Post submitted by Hyacinth Alvaran, HRC Diversity Program Manager
On Saturday, approximately 80 members of the Vietnamese American LGBTQ and allied community marched in the Little Saigon Tết Parade of Orange County, the largest Vietnamese American community in the U.S. They paraded beneath the banner of the VROC (Viet Rainbow of Orange County), who lead the organizing effort over the past year to be included in the parade.
Supporters, including local HRC representatives, lined the sides of the parade, cheering them on while wearing purple and carrying rainbow flags. The contingent proudly carried rainbow flags and marched under a large rainbow arch of balloons, while wearing traditional Vietnamese attire and carrying South Vietnamese and California state flags. Despite a new code of conduct that specified the types of flags, banners, and attire that can be used in the parade — and left open the question of whether the rainbow flag can be carried — the group was well received.
The Tết parade is a lively celebration by the Vietnamese community of the Lunar New Year. For years, when the city of Westminster funded the parade, the Vietnamese American LGBTQ and allied community marched without o issues. However, last year, the city stopped funding the parade due to budget cuts, and a community organization called the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California took over. They barred LGBTQ participation, a decision that the local Vietnamese American LGBTQ and allied community protested during last year’s parade.
Over the past year, VROC and ally organizations organized to increase public support for inclusion. HRC reached out to VROC leadership to express support and promoted awareness to HRC members and supporters through social media. In December 2013, after an emotion-filled public hearing, the city council of Westminster decided to give the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California a permit to hold the parade because of the group’s first amendment rights, despite the group’s hesitation at the time to include an LGBTQ contingent. However, in early January, the group opened up the question of LGBTQ inclusion to a vote by the broader Orange County and Vietnamese American community, and the community voted for inclusion. Despite this victory, full inclusion was yet unclear because of a new code of conduct that left unanswered, until the moment of the parade, the question of whether the rainbow flag can be carried.
VROC still organized a vibrant Vietnamese American LGBTQ and ally contingent that proudly carried the rainbow flag alongside symbols of Vietnamese American identity, and called on other allies to be of support by proudly wearing purple and carrying rainbow flags in the parade audience. Their full inclusion in the parade was a colorful success, and the coming together of communities to celebrate it was great way to start the new year.