Parents Join Fight for LGBT Rights in Vietnam

Ly hopes to help parents of LGBT people work together for equal rights.
Dinh Thi Yen Ly helps parents of LGBT children work together for equal rights.
A mother's journey to advocacy and activism
“I want to make a powerful movement of parents of LGBT people. Parents can be partners with their children and help their children find equality.”

Jan. 2015—When Dinh Thi Yen Ly’s 18-year-old son, Nguyen Dang Khoa, told her he was gay, she felt they were the most painful words she had ever heard. She didn’t understand what it meant for him or for her family; she thought being gay was a sickness. And Ly was not alone. Some studies show that many parents in Vietnam still think homosexuality is a disease, a trend or an abnormality.

After five years of struggling to accept Khoa, she began searching for information on the Internet about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. She read about the pain, challenges and fears that members of the LGBT community face on a daily basis. Finally, after receiving a letter from her son sharing the pain he felt accepting himself and urging her approval, she changed.

At the time, Khoa was volunteering at Information Connecting and Sharing (ICS), a local NGO working for equal rights for LGBT people. He shared the organization’s publications with his mother, helping her to understand the need for families to support their children regardless of their sexual preference. Ly was so inspired, she wanted to make sure other parents were informed as well, so she became the first member of the Vietnam chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 2011. Since then, the chapter has grown to include 20 parents across Vietnam.

“Parents need to know there is a community and a safe place to share their stories and feelings,” said Ly.

In 2013, USAID and the United Nations Development Program formed the Support to Strengthen LGBT Civil Society Organizations in Vietnam program. As a partner in the program, ICS works with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to train its members to speak with families with LGBT family members through online and face-to-face counseling and regular seminars throughout the country. The project aims to strengthen civil society organizations while reducing stigma and discrimination against LGBT people in Vietnam through awareness raising as well as psychosocial and legal support.

By sharing their own experiences, PFLAG members can help parents learn how to support their children and deal with the stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBT community. “I want to help parents of gay children in Vietnam,” said Ly. “I want all mothers to know about LGBT and I want to make a powerful movement of parents of LGBT people. Parents can be partners with their children and help their children find equality.”

Ly also expressed hope that PFLAG, which is currently supported by ICS, will eventually become an independent organization.


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