Gay Vietnam News & Reports 2010-11

| Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 | Comments Off

1 Hanoi society gradually more gay-friendly 01/10

2 Treatment of homosexuals availability of state protection and services 1/10

3 Gay art exhibition tours universities in Hanoi, Vietnam 4/10

4 Coming Out in Vietnam and Hoping for Tolerance 12/10

5 China announces high-speed rail link to Singapore via Vietnam 1/11

5a High-risk groups fail to heed HIV advice 4/11

6 Website for parents and friends of lesbians and gays launched in Vietnam 5/11

7 CambodiaOut Website Expands 6/11

8 Mobile clinic aids gays, sex workers 8/11

9 VIFF 2011: Gay Asian films explore world of prostitution 9/11

10 Gay Play In Vietnam. They’ve Come A Long Way 11/11



January 2010 – Passport Magazine

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Hanoi society gradually more gay-friendly

Hanoi society is gradually becoming more gay-friendly. The emergence of several saunas, with Go Go Club the newest, and cruisy public spaces like the Sao Mai Pool are testament to that. Hanoi presents a full range of bar options, from a glass of wine following a French meal that would leave Julia Child weak in the knees at La Salsa, to a mojito infused with real sugarcane while watching a Filipina band in all leather perform “It’s Raining Men” at the Press Club.

Both places are welcoming to a mixed crowd, but the unambiguously named Golden Cock, or G/C Bar, caters to a specifically gay clientele. Like all downtown establishments that haven’t paid their bribes that week, the G/C shuts its doors in compliance with the midnight curfew, but two largely gay nightclubs, Solace and Lighthouse, have set up shop on barges on the Red River to get around city rules. There, the party continues until sunrise, when guests stumble out past fresh shipments of pineapple and taro being unloaded from the river as they head back toward a well-earned slumber. (Link to full story)



8 January 2010 – UNHRC

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Viet Nam: Treatment of homosexuals, including legislation, availability of state protection and support services

Various sources report that homosexual acts are not criminalized in Viet Nam (ILGA May 2009, 48; Homozen.com n.d.; Gay Times n.d.). However, some sources note that homosexuals in Vietnam largely keep their sexuality hidden (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; Thanh Nien 19 Feb. 2009; AFP 11 Aug. 2008). In particular, gay Vietnamese fear the "social stigma" associated with homosexuality (Thanh Nien 20 Aug. 2009; GlobalGayz Jan. 2008). Bong, a Vietnamese word meaning shadow (Time 6 Oct. 2008; AFP 11 Aug. 2008) or silhouette (ibid.) is used as a derogatory term for homosexuals (Time 6 Oct. 2008; AFP 11 Aug. 2008). According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the word "suggests that they are ‘shadows of normal men’" (ibid.).

In addition, media sources note that Vietnamese face strict societal and family demands to conform by getting married and starting families (Edge 13 Aug. 2008; AFP 11 Aug. 2008; GlobalGayz Jan. 2008). A January 2008 report by GlobalGayz, an international gay travel and culture site, states that "90% of LGB [lesbian, bisexual and gay] folks in Vietnam are married" to partners of the opposite sex (GlobalGayz Jan. 2008). GlobalGayz also interviews a gay man who opinions that lesbians "have it even worse than gay men" due to greater social and family pressure on women (ibid.).

However, sources report that overt hostility towards homosexuals is not common (GlobalGayz Jan. 2008; US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; Gay Times n.d.). According to GlobalGayz, "’gay bashing’ is almost unheard of in Viet Nam" (Jan 2008). Sources report that the majority of Vietnamese are largely unaware of homosexuality (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5; GlobalGayz Jan. 2008; ibid. June 2007). Online gay magazine Gay Times also notes that "life has become much easier for gays and lesbians" in the last ten years (n.d.).

Gay oriented websites note a developing "gay scene" centered in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi (Gay Times n.d.; Homozen.com n.d.). Utopia-Asia.com, a gay travel website, reports that there are also some gay and gay-friendly establishments in smaller cities throughout the country (Utopia-Asia.com n.d.a.). GlobalGayz also states that there are "little pockets of LGTB [lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual] expression in the smaller cities like Hoi An and Hue" (GlobalGayz Jan. 2008).

