Viet Rainbow of Orange County member says Pride is resistance

Viet Rainbow of Orange County

In this photo, taken Aug. 2, 2015, a group of Fulbright English Teaching Assistants attend Vietnam Pride in Hanoi : (From left to right) Aubrey Peterson, Diane Lieu, Uyên-Chi Olivia Nguyễn, Chelsea Kerbaugh, Chin-Yee Chew, Lucas Rivers, Alvin Bui, James Huynh . Photo: Courtesy of James Huynh.

(For June, which is designated LGBTQ Pride Month, Q Voice News features a series of first person essays under the theme What Pride Means To Me. (Click the link to read other articles in the series.) This essay is written by James Huynh, a board member of Viet Rainbow of Orange County. Happy Pride.)

What Pride Means To Me

We walked around Hanoi, Vietnam, searching for the American Club. Our feet ached. Our clothes stuck to our perspiring skin. The weather was terribly hot and deathly humid.

Viet Pride

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, we stumbled upon large, colorful letters, lining the wall outside the American Club. Following a rainbow-color scheme, they spelled VIET PRIDE.

This was Hanoi Pride 2015 — The fourth Pride Parade ever held in Vietnam.

It was my first Pride ever.

I am a gay Vietnamese-American man. I was born and raised in Southern California. Yet, it took me 21 years and a flight across the Pacific Ocean to attend a Pride event.

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San Francisco Pride

I went to college in the San Francisco Bay area. Every summer, I would see hordes of college acquaintances pack themselves onto the train and head to San Francisco Pride. My social media feeds were flooded with images of people in rainbow-themed attire, or sometimes very little clothing.

San Francisco Pride looked crowded. I never went because I never felt a strong desire to go to a Pride that was co-opted by corporations. This version of Pride felt like “Gay” where being gay often meant I had to fit into specific molds of whiteness, masculinity, and homonormativity.

Representation missing

As a gay Asian American man, I never quite felt like the mainstream gay community was for me.

The late queer performance-studies scholar José Esteban Muñoz wrote in his essay “Queer Theater, Queer Theory” that “the generalized gay community often feels like a sea of whiteness… and thus the imagined ethnic family is often a refuge. It is a space where all those elements of the self that are fetishized, ignored, and rejected in the larger queer world are suddenly revalorized.”

But in Hanoi, amongst other queer Vietnamese people, I began to find that refuge Muñoz spoke of. Although many of the queer Vietnamese people in Hanoi grew up in Vietnam, and I didn’t, I still found a sense of solidarity with them.

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Viet Rainbow of Orange County

When I came back to Southern California, I knew that I had to find a queer Vietnamese-American community. Luckily, I was introduced to the Viet Rainbow of Orange County (VROC) by a dear friend. This intergenerational group has taught me how to honor all of my selves: my Vietnameseness, my queerness, my masculinity and femininity, my refugee family, and my activism.

My queer-Vietnamese family

VROC has become my queer Vietnamese chosen family.

VROC has redefined pride (lowercase ‘p’ intentional) for me — pride in this instance is the pride we exhibit on an everyday basis. It’s the pride we, as LGBTQ+ people, must embody even when it isn’t Pride Month. 

Pride is resistance

For me, pride is the path-breaking journey toward impossibility — pride is honoring our full selves and differences in spite of a society that tells us to become part of its corporate melting pot.

For me, pride is resistance. But more importantly, it is imagining a more colorful, thriving future for our people.

About the author

James Huynh

James Huynh is a doctoral student at UCLA studying queer Asian-American health inequities. He is the gay son of Vietnamese refugees. He serves on the board of the Viet Rainbow of Orange County.

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