It isn’t quite the glitter-bomb gay utopia like parts of Thailand. But it’s not overtly homophobic either. Basically, an accurate answer to “How Gay-Friendly is Vietnam?” would be, meh.
I spent a whole month backpacking through Vietnam, and I didn’t find much in the way of queer culture.
Yes, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi do boast a queer culture. But as I’ll discuss later in this article, even that isn’t quite overt.
On paper, Vietnam seems to be one of the more progressive Southeast Asian countries in terms of gay rights.
Same-sex relationships and sexual encounters aren’t criminalized. There are certain protections afforded to gay folks against discrimination. And they’ve also lifted a ban on same-sex marriages, even though they still don’t legally recognize it.
Furthermore, in recent years, the Viet Pride marches have been gaining a lot of mainstream attention as well. The Hanoi Pride is usually accompanied by an LGBTQI film festival and a bike parade as well. All of this is leading to more mainstream awareness.
Taking all of this into account, Vietnam has been praised as a leader in LGBT rights. However, gay rights activists in the country beg to differ. There’s a wide chasm in gay-rights on paper and gay-rights in practice.
Anyway, the purpose of this article isn’t to delve into the complicated state of gay-rights in the country but to assess how gay-friendly it is for tourists. If you’re interested in finding out more about gay-rights in the country, you can read these excellent articles in Time and Huffington Post.
Like most countries in Southeast Asia, gay tourists shouldn’t really worry about discrimination.
Well, a 10-year old kid did call me a ‘faggot’ in Bui Vien Backpacker Street, something I found quite shocking. But I don’t think he really even knew what that meant, had probably been mimicking some of the other tourists.
Besides that one odd incident, I found that Vietnam pretty much follows the rule of minding-your-own-business. As such, even when I had gentlemen callers in my hostels while traveling, no one really bat an eye.
Of course, public display of affection would likely draw some glances, but that would be true even for straight couples. That’s more of an indicator of social conservatism in terms of public decorum rather than an indication of homophobia.
If you’d like to meet other gay folks while traveling, you’ll have to pretty much depend on Grindr and other such apps because there aren’t many gay bars and hotels in Vietnam.
In Ho Chi Minh, the only gay club available is Republic. It doesn’t see a lot of action during the weekdays. However, if you go on a Friday night, you can catch a drag show.
The only gay bar in Hanoi is GC Bar, located in the Old Quarter. Again, it’s active only on weekends.
Besides these establishments, you’ll have to settle for regular queer-friendly spaces. This basically means they’re regular bars that are also frequented by gay folks.
If you want to find out the specifics of these gay-friendly spaces, you can read this article on LGBT Travel in Vietnam.
So, basically, Vietnam is a gay-tolerant country, definitely. And if you’re a gay traveler like me, you don’t need to worry about either discrimination or having to “tone it down.”
But don’t expect to see a whole lotta’ rainbow flags waving around in gay neighborhoods either.
If you wanna find out more about traveling through Vietnam, you can read my Comprehensive Vietnam Travel Guide for First Timers. If you’re concerned about Visa, you can use the services of Vietnam-Visa to apply for Vietnam Visa on Arrival.
Having said that, have a queer-fucking-tastic vacation in Vietnam!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…