend of August marked the second Viet Pride in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. Despite heavy storms that left much of the city flooded and without power (including the primary location of Viet Pride, the Goethe Institute) the festival remained in full swing and the attendees in high spirits.

Viet Pride 2013 kicked off with a screening of Ryan Yezak’s film Second Class Citizen and a tribute video to LGBT victims of hate crimes, whose suffering has paved the way for a number of legal advancements. Pride organizers reported on two ongoing efforts to improve opportunities for LGBT people in Vietnam: the Strive with Pride LGBT Scholarship Program and the Employment Equality Campaign.

Spanning the three-day festival were five film screenings that told stories of LGBT people around the world: The Truth About Jane (USA), Beautiful Boxer (Thailand), Comme Les Autres (France), A Love to Hide (France), and Boys Don’t Cry (USA). “The brutality in Boys Don’t Cry is a wake-up call for society to end violence and hatred against LGBT people, especially transgender,” said one audience member.

At the peak of the storm and with intermittent electricity, attendees gathered for two panel discussions, or “talk-shows”, entitled What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger and The Art of Telling LGBT Stories. Despite the logistical challenges, the event hall was full and the audience engaged. The talk-shows touched on numerous issues: coming out, family relationships, adolescence and the emergence of sexuality, bullying, leadership and giving back, LGBT portrayal in the media, and tackling stereotypes. 

Viet Pride 2013 also highlighted the work of two young LGBT talents: fashion designer Trung Anh displayed her collection from Project Runway Vietnam, and Nguyen Ngoc Thach introduced his book Mom, I am Gay!

On Sunday morning, August 4, about 250 people gathered at Giang Vo Lake for a bicycle rally through the city. With about twice as many participants as the previous year, the convoy travelled along Kim Ma, Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoang Van Thu, Hoang Dieu, and Dien Bien Phu Street, passing the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the House of Parliament, and ending at Lenin Park. Riders donned white t-shirts reading “Love = Human Right”, led by a rainbow-covered core team. At noon, the crowd cycled to Goethe Institute for a closing party hosted by the Dutch Embassy.

The three-day event was globally webcasted and was covered on national television channels VTV4, VTV6, and VTV9.

Viet Pride 2013 was reported to be safe for LGBT participants and reporters. Security was provided, along with safe shelter, free male and female condoms, and gender-neutral restrooms.

Viet Pride 2013 tackled a broader set of issues than it had the previous year. The new Strive with Pride Scholarship program and Employment Equality Campaign, for instance, are the first initiatives in Vietnam to address LGBT equality in education and the workplace. The outcomes of these initiatives in 2013 and future continuation promise structural and sustainable changes.

One topic of recent discussion is whether Viet Pride should be centralized in Hanoi or dispersed across various provinces and cities. Taking into account the history of Pride and the context of Vietnam, finding a middle ground appears the best option. Pride should be centralized in Hanoi to represent LGBT people throughout Vietnam and to connect with the global LGBT movement as One Viet Pride. This must rely heavily on the involvement of representatives from various regions of the country, thus ensuring inclusiveness and equal representation.

Viet Pride 2013 also benefited from increased diversity in leadership. In 2012, local NGOs were the chief organizers and administrators of funding. In contrast, the leaders of Viet Pride 2013 were independent LGBT people and allies, with support from the public, corporate sectors and foreign embassies. Thus, the earlier pattern of bilateral support has become multi-lateral. This shift signifies a more effective, more sustainable empowerment and mobilization of the LGBT community.

The year 2014 will continue Viet Pride’s mission to promote social tolerance, tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to empower sexual minorities. Viet Pride 2014 will target three domains: the work environment, the opportunity gap in education, and the mainstream media. “While we are looking forward to the bill on same-sex marriage, there is much to be done to combat the social stigma around sexual minorities. Tradition and culture are being used to deny or violate gay people’s right to love. Yet whether gay or straight, everyone is born free and equal. This means that LGBT must not be seen as a subculture or discriminated against at work, in school, or at home. Viet Pride will stay at the forefront until it becomes a festival celebrating the diversity of life and embracing human rights for all people—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity”, said Nguyen Thanh Tam, director of Viet Pride.
 

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