Legislation and treatment by authorities
While homosexuality is not illegal in Viet Nam (ILGA May 2009, 48; Homozen.com n.d.; Utopia-Asia n.d.b), homosexuals are not protected against discrimination (Pink News 26 Oct. 2007; Gay Times n.d.). Some gay travel sources note that homosexual conduct can be prosecuted for "undermining public morality" (ibid.; GlobalGayz June 2007; Utopia-Asia.com n.d.b). Gay news sources report that same-sex marriages are illegal (Pink News 26 Oct. 2007; Gay Times n.d.). According to Gay Times, gay marriage was banned in 1998 after officials failed to stop two lesbian weddings from occurring (ibid.).

In a 2 May 2008 article, the Ho Chi Minh City-based newspaper Thanh Nien quotes the head of the Hanoi-based STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS Prevention Center as saying that "[t]hose who are open about their sexuality cannot even get an ID card or work for public companies"; corroborating information on such restrictions could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, the United States (US) Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 states that there is "little evidence of discrimination based on sexual orientation" (US 25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 5).

GlobalGayz reports that police generally leave gay people alone, at least in Saigon (Jan. 2008). Further information on treatment by police could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.



13 April 2010 – Fridae

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Gay art exhibition tours universities in Hanoi, Vietnam

by Sylvia Tan
An art exhibition is currently on tour in Hanoi where organisers hope for minds to be opened with increased dialogue and understanding about gender and homosexuality. Organiser Le Quang Binh tells Fridae about the artworks that are on display and gay life in Vietnam today.

‘Open’ exhibition which was on display at two universities – the University of Social Science and Humanity and University of Law – last week will continue to tour four more universities in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi this month.

Organisers hope the exhibition, with the tagline ‘Open mind, Open life’, promotes understanding and acceptance, and reduce stigma and discrimination of LGBT people in Vietnam. The exhibition will next be displayed be at Thang Long University (15-16 April), Forestry Univesrity (20 April), University of Sport Teaching (21 April) and Hanoi College of Transportation (27-28 April). Organisers also told Fridae that they hope to exhibit in 10 universities in Hanoi and eventually have the exhibition tour Da Nang in the central region of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City in the south.

The exhibition, which comprises 98 photographs, is organised by the Institute for studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) in association with the Information Connecting and Sharing group (ICS), a voluntary group of LGBT rights advocates. A play will also be staged at each exhibition venue.
Le Quang Binh, organiser and head of iSEE, addressing the audience at the exhibition.

Le Quang Binh, head of iSEE, an independent, non-profit think-tank working exclusively on issues of human rights of minority groups in the society, tells Fridae’s Sylvia Tan over email about what the exhibition hopes to achieve, and gay life in Vietnam today.

æ: Tell us more about the OPEN exhibition.

The images are all about life, love and relationships of gays. For example, the series titled “Third gender” by Phan Nha Trang is about men who dare eat ‘forbidden apples.’ However, love triumphs and they find love at the end.

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December 7, 2010 – LookAtVietnam.com

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Coming Out in Vietnam and Hoping for Tolerance

by An Dien
Nguyen Van Trung, 35, is as excited as a teenager going to his or her first party. But the excitement is tinged with some nervous bravado, because Trung’s coming out party seeks to increase public tolerance toward the gay community in Vietnam.
A group of 100 gay activists is planning to raise awareness and visibility by wearing pink T-shirts proclaiming, "I am gay." They will walk together on the sidewalks in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, probably on the upcoming Valentine’s Day, Trung said.

“This will be the first time such an activity has been organized by the gay community in Vietnam,” said Trung, member of a HCMC voluntary group that seeks to advise men who have sex with men (MSM) on safe sex and HIV-related knowledge. I only hope that by doing so, the public will be more tolerant of people like us since we do no harm to the society.”

Trung said the fact that society has become more open to gay people has inspired him and his peers to come out. They had originally planned to take to the streets last Tuesday to mark World AIDS Day (December 1), but canceled it at the last minute as the shirts were not printed on schedule. Very few gay people publicly come out in Vietnam. Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in the traditionally patriarchal society long ruled by Confucian social mores and Buddhist beliefs.

