Vietnam's first consulting service for gays launched in Ho Chi Minh City

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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The ICS Center launched Vietnam's first consulting service for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals (LBGT) during a conference, held Friday (July 11) in Ho Chi Minh City, on communicating with one's family.
The service will offer consultations to LGBT people about how to talk to their parents about their sexuality, commonly called “coming out”, and deal with possible reactions from their parents and other family members.
The center's director, Tran Khac Tung, said he himself had dealt with pressure from his parents more than 15 years ago and found it very difficult for him to make his parents understand his sexuality.
“Parents traditionally expect their children to get married to a member of the opposite sex. They always stress the importance of marriage to their children as they grow up,” he said.
“I was among these children and I only knew to smile and avoid answering.”
Tung said tried to avoid family gathering during which his relatives kept asking him when he would get married to a woman.
The pressure on LGBT Vietnamese is exacerbated by traditional greetings such as “how old are you?” and “are you married, yet?” Tung said.
“There is a lack of information for LGBT people on how to make their family understand their sexuality,” he said.
During the conference, Hau, a 23-year-old student in HCMC, said he has a hard time speaking about his sexuality with his family.
“It has been 23 years since I began concealing my actual sexuality,” he said, adding that it was the first time he publicly identified his sexuality with others.
“I am afraid. My father seems to know about it. He is likely to accept it easier than my mother,” Hau said of his concerns.
Huynh Minh Thao of ICS said the heaviest burden for a LGBT person is to tell their story to their parents.
“We have to tell our families we can only be happy being with the people we love,” he said.
Nhi, a mother who accepted her daughter as a lesbian, said it depends on the specific case and the LGBT person must find a suitable way to tell their parents.
“In the case of Hau, he told his father that he'd never had romantic feelings for women, but men instead. Because his father is more accepting, he was able to make his mother and others in the family understand,” she said.
Nhi and several other accepting parents of LGBT children will work with lawyers and psychologists to supply the consulting services through ICS. The service will also offer consultations on legal matters involving the LGBT community.
LGBT people can book an appointment with ICS' consulting team by calling (08)39405140 or visiting its website www.tuvanLGBT.vn. The service is free for people under 18 years old and others experiencing financial difficulties.
An online survey compiled by the Hanoi-based Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) found that 50.2 percent of those who have come out to their parents received objections, 31.2 percent said their parents ignored them and only 18.6 percent received their parents’ support.
Fifty four respondents said their families had forced them to marry heterosexuals, but more than half of them had divorced as they were unhappy and their partners did not accept their sexual orientation, according to the survey of 2,483 respondents, of which 800 men and 461 women reported being engaged in a same-sex romantic relationship.
Most of the repsondents said their relationship was challenged by the disapproval of their family, public disdain and discriminatory laws.
According to ISEE, Vietnam has 1,65 million LGBT people with three percent of the population aged from 15 to 59.

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