Tung is a 26-year-old young gay man from Vietnam who is currently working with Light House Social Enterprise, an organization working with LGBT community on sexual and reproductive health issues. Light House also has special initiatives targeting young gay men and young transgender people in relation to HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Tung, currently lives in Hanoi and is originally from a small village in central Vietnam. Recalling his growing up as a young person in the heart of the country, Tung talks of the hardships he had to face because people thought he was different.
“Growing up I knew I was different, and I thought that there is something wrong with me because that is what everyone thought of me”
Tung faced a lot of discrimination in his village because he was perceived to be different mainly because he was not behaving as a typical boy in the eyes of his neighbors. The school was not much different to his experience in the village. His school mates bullied him, harassed him and called him names. He was always left out of their games and once Tung asked his best friend why he is always left out and the answer shocked Tung but at the same time motivated him to find his own ways to tackle it.
“we leave you out always because you are not a boy”
Tung’s coping mechanism was to get deeply engaged in his studies with an ambition to leave his small village and migrate to a larger city where he does not have to face any discrimination”
“All this bullying and harassing made me study harder because I wanted to get out of my small village”
Tung recalls that any information on gender and sexuality was impossible to come by in his school. His teachers did not talk about such issues because they themselves didn’t know. He was isolated and as many other young LGBTQ people, he thought that he is the only one in the world. He could not talk to any teachers or friends about his feelings because that would have surely brought more bullying. Being gay or simply not adhering to typical gender roles was strongly discouraged at school and therefore gave legitimacy to all the bullying and harassment that he had to endure as a young person.
Reminiscing the hardships, he had to go through, Tung emphasizes the importance of comprehensive sexuality education at the school level.
“Such information could have made me more confident. If those who bullied me had such information they would not have done so and the school environment would have been much safer for all students”
Tung also insist on the importance of creating protection mechanisms at the schools through the introduction of comprehensive sexuality education in order to protect students who identify with minority sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. He suggests that acceptance of diversity should be promoted within schools through regular sensitizing of teachers, principals and students to create safe enabling education spaces for students.