“Most gay people are very afraid to say that they are gay. [But] most of them find out when they eventually do reveal it, it is more easily accepted than they thought it would be,” said Donn Colby, medical director of the Harvard Medical School’s AIDS Initiative in Vietnam. “That’s a very positive sign,” said Khuat Thu Hong, co-director of the Hanoi-based Institute for Social Development Studies, a local non-governmental organization. “I hope this momentum continues so gay people in Vietnam enjoy the same rights as everyone else.” Vietnam’s HIV epidemic is concentrated among people who inject drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men. Across Vietnam, an estimated 243,000 people were living with the virus at the end of 2009.

But Colby acknowledged that there was still discrimination against MSM in Vietnam, particularly in rural areas, and most MSM still hide the fact, leaving them very vulnerable to contracting the HIV virus.

“If you look at how much money had been spent by the Vietnamese government and international donors on HIV prevention, the amount that goes to MSM is much less than that given to other high-risk groups. When it comes to HIV prevention, MSM get fewer resources.

Trung said gay men in rural Vietnam still suffer social stigma and discrimination. “They are sneered at or have to bear worse insults wherever they go. “We are also human. We also have our own dreams. Our happiness is in being able to live our real lives. I hope that in the near future, gay people like me will have a space where we can relax without worrying about being arrested or chased away.”

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19 January, 2011 – CNN

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China announces high-speed rail link to Singapore via Vietnam
– Construction of a section of railway linking Nanning to Vietnam will China has announced plans to build a high-speed railway linking the southern Chinese Guangxi Zhaung autonomous region with Singapore via Vietnam, according to China Daily.

The first stage of construction will link the Chinese city of Nanning with Pingxiang, a city near China’s border with Vietnam. Work on this section will commence in the second half of 2011, China Daily reported, citing the regional government’s development and reform commission. The construction of the high-speed rail will be the Nanning government’s main priority in the next five years. The line is meant to increase commerce and various trade between China and ASEAN nations.

"We will invest 15.6 billion yuan (US$3.05 billion) to build the railway linking Nanning and Singapore via Vietnam," said Long Li, director of the region’s transportation department. "This is extremely important for the construction of the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor." The corridor refers to the economic link between China and ASEAN nations, starting at Nanning in Guangxi and passing through Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Thailand’s Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on its way to Singapore. China Daily referred to Guangxi as the country’s main foreign-trade center, with ASEAN being its largest bloc trading partner.begin later this year

May 2011 Update
12 May, 2011 – CNN

Shanghai-Beijing high-speed train trial begins – As the official launch date for one of China’s most anticipated new train lines nears, cutting travel time between Shanghai and Beijing in half, the new service tests the tracks

by Jessica Beaton
Flying between Beijing and Shanghai might soon be a thing of the past. The Shanghai-Beijing high-speed train began its one-month trial yesterday, testing the 1,318-kilometer route for the official late June opening, according to state media reports.
The first train left Shanghai at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, according to Shanghai government-run news portal EastDay.com, although it didn’t carry any passengers. The line is opening ahead of schedule; it was originally set to begin operations in early 2012.

The train will connect two of China’s economic powerhouses with only one stop between them in Nanjing. The whole trip will take just under five hours — more than twice the flying time between the two cities — with average speeds of 300 kilometers per hour. The average train trip between the two cities is currently about 10 hours. "The initially planned operation speed was 350 kilometers per hour but we decided to reduce it due to safety concerns and prices," said Wang Yongping, spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, to state media reporters.

Currently the fastest train line in China connects Beijing with Tianjin, running at 350 kilometers per hour. Ticket prices have been yet to be released, although China.org.cn reports that the train will use an ID-based ticket booking system starting June 1 in an attempt to prevent ticket scalping. Shanghai may implement the system as early as May 22, due to its policy of releasing tickets 11 days before a trip.

The construction of the 1,318-kilometer line was started in April 2008 with total investment estimated at RMB 220.9 billion. The new line is part of China’s increased investment in its high-speed rail network, which reached 8,358 kilometers at the end of 2010 and is expected to exceed 16,000 kilometers by 2020.



April, 28 2011 – Vietnam News

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High-risk groups fail to heed HIV advice

Hcm City — After five years, a nationwide campaign of harm reduction and HIV prevention among sex workers has not proven effective, a review conference heard yesterday. Health officials said several programmes have been carried out to protect sex workers from HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), but these have suffered from many problems including a lack of co-ordination between agencies fighting HIV/AIDS. Nguyen Trong Dam, deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said prostitutes were among the population groups most vulnerable to HIV infections in Viet Nam, besides intravenous drug users.

