|A vehicle, a journey: A visitor reads the caption for a bicycle owned by Vu Kieu Oanh, who resides in Ha Noi. She travelled for 40 days from Ha Noi to Phu Quoc a few years ago to raise people's awareness on the rights of LGBT community in Viet Nam. — VNS Photo Le Huong
HA NOI (VNS) — Objects, letters and diaries recording essential moments in the lives of more than 80 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people throughout Viet Nam are on display at the first exhibition of its kind in downtown Ha Noi.
The show, titled The Cabinet, contains stories of pain, joy, pride and secrets members of the LGBT community have experienced and wish to share. The show is divided into four themes: Identity, Pain, Pride and Sharing. They are expressed by four main colours: red, blue, yellow and green.
Among the objects are emotional notes, photos and things used in everyday life – like birth control pills or a favourite teddy bear. Various short video clips on the community add another dimension to the exhibition.
Speaking at the event's opening, Swedish Ambassador to Viet Nam Camilla Mellander said the exhibition was unique and interesting. It was also in line with universally recognised principles on equal rights and non-discrimination established in the UN Declaration on Human Rights, which both Sweden and Viet Nam have signed, she said.
"Learning about all the touching individual stories presented at this exhibition only deepens my strong conviction that all people have the right to be treated equally in society," Mellander said.
"Everyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, should enjoy the right to happiness in terms of family, relations and love. And no one should be subject to discrimination. We support LGBT communities in both Viet Nam and Sweden as they lead efforts to fight social prejudices and secure their rights."
Dinh Thi Nhung, one of the organisers, said the people telling their stories at the exhibition came from various professions and age groups.
"We tried to tell as many stories as possible so audiences could put themselves in the storytellers' shoes and communicate with them," Nhung said.
"Audiences may find differences and even similarities, and then they will be more open to differences and sympathise with the small community."
Ha Trung Anh, who worked on the project, said she did not have any difficulty persuading people to send in objects with memories attached to them.
The organisers worked for almost a year on the exhibition, with help from Sweden's Unstraight Museum, which is an online space and museum dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) history in all its forms.
"I think the exhibition is the first step toward opening a door to the LGBT community," said Ulf Petersson, director of the museum.
"It doesn't matter if you are gay, lesbian or not, you can relate to the stories in the exhibition on love, sorrow and life."
The exhibition was planned under the project Unstraight Perspectives and carried out with the help of various organizations. It received financial and technical support from the Swedish Institute, UNESCO and the Embassy of Sweden in Ha Noi.
In recent years, the LGBT community in Viet Nam has received increasing acceptance and tolerance.
In September the National Assembly officially removed the ban on same-sex marriage and any associated fines from the Law on Marriage and Family. However, same-sex marriages are still not legally recognised.
The exhibition is open daily until the end of March at the Fine Arts University, 42 Yet Kieu Street. — VNS