Gay movie opening minds as well as eyes in Vietnam?

Lost In Paradise hopes to end homophobia in conservative Vietnam. But is gay equality any closer?

Gay movie opening minds as well as eyes in Vietnam?
24 January 2012

Thailand may have one of the hottest gay scenes in Asia, but in neighboring countries such as Vietnam, where many still view homosexuality as either an illness or a source of ridicule, the battle to win hearts and minds has been a slow one.

However, with the country’s economy flourishing and city dwellers becoming more prosperous, attitudes are beginning to shift and a Vietnamese movie featuring racy gay love scenes is helping to dispel prejudice.

Homosexuality remains largely taboo in communist Vietnam, where Confucian social mores, with their emphasis on tradition and family, still dominate.

But cinemagoers are flocking to see the eye-opening Lost In Paradise, which tells the story of a doomed love affair between a gay prostitute and a book seller.

Quynh Bang, from Saigon, says attitudes to homosexuality are softening and the changes are coming from the younger generation.

The 28 year old mother said: ‘The younger generation have a broader outlook already.

‘Gay couples can live together openly but they cannot show public displays of affection – something which is frowned upon in Vietnamese society even for straight couples.’

Lost in Paradise has, she adds, generated sympathy from viewers her age.

But her elders are still dragging their feet.

Ho Bang, a gay Vietnamese national who now lives in London, says it’s difficult for such a conservative society to accept the possibility of a fulfilling same-sex partnership.

‘Being gay clashes with a lot of family values,’ the 35-year-old said.

‘If you’re gay, you can’t have children and a childless couple is viewed as unfortunate.’

The two most important things in Vietnamese society, he explains, are money and family.

And if you can’t have the latter, many people believe a relationship must be based on financial stability for it to work.

‘The view is that there are two types of gay man – straight acting and feminine.

‘A straight acting gay man will only be attracted to a heterosexual man. Mainly because dating a feminine gay will draw too much unwanted attention, causing the person to "lose face".

‘What’s in it for the straight man is usually financial rewards. People find it hard to believe that two straight-acting gay men can be together for love alone.

‘In the interests of having a sustainable relationship, they think going with a gay guy is too much trouble and is doomed. Without the financial incentive there is no strong bond between the men.’

He explains the more feminine gay man has the hardest time, especially if he doesn’t have the bank balance to attract a heterosexual partner.

Ho adds that lesbians are often forced into marriage, but transsexuals have a specific role in Vietnamese society.

‘It is similar to Thailand,’ he claims. ‘They work in temples and play a part in ceremonies, such as funerals.’

However, these are stereotypes and myths which he readily busts through his own example, having been in a stable relationship for 10 years now.

And sociologist Le Quang Binh, who has headed several research projects on lesbian and gay issues, said films like Lost in Paradise were paving the way for more openness about homosexuality.

‘The press has become less discriminatory and more objective when covering gay topics,’ he told the AFP press agency.

He noted some local media had even covered what was billed as Vietnam's first lesbian wedding in 2010 and the union of two gay men last June, even though the celebrations were only symbolic, with same-sex marriage not legal in Vietnam.

So while it may be a long road, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.



No thumbnail available

Central Park Greenwich: London lifestyle at its best

Sponsored feature: New housing development Central Park in Greenwich offers high-quality apartments, innovative green credentials and access to great culture, bars, cafés and restaurants
No thumbnail available

Formula 1 PR rep claims he was fired over pro-gay tweet

Back in February, it was revealed Lotus was angry over an 'unauthorized' tweet that included two men kissing. But now it is revealed one man could have lost his job over supporting gay rights
No thumbnail available

Videos invite politicians, celebrities and public to come Out4Marriage

New Out4Marriage campaign to encourage gay and lesbian marriage equality is based on It Gets Better video series
No thumbnail available

Ian McKellen attacks Margaret Thatcher's anti-gay politics in obituary

The gay actor posted an obituary of the late former UK Prime Minister saying her anti-gay legislation was 'hypocritical and pointless'
I may get stoned to death for gay sex, says Saudi man outed in Ashley Madison leak

I may get stoned to death for gay sex, says Saudi man outed in Ashley Madison leak

Infidelity site also caters to 'married men seeking other men for casual, no-strings fun'
No thumbnail available

Two NFL players deny making ‘It Gets Better’ video

Dan Savage has pulled the San Francisco 49ers It Gets Better video after two players denied making one
No thumbnail available

HomoLAB 81

Huddled around a warm laptop while it snows, we discuss gay German Mayor beats anti-gay German Mayor.
No thumbnail available

Cliff Richard: ‘If I was gay, would it make any difference?’

Bachelor Boy singer said speculation over his sexuality has 'hurt' his family, especially when he was younger
No thumbnail available

GLBT History Museum in San Francisco's Castro District reopens after being vandalized

Two shattered large plate glass windows replaced thanks to donations
No thumbnail available

Australian Cardinal says opposition to homosexuality not central to Catholic faith

Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell has said that opposition to same-sex relationships is not a central issue of faith for Catholics but has denied that the church’s position has changed following Pope Francis’ recent comments on the issue