The situation has become more and more serious, Dam said. He said despite the implementation of several awareness programmes, condom use among sex workers, including males, was very low. He said stronger co-ordination was needed between public security forces, health agencies and the labour sector to help sex workers remain safe from diseases like HIV/AIDS and also facilitate their reintegration into the community after rehabilitation. "A few years ago, it was easy to see female sex workers in public places like bus stations and pavements, but most of the now go online or adopt more sophisticated forms of services," Dam said.

Prostitution has become one of the main causes of HIV transmission, health workers said. According to recent statistics, the rate of HIV infections among sex workers was pretty high in major cities, 20 per cent in Ha Noi, 23 per cent in Hai Phong and 16 per cent in HCM City. HIV infection among sex workers was as high as 30 per cent, the conference heard. Duong Van Dat, an officer with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, said very few sex workers were able to access HIV prevention services like free condoms and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. This situation had to change drastically, he added.

Dat noted that the Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, had recently said that it was not possible to get rid of prostitution totally and that intensified focus was necessary on harm reduction among sex workers. He said that in Cambodia, up to 80 per cent of the sex workers were using condoms and the incidence of HIV and other STDs had fallen sharply. In Viet Nam, there was a large number of sex workers who don’t use condoms because they cannot access it, he added. Condoms were not easily available in public places in Viet Nam like hotels, and there were cultural barriers that prevented both the sex workers as well as their clients from purchasing them, he said.

According to the HIV/AIDS Prevention Department under the Health Ministry, as of September 30, 2010, the country had 180,312 HIV positive people, 42,339 AIDS patients and 48,368 people had died of AIDS. The epidemic has spread widely with HIV populations in all provinces, 97 per cent of the districts and 70 per cent of communes nation-wide, department officials said. Eighty per cent of the HIV positive population in Viet Nam were males, they added.

Dr Nguyen Minh Tam of the department said the rate of HIV transmission was particularly high among males who had sex with males (MSM). She cited a survey in 2009 that found just 47.4 per cent of the MSM population in HCM City used condoms regularly with their partners. The rate was higher in Ha Noi and Hai Phong. The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said at the conference that it would expand the programme for harm reduction and STD prevention among sex workers in the country over the next five years.

It said it was important to improve the knowledge and awareness among local governments of the crucial importance of providing free condoms, especially to high-risk populations. Local officials with low awareness have made it very difficult to promote the use of condoms, ministry officials told the conference. The two-day conference that ends today drew the participation of UN officials, foreign experts from NGOs based in Viet Nam as well as experts from Thailand, the country that has achieved 100 per cent condom use among sex workers.



23 May 2011 – Fridae

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Website for parents and friends of lesbians and gays launched in Vietnam

by Sylvia Tan
A website for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Vietnam was launched this month in Ho Chi Minh City with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Accessible via Pflag.vn or its Vietnamese name Hieuvecon.vn to mean “understanding/knowing children”, the PFLAG Vietnam website is set up by the “Information Connecting and Sharing” (ICS) project team that comprises leaders of Vietnam’s four largest LGBT webforums. The project team operates under the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) an independent and not-for-profit research organisation.

According to a PFLAG Vietnam spokesperson Fridae spoke to, the website now has over 200 registered members but is unable to determine how many are parents or siblings of LGBTs. ICS describes the PFLAG Vietnam website as the “first concerted effort ever in the country to create a supportive environment for parents and friends of LGBTs, as well as drawing the media and society’s attention to the reality of how kinship and friendship matters to happiness, potential, and positivity of LGBT people’ lives.”

According to a survey conducted by iSee and while homosexuality is not illegal in Vietnam, many parents still think homosexuality is a "disease, a fashion or an abnormality"; and Vietnamese LGBTs run into considerable difficulties being who they are with families. Some lesbians were threatened by their families to change their orientation or face being pulled out of school while others were forced into (opposite-sex) marriages.

