Pride Events Encourage Acceptance of LGBTQ Community

Watching men in exaggerated makeup parade down a busy Washington street in high heels and big-hair wigs, Thuien Nguyen commented that this was not likely to happen in his native Vietnam.

Nguyen, who moved to the United States as a child, said LGBTQ+ persons — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others whose lifestyles do not fall in the heterosexual mainstream — do not enjoy the cultural acceptance in Vietnam that they do in parts of the U.