Image: UNFPA/Vo Ngoc Dung
New York: A Vietnamese man has told the UN he has found his ‘true voice’ in the gay community, despite the discrimination and harassment that LGBT people face in his country
Nguyen Trong Hung opened a café in Son La in northwestern Viet Nam to serve as a meeting place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and to offer HIV testing.
While in middle school, realizing that I was gay, the only thing I could do was to torment and blame myself. My father left, my mum passed away, I was transferred from one relative’s house to another and suffered from both physical and mental harassment. This pattern repeated as I grew up. I wandered a lot as a way to avoid my family and all the memories that come with them.
One time when I returned home, I noted down everything about my daily life in a diary. I pretended to have forgotten it and left it on purpose in a place where I hoped a family member could find it read my story. Perhaps everybody read it, but no one said a thing. I was walking in limbo for a while, deciding whether to come out or not.
In 2013, a friend invited me to work in a coffee shop in Son La. For the very first time, I discovered my true voice and a community that I belonged to. I do not have to run away anymore!
Later, I opened my own coffee shop and turned it into a gathering place in Son La for the LGBT community, and for men who have sex with men. We even have a quick HIV testing service there. I want to help to change people’s behaviors, and to give people with HIV access to treatment.
Before coming out, I felt that my life was drenched in sorrow and pressure. With all the pressure taken off my shoulders, my life has now become an open book.
If I had a second chance, I would not have intentionally ‘forgotten’ the diary, hoping that somebody would read it. With all the knowledge that I have now, I would proudly come out to my family as gay.
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