The Ambassador of Sweden to Vietnam, Staffan Herrstrom, who was present at the launch on May 11, spoke about the importance of strengthening the rights of LGBT persons and the importance of defending LGBT rights saying: “The Government of Vietnam wants a modern equal society which can only be achieved if all persons, regardless of gender, age, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation are able to fully enjoy their civil rights on equal terms. The commitment is there already through Vietnam signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Where article 25 clearly states that all persons are equal without any discrimination. Since Vietnam has ratified this Covenant this right obviously is applicable to all of you.

“But the ambition should be broader and higher: A society where LGBT-people never should feel oppressed or socially excluded. A society where diversity is seen as normal. A society where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, could enjoy the rights to happiness in terms of family, relations and love.” The ICS project is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) which in particular supports ICS in in establishing and running counselling and sexual health services, networking and alliance building activities.

Herrstrom was joined by four other ambassadors for PFLAG Vietnam; Thuy Dung, Miss Vietnam 2008; (Nguyen) Tuan Khanh, a musician; (Pham Gia) Chi Bao, a well-known actor; and Tran Thi Bich Ngoc aka Ploy, a young popular writer, who announced their commitment to voice their support for LGBTs and help promote PFLAG Vietnam’s future activities. Nguyen Thi Thanh, a 63-year-old PFLAG.vn member and mother of a gay child was quoted as saying: “We parents should be a little bit more tolerant and open-minded. When we cannot change it, we should accept it. Acceptance will help us see other things to sympathise with, things that encourage empathy between parents and their children, and then parents would be able to provide the children with advice on how to lead a better and more useful life of their own.”

At the launch, President of iSEE Le Quang Binh also shared the results of a study conducted in the beginning of 2011 among 1,000 people living in four cities and provinces of Vietnam, describing how people in general and parents of LGBTs in particular think about homosexuality and gay people.

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June 26, 2011 – Cambodia Out Website

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CambodiaOut Website Expands

CambodiaOut is a Gay and Lesbian community based website. It is designed to provide information about the vibrant gay community in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Due to many requests we have recently added the The Republic of Laos, Kingdom of Thailand and The Republic of Viet Nam to our website. We try to provide a service to the Asian and expat LGBT community, as well as to the tourists that are visiting here.

We try our best to keep up with all the changes in venues throughout Southeast Asia, if you know of any new venues or those that may have closed down, please let us know. If you have any events, posters or photo’s, please send them to us, we will be happy to post them.

CambodiaOut



August 17, 2011 – DZ Times

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Mobile clinic aids gays, sex workers

by Van Dat (Vietnam News)
HCM City — It’s Friday afternoon. A group of young men sit quietly on their motorbikes or on benches at a corner of the September 23 Park in the heart of HCM City. A van painted white and blue stands nearby. Unless you are a very curious person, the men and the van are not likely to grab your attention. But the gathering of men and the van is no ordinary event. Most of the men are gay and sex workers; and they come here to get their health checked for free in the van, which is a mobile clinic. One of them said the van is a boon for them because they do not feel comfortable at formal establishments like hospitals and clinics.

Twenty-five year old Tran Nguyen An Truong, who is gay, said he felt more comfortable receiving healthcare advice and HIV testing services in the van that stops at the park every Friday afternoon. A close friend introduced him to the free service. He has visited the clinic a few times and has never had an uncomfortable experience, Truong said. Other gay and bisexual men waiting for their turn to meet with the STD (sexually transmitted diseases) consultant and receive HIV testing services echoed Truong.

They said having their health checked at the city’s regular hospitals and clinics were invariably uncomfortable, upsetting experiences because the staff, including doctors, discriminated against them. "I come here any time I feel uncomfortable about my health. Sometimes after having unsafe sex with friends, or just for a regular blood test," Truong said. The fact that the services here were free was another motivating factor, he said. When he went to a regular hospital, he felt scared, because no one would really talk to him. They would just collect the blood and give a note for getting the results, he said.

In contrast, the attitude of health staff offering services in the mobile clinic were friendly and he did not feel discriminated against, Truong said. "Doctors at other hospitals and clinics are grouchy when we want to know further information about our health. Sometimes they have no time to talk with us because they are busy with many patients." The van, redesigned as an air-conditioned consulting room, ravels to several districts in HCM City to offer free HIV testing and consulting services to everyone, especially sex workers who have low access to formal services.

