VietNamNet Bridge – When Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, mother of a gay man who now lives and works in the Philippines, came to the realisation that she had been treating her only son unfairly for years, it was almost too late.


Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy (left), who once discriminated against her son because of his sexual orientation, has become an enthusiastic supporter of the LGBT community in HCM City.-- Photo Courtesy from ICS



The 55-year-old woman had once placed all of her hopes with Hoang Khanh Duy, 29 who had courageously admitted to his mother than he was gay.

Shocked by his admission, Thuy feared that relatives and neighbours would discriminate against him and asked that he turn straight.

"I was so sad when I learned this. I discovered his sexual orientation 20 years after giving birth to him. All my future plans, I put on him. As a mother, I also hoped my son would get married and have children," she told attendees at a conference on LGBT issues held recently in HCM City.

For more than 10 years, Thuy said she discriminated against her son. She did not even accept money from him.

During that period, Duy was admitted to Central Mental Hospital in Bien Hoa twice and once tried to kill himself.

In tears, she told the conference that she had "half-killed him" as he has had to stay on medication since his suicide attempt.

"I and his father used to called him an insect. When he brought his gay friends home, we proposed to shoot them all dead," she said.

Now an enthusiastic activist for gay rights, Thuy recalled that she and her husband had tried to find doctors who could cure her son's "disease".

Several blood and hormone tests were done in hospitals and even when the results showed nothing amiss, they refused to give up.

When Thuy took Duy to a shaman in Dong Thap Province and asked him to suck the female soul out of his manly body, the shaman beat him badly.

She recalled that her son once told her that he would marry a girl but that it would be without love. His wife and her relatives would be miserable, Duy said.

In a recent online interview with Viet Nam News, Duy said that he came out when he was a third-year student in 2005.

"After that, my parents quarantined me from my classmates because among them was a boy I loved. My father often came to my class to check me, while my mother took me to Binh Dan Hospital," he wrote.

"The doctor asked me if I liked men. I said yes. He asked me to take a hormone test. Later my mother took me to a pagoda and brought charms to treat my homosexual ‘disease' and several spiritual methods, but nothing happened," he said.

Duy said that in 2008 his mother refused to see his boyfriend. "My mental illness returned that year and I was hospitalised. My parents said they would prefer a son with a mental problem rather than a gay son. With such pressure from my family, I decided to go to the US and work."

"My decision to kill myself was partly from family pressure and a problem between me and my boyfriend. At that time I thought it would be better if I died. But I was not brave. After drinking the medicine, I ran down and called my mother for help," he said.

After that episode at home, Duy said his mother invited his boyfriend to the house and even helped them "mediate our relationship".

"After talking to my boyfriend, they saw him to be a good person, and they temporarily accepted him and my gender," he said. "My parents had wanted me to change my sexuality because they loved me very much and wanted me to be a good man. They didn't know or understand gay people."

Change of heart

As Thuy began to be more sympathetic toward her son, she recognised that he was a valuable member of society and a good man.

Being asked why she had changed her attitude, Thuy said that her son had suggested that she take part in the activities of ICS (Information, Connecting and Sharing), a community organisation of LGBT people.

"I strongly support LGBT and same-sex marriage because I discriminated against my son for 10 years. I now understand that being gay is normal and realise that I was wrong. Sometimes, I wonder why I treated my son that way," she said.

During a meeting with lawmakers who were debating whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in Viet Nam, she told them that her pain now was 10 times greater than it was then.

"When my son asks me to organise a wedding ceremony for him, I will have to reject it because it is still illegal. But when my daughter, who is heterosexual, wants to celebrate her wedding, I can agree immediately. As a mother, I feel embarrassed about this situation," she told the lawmakers.

Another woman who spoke at the conference, Dinh Thi Hoang Yen (not her real name), faced a similar situation.

"When I found out that my son was gay, my hopes collapsed. My life was full of tears. I dared not share it with my husband," Yen told the conference attendees in HCM City.

Like Thuy, she sought a "cure", sending him to psychologists and doctors.

Now, five years later, she is attending a conference on LBGT issues with her son.

"I not only accept my son's sexual orientation, but his boyfriend, a third-year student at HCM City University of Architecture, so nice to me. He came to my house and cooked for me and did things that even my son cannot do for me. I feel happy about that," she said. "I do not feel guilty that I gave birth to a child who is gay and neither does my son."

Ngo Quang Loc, a fourth-year student at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said that his parents were ashamed when they discovered he was gay.

"They thought homosexuality was a disease, so I was forced to undergo gender tests and visit a psychologist who is a friend of my parents. Even now, I feel that my parents discriminate against me," he said.

"They insisted that I get married and have children. After they introduced me to some girls who are their friends' daughters, my parents prohibited me from meeting my boyfriend," he added.

Loc said that he was pleased to see that the National Assembly was considering a vote on same-sex marriage.

But even if the law is changed, the attitude of the society towards homosexuals will not improve immediately, he said.

"I feel it is important to create social campaigns to change the attitude of the society towards LGBT people. However, official approval of same-sex marriage will be a catalyst for reducing social discrimination," Loc said.

Societal acceptance

Despite continuing resistance and prejudice, recognition of the rights of the LGBT community has improved greatly.

Only five years ago, it was difficult to organise seminars on LGBT issues, according to Le Quang Binh, head of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE), an independent, non-profit organisation working on human rights issues affecting minority groups in Vietnamese society.

"There was no organisation or agency paying attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Discrimination was high and public knowledge and awareness of LGBT issues was narrow," Binh said.

"Now, we are witnessing a huge change in society as well as a positive attitude of State agencies, media and international organisations towards the rights of LGBT people. I think this is important progress which many countries in the world, especially Asian countries, are envious of," he added.

Tran Khac Tung, director of ICS, said that he was pleased with the proposal to approve same-sex marriage in Viet Nam.

"Everyone hopes that it will be approved. I think it will be accepted as inevitable. It is just a matter of time," Tung said.

He added that more and more people from the LGBT community were participating in ICS communication programmes and were more willing to speak to the media and have their photos taken.

"Without the voices of the LGBT community, society at large, including lawmakers, would not know about us or understand us," he said.

Source: VNS