HRC sat down with Thu Le to discuss Vietnam, her goals and the fight for LGBTQ rights.
Post submitted by Jay Gilliam, HRC Senior Global Programs Officer
Thu Le, the newest HRC Global Fellow, works at the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) -- a local human rights organization in Vietnam. As a Global Fellow, she is working alongside HRC staff in Washington, D.C. for the month of November. HRC sat down with Le to discuss Vietnam, her goals and the fight for LGBTQ rights.
What is it like to be an LGBTQ person in Vietnam?
I think Vietnamese LGBTQ people face some specific difficulties. First, we have a culture that encourages people to live for the whole community, which sometimes puts minorities at risk because they are not often welcomed or discussed. I used to think that I was the only gay person in this world, since I couldn’t share it with anybody else in my community. Second, LGBTQ issues are often considered cultural and not political because awareness of human rights issues is still limited across Vietnam. Many think, “Okay, it’s your lifestyle,” instead of a right that should be protected.
How did you become an LGBTQ advocate?
I used to work in both the public and private sectors before realizing my desire to work in the non-profit sector. I admired the work of iSEE and what they have done for the LGBTQ movement in Vietnam, and I wanted to do my part. To promote LGBTQ rights in Vietnam, I do many things from organizing public events to presenting at meetings with policy makers.
What does iSEE do?
iSEE is a human rights organization fighting for the rights of many minority groups in Vietnam. Established in 2007, we have programs on LGBTQ issues, ethnic minorities, civil society and gender justice. We conduct research and then use that evidence as well as voices from these communities to advocate for equal rights.
How did you hear about HRC?
The first time I saw HRC’s logo was when I joined Hanoi Pride events, during my very first days in the LGBTQ movement. In fact, HRC sponsored that event! My colleagues also talked to me about HRC, and I’ve been subscribing to their emails for two years.
What are you most looking forward to as an HRC Global Fellow?
During my time at HRC, I’m excited to meet and talk with a lot of people who can generously share their knowledge, experiences and insights into the advocacy for equality. I know that when I finish my fellowship, I will return to Vietnam with more ideas, skills and confidence.
HRC’s Global Fellows Program brings established and emerging LGBTQ leaders to the nation’s capital for professional development opportunities to build leadership capacity. For more information about HRC’s work around the world, check out HRC.org/Global.