Chúc Mừng Năm Mới

happy new year everyone! growing up in Vietnam, some of the best memories I have were during new year: no cut in electricity, continuous tv from night of 30th to throughout the 1st, food, firecrackers, visitors, red envelopes, no schools, you name it, two full weeks of happiness. Since we arrived in the US, new year hasn’t quite been the same.. I haven’t joined much new year celebrations… mainly because I don’t particularly identify with the older vietnamese down in Little Saigon except the common love for vietnamese food … namely i have little connection with those who dressed up in old military clothes loudly denouncing communists and supporting wars, or those church goers who preach what they don’t practice… And more importantly, being gay, I had always felt invisible. Even when i came out some 15 years ago, there was a lesson about keeping quiet and not telling anyone else (total BS, i even knew back then, if you are not proud of me, that’s your problem.)

Anyhow, this year, the last few days to be more exact, i’ve felt quite lonely and withdrawn, and i’ve sorted out why. Since 2010, we the vietnamese LGBTQI group had gotten together and participated in the New Year parade in the heart of Little Saigon (the capitol of Vietnam abroad) and those were really the moments I felt belonging. Back in 2010 during our first push for visibility, the homophobes sent harm threats, and for a short moment I debated my own participation. But that’s what they wanted, to bully you into invisibility. To those who claim gays are “a problem of the western world” (you’d be surprised who still thinks so, i once had a heated conversation with my own highly educated colleague), I knew who i was since 7, independent of geography. Altogether, we proudly made our way down the street of Bolsa, and personally i must admit i was extremely happy to finally enjoying Tet as me. (Can i repeat i LOOOVE that dress my sister loaned me, was constantly hogging the cameras smiling :-D).

This year, they tried to exclude us from the parade, citing we’re not part of Vietnamese Culture. And suddenly these feelings of loneliness, anger, resentment, bitterness, the same ones I had before coming out, came rushing back. That’s what it felt like being pushed into non-existence. But luckily, time has changed, i did once manage to come out and live my life, and this year, our group is doing the same. Some of the young and brave leaders within our group have been working extremely hard to keep us visible and thriving today in Little Saigon (we have booth to educate people, and several other groups had invited us to walk in the parade with them to promote unity + equality.) I only wished i could be there having fun celebrating new year with them. But reading the news alone is highly encouraging. Homophobes can try discriminating, it might have worked this year on paper, but that won’t push any of us back into hiding. We will always be part of the community and we will be visible. Happy new year everyone!

some links:

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hillary clinton’s speech on universal human rights

push (cc) for closed caption.
full transcript can be found here:
http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/12/178368.htm

“It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished. It is a violation of human rights when lesbian or transgendered women are subjected to so-called corrective rape, or forcibly subjected to hormone treatments, or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays, or when they are forced to flee their nations and seek asylum in other lands to save their lives. And it is a violation of human rights when life-saving care is withheld from people because they are gay, or equal access to justice is denied to people because they are gay, or public spaces are out of bounds to people because they are gay. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we are, we are all equally entitled to our human rights and dignity.

…The third, and perhaps most challenging, issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us. And this holds true for inflicting violence on LGBT people, criminalizing their status or behavior, expelling them from their families and communities, or tacitly or explicitly accepting their killing.

…But often those who are denied rights are least empowered to bring about the changes they seek. Acting alone, minorities can never achieve the majorities necessary for political change. So when any part of humanity is sidelined, the rest of us cannot sit on the sidelines. Every time a barrier to progress has fallen, it has taken a cooperative effort from those on both sides of the barrier.

…To LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face.

…We are called once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration. Let us answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history, for our people, our nations, and future generations, whose lives will be shaped by the work we do today. I come before you with great hope and confidence that no matter how long the road ahead, we will travel it successfully together. Thank you very much.”

-Hillary Clinton