“I am a Queer Vietnamese American, But Not Always in that Order”

By Viet Tran 

Originally published on the Human Rights Campaign blog.

The diversity of our nation is what makes us stronger and more connected, and immigrants are a part of the beautiful fabric of this country. Throughout history, immigrants have enriched the foundation and culture of the U.S. with our resilient narratives, colorful traditions, and innovative contributions. This Immigrant Heritage Month, let’s celebrate immigrants, their journey and stories.

As a queer Vietnamese immigrant and the child of refugees, during Pride Month and Immigrant Heritage Month I recognize that I am a queer Vietnamese American, but not always necessarily in that order.

The Vietnamese diaspora carries a heavy history marked by war-torn stories, unspoken trauma and unfamiliar transitions in new homes and customs across the globe. My own story starts with my parents.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, my father was incarcerated in so-called “re-education camps.” My mother, the only daughter out of seven children, worked to support her family while also pursuing education. She eventually became one of Saigon’s most respected educators and teachers.

It was in the early 1990s when my parents sought asylum to the U.S. However, after enduring years of austere conditions and trauma in the incarceration camps, my father would not make the trip abroad with my mother and me.

They named me “Tran Hoai Viet,” after my father, but my name also translated to “Eternally Vietnam” — a powerful reminder to always remember the country we left.

Immigrant, Vietnamese, Viet Tran, queer

Though I was born abroad, I grew up in the U.S. and, like many other immigrants and first-generation folks, I struggle to navigate and reconcile my Vietnamese roots and my American upbringing.

When I first came out as gay, I was afraid of the ways it would further complicate my multiple identities and two distinct cultures and traditions.

To me, being a queer Vietnamese immigrant means that my coming out experience is a lifelong and ongoing process and oftentimes a two-front battle. In 2008, I came out to my friends in English. In 2018, I came out to my mom — yet this second time was entirely in Vietnamese. It was important to me to come out to my immigrant mother in a language that she understood best.

Heavy cultural expectations and language barriers made my coming out process even more challenging as someone who was navigating at the intersections of being queer, Vietnamese, American and an immigrant.

Many LGBTQ API immigrants will often share similar experiences and challenges. Many of us are at the cusp of two hemispheres, two generations, two tongues and, in many cases, two lives. The process to reconcile our multiple identities and experiences sometimes extends a lifetime.

As I honor Immigrant Heritage Month and my own story, I recognize that there is still a need for more representation and visibility across the spectrum. This Immigrant Heritage Month and Pride Month, I encourage you to explore your own heritage and history, honor the contributions of your communities and share your story to take on the challenges that we still face today.

For more information about the unique experiences of LGBTQ API youth in the U.S., click here. To read more about navigating the intersectional experience of coming out as LGBTQ for API people, click here.

#ActToChange During Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

Among those who have taken the #ActToChange pledge are: Forrest Wheeler, actor (ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat); Hudson Yang, actor (ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat); Albert Tsai, actor (ABC’s Dr. Ken); Parvesh Cheena, actor/comedian (My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend); Jon Jon Briones, actor/singer (Miss Saigon); Ai Goeku Cheung, actor/singer (Miss Saigon); Deedee Magno Hall, actor/singer (Steven Universe, Miss Saigon); DAN aka DAN, alternative hip hop artist; The Filharmonic, a capella sensation (Pitch Perfect 2 and NBC’s Sing Off); Jennie Kwan, actor/singer (Avenue Q, Avatar: The Last Airbender); Megan Lee, actor/singer (Nickelodeon’s Make it Pop); The Poreotics (MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew); AJ Rafael, singer/songwriter, YouTube star; SETI X, rapper; Beau Sia, Tony Award-winning spoken word artist (Def Poetry Jam); Sam Futerman, actor/filmmaker (Twinsters); Perry & Danielle, singing duo; Minji Chang, Kollaboration Executive Director/actor; Mike Bow, actor (The Maze Runner, Comfort); Matt Almodiel, singer; and Lance Lim, actor (Independence Day, School of Rock).

 

This week during Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, join #ActToChange and take a stand against bullying!

One year ago, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in partnership with the Sikh Coalition and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), launched the #ActToChange public awareness campaign to address bullying, including in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Backed by a diverse coalition of now more than 60 supporters including media platforms and national organizations, #ActToChange aims to empower AAPI youth, educators, and communities with information and tools to address and prevent bullying. Check out ActToChange.org, which features video and music empowerment playlists, translated resources, an organizing toolkit, and more!

This week, join us in spreading the word about #ActToChange:

 

(1) Take the pledge against bullying

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(2) And share this special-edition badge on social media using #ActToChange

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Join the movement by visiting ActToChange.org.

6 Month Anniversary: The #ActToChange Movement Against Bullying

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YouTube stars AJ Rafael, Timothy DeLaGhetto, and Travis Atreo; rapper MC Jin; The Voice’s Dia Frampton; and American Idol’s Andrew Garcia are among many who have taken the #ActToChange pledge against bullying.

Six months ago today, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in partnership with the Sikh Coalition and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) launched the #ActToChange public awareness campaign to address bullying, including in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Backed by a diverse coalition of now more than 60 supporters, including media platforms and national organizations, #ActToChange aims to empower AAPI youth, educators, and communities with information and tools to address and prevent bullying. Check out ActToChange.org, which features video and music empowerment playlists, translated resources, an organizing toolkit and more!

Today, join us on #ActToChange’s six-month anniversary:

  1. Take the pledge against bullyingPicture1
  2. And share this special-edition badge on social media using #ActToChange.FinalPublic

ACT TO CHANGE: LIVE EVENT LA in ONE Week!

The program is booked for our #ActToChange Live Event on Saturday, November 21, 2015!
Join us, OCA, Sikh Coalition, CAPE, and 200 of your nearest, dearest, and newest friends for thoughtful discussions, lively performances, and shared stories around the important topic of bullying prevention – with an emphasis on AAPI communities and cultures.

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November 21: Act To Change Live Event in Los Angeles

WHIAAPI-ATC Flyer

Join the #ActToChange movement against bullying at this free public event, featuring distinguished Asian American and Pacific Islander personalities and community members through armchair discussions, performances, and more. Reserve your spot now.

High school students: Learn advocacy skills and how you can be a voice against bullying. Join a pre-event “APA Y-Advocate” training hosted by OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates at 9 am – 12 pm. Register for this training directly with OCA here.