Though they only numbered about 100, participants in Vietnam’s first LGBT Pride Parade beamed with joy as they rode bicycles and waved rainbow flags through the streets of Hanoi on Sunday.
Word that the Justice Ministry was considering legalizing same-sex marriage no doubt gave them an extra boost of energy on their six-mile ride, which was as much about visibility as it was pride. “Many Vietnamese still believe that gay people don’t exist in Vietnam,” said organizer Nguyen Thanh Tam.
The situation for the LGBT community in Vietnam and other countries in Asia is different, though no less complicated, than it is in the U.S. There’s no massiv Christian right screaming fire and brimstone about homosexuals being consigned to hell, but a strong Confucian belief in family and traditions makes coming out a daunting process. “I feel very sad… I feel very guilty. I don’t feel guilty because I fell in love with a girl, but I feel guilty because I cannot be honest with my mom,” lesbian Le Huong told Independent Online.
In another part of the continent, nearly 2,500 demonstrators marched for LGBT rights in the Nepalese resort town of Pokhara, some 200 miles from Katmandu.
Marching as part of this month’s Gaijatra festival on Friday, paradegoers’ demands included marriage equality, anti-discrimination laws and the recognition of a third gender in government-issued certificates.
“The rally gives us an opportunity to seek the support of the public and be more visible in the society. There are more and more people coming out in the open and this rally gives them a chance,” said Sunil Babu Pant, a former member of parliament now working for the rights of sexual minorities with the Blue Diamond Society.
While the government had agreed to recognize a third gender beck in 2008, delays have meant metis (biological males who identify as female) often face obstacles getting jobs, enrolling in school and owning property. Still, it marks the first time a country in the region has recognized more than two genders.
Photo: Blue Diamond Society