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September 29, 2011 – Straight.com

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VIFF 2011: Gay Asian films explore world of prostitution

by Craig Takeuchi
Quite a number of queer-interest films at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (which kicks off today, in case you missed the memo) hail from Asia as part of the Dragons and Tigers program. Since LGBT communities are gaining ground in countries there, we’ll inevitably see more and more media representations of gay life emerge from them.
Prostitution happens to be a common thread in three out of VIFF’s four Asian queer-interest selections this year. (The exception is Japan’s Our Future , about a tomboyish girl who is bullied at school for being too masculine.)

In the Filipino thriller Señorita , for example, a transgender surrogate mother and upscale hooker moves to a smalltown where she gets caught up in the politics surrounding an imminent election. But far from glamorizing the business, making it appear sexy, or sugarcoating things, two of the films keep a particularly fixed eye on the consequences and complications of working in the sex trade.

Lost in Paradise (which has its first screening tonight) breaks new ground as one of the first Vietnamese films to depict gay life in Ho Chi Minh City as its primary subject matter. In the film, a handsome, inexperienced youth, Khoi, moves to the city, and is swiftly taken advantage of by two gay conmen. One of them, Lam, takes pity on him, and even falls for him. While the film veers towards material that may seem well-trodden to fans of international queer cinema, and saccharine and romantic content (such as a mute mentally handicapped man who raises a duckling) gets cloying, it does keep things realistic when it comes to the hardships of being gay in the city.

The story makes much of the emotional impact of prostitution on personal relationships. Lam’s prostitution rapidly becomes a point of contention between the pair that threatens their intimacy. Meanwhile, abuse (including a female prostitute with an abusive couple as pimps), gay-bashings, and other forms of violence circle them as well. And it makes it clear that it’s not a world that’s easy to get out of once you’re in it. Stateless Things from South Korea takes an even rawer, more grim look at the lives of two young men, one living in affluence, the other barely scraping by. But both are trapped in unhappy lives.

One is an illegal North Korean immigrant named Jun, who tries to find whatever work he can, including an abusive gas station owner. The other is Hyeon, who lives in an upscale apartment thanks to his sugar daddy—a married businessman. Both wind up in prostitution, the first out of desperation, the other out of boredom and rebellion. Jun’s first sexual experience with a john is captured in detail, and his revulsion is heightened by his precarious situation (he lacks official papers and could be deported if caught), his need to survive, and the numerous struggles he faces along the way. The film isn’t necessarily about the Korean gay scene as it is a drama about two characters living in difficult situations who resort to male prostitution. Needless to say, these films aren’t for audiences seeking uplifting or encouraging depictions of gay life. Nonetheless, they do provide a revealing look at the challenges and pitfalls in the unrelenting world of prostitution and street life.

Check the VIFF website for screening times and details.



November 27, 2011 – Towleroad

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Gay Play In Vietnam. They’ve Come A Long Way

by Brandon K. Thorp
Public perception of LGBT folk in Vietnam is on an encouraging trajectory. Just a decade ago, a poll found that 82% of Vietnamese believed homosexuality was "never acceptable." A year later, the state-run media was calling homosxuality a great "moral evil," and publishing nervous stories about the insidious gay infiltration of the karoake industry. (Seriously!)

But things change quickly. By 2007, 80% of junior- and high-school students said there was nothing wrong with homosexuality, and gay tourists were getting hitched in Hanoi. This week, a play opens at the Youth Theatre in Ho Chi Minh City documenting the trials and travails of Vietnamese gay men. This will be the first such play ever staged in Vietnam.

The play, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Turqoise, and Violet (presumably, that sounds catchier in Vietnamese) is the product of G-Link: "a group offering support for the gay community" in Ho Chi Minh City. From AsiaOne: The play revolves around the life of a gay man who is forced to marry a girl to maintain his family line. During his marriage, he maintains a happy relationship with a boyfriend.

It is his family, wife and boyfriend who suffer from the man’s double life. The play depicts the life challenges of gay men who are rejected by their families, isolated by friends and colleagues, and forced to maintain two identities to hide from the curious eyes of society. The coolest thing about G-Links endeavor is that a lot of it has been filmed. At the end of the month, a G-Links-produced documentary about the challenges facing gays in HCM City will air on VTV2 — part of the same state-run media that condemned homosexuality ten years ago. In the following weeks, "more than 20 television channels nationwide will air the documentary," according to AsiaOne.

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