Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about discrimination against homosexual people in their countries. The readers were asked what measures should be taken to protect homosexual teenagers from being bullied at schools and homosexual people in general from being ill treated because of their sexual orientation. Here are some of the responses:
Nguyen Thu Huong, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
Because of festive season celebrations, the Viet Nam News will not run the Your Say column next week. We appreciate your contributions this year and hope to receive more in the year to come. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
I have a few friends and acquaintances who are homosexuals. They are quite different in personality and age, but have one thing in common: they are discreet and hesitant to share personal details with regard to family or relationships. They can be quite friendly and helpful on the outside, but it is not easy to get close to them.
Even if some do not try to conceal the fact that they are gays or lesbians, they rarely talk about their boyfriends or girlfriends. But somehow I sense that most of them are lonely and sensitive. I feel that the nature of their sexual orientation makes them become more understanding towards people though.
Personally, I hold nothing against homosexual people. I don't find them much different to heterosexuals. But not so many people are like me. They may not hate homosexuals or treat them badly, but they still show some kind of discrimination against gay people in a subtle way.
One example is the way some glance at gay people and closely observe their gestures as if they were acting very weird. At university, if someone is "suspected" of being gay, the other students will start spreading rumours about them, as if being gay is something very strange or disgusting. If a gay couple hold hands on the streets, people will start looking or even pointing at them (lesbians are safe with this because close girl friends holding hands is not something considered strange in Viet Nam).
I think these kinds of attitudes are also discriminatory and sometimes wonder what homosexuals feel about that. I find it so unfair because I think one should not be treated differently because one is different in some way to most people. Everyone has the right to be treated with normal respect and understanding.
Once, I went to the cinema with a friend to watch the recently shown Vietnamese movie Lost in Paradise about two gay lovers. Despite saying that the movie seemed true to life and well-made, he still uttered "disgusting!" at the scene when the two gay characters hugged and kissed each other. I was uncomfortable with the attitude and we almost had a fight because of that.
However, I think the public view of homosexuals, especially among intellectuals, is somewhat fairer in recent years. The majority may fail to understand gay people, but they still try to treat them well as others.
I am not sure whether there should be some education about homosexuality at schools, but I think children and teenagers must be taught to respect everyone around them, including those who are a little different from them in family backgrounds or sexuality.
There is a quote I like that says it is easy to love someone like you, but very difficult to love someone different. When differences in personality and lifestyles can be accepted by society, differences in sexuality will be easily accepted too.
Michael Nally, American, Ha Noi
There is much being done in the USA, particularly in classrooms, to prevent bullying of gays. This includes civic action - and interaction among students, parents, teachers, administrators and students. Just recently a stiff penalty was handed out to a student who shot a gay student because he thought he was being hassled by him. This student will go to jail for 20 years but there will be parole I believe.
America is both liberal and conservative on the gay issue. Many in California (a liberal state) say gays should have equal rights. Others in more conservative states, like the South, believe gay rights have gone too far. Religious groups believe it is sinful behaviour, leading some to think that religion represses people's rights.
Personally I think we must find a balance between doing what is right and honour our conscience so that the community benefits. I have a gay male friend who is married to another man. But he works hard for the community and is an activist and politically involved. This is a good thing.
But there are gays in Hollywood who flaunt their sex, their vulgarity. They are just lewd and this leads to all sorts of problems, such as promiscuity, STDs and prostitution. The balance is to respect yourself, your body, your beliefs. Harm no one, love all, live in harmony. This is all the Confucian ideal found in Asia.
Thomas Clark, American, Ohio
In the last few months, US national media has given more attention to the issue of bullying and its devastating results on young people. More and more, bullying has also been identified by gay and lesbian rights organisations as a cause of increased teen suicides.
According to an article published on the website www.bullyingstatistics.org about 30 per cent of all suicides are related to a crisis in sexual identity. Gay and lesbian teens are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths.
This issue has been presented by US television networks in the format of Town Hall Meetings. Many victims of harassment have come forward to present their individual cases to inform the public of the enormity and prevalence of the problem of bullying in American schools.
Bullying has also taken the form of "cyber-bullying" on the internet, on Facebook and other social networking sites. A local school district distributed flyers to all the town residents, asking parents to discuss the issue with their children at home and to keep a close watch on how not only the computer is being used, but also if the text messages from cell phones are appropriate.
The saddest part of the situation is that the recent efforts to educate parents and students about the consequences of bullying come too late for the victims. Parents need to take the time to teach their children how to respect others despite their differences: sexual orientation, race, and religious beliefs should never be used for discrimination, much less for harassment and social cruelty.
Nhat Hoang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I am a gay, and have no problems with my friends being aware of this. But I don't dare to break the news to my parents, ever, because it would just break their hearts. I imagine they would be shocked and disappointed, given I am their only child.
From what I observe of them, I know they don't think being homosexual is "normal". Once I was walking on the street with my mother and we noticed a gay couple holding hands. My mother grimaced as if she just saw something very strange, but did not say anything. My heart sank looking at her face.
In Viet Nam, gays are sometimes viewed as "strange" people. Many people even think that the gays intentionally act differently to "impress" people, as if being gay is new fashion or something. But the truth is, gay people just want to be viewed as normal and accepted by society.
I do not suffer much from discrimination, as I keep my sexuality a secret and only reveal it to close, understanding friends. Additionally, I do not act like a woman. I talk, walk, speak and dress like a heterosexual. I am not at all different from my male friends, except for the fact that I can only feel romantically attracted to men. I respect women, but cannot fall in love with them. I don't find anything wrong with that, and it hurts me deeply knowing that most people do.
I am not sure if there should be a specific legal regulation protecting homosexuals, but there must be some law in place to protect people from discrimination. No one should be ill treated for either their religion or sexuality or nationality.
I once worked for six months in Canada where homosexuality is generally socially accepted and same-sex marriage is legal. I met and made friends with a few gay people who were quite open and comfortable with their identity. At that time I could help but envy them. To speak openly about my sexuality is something I doubt I will ever be able to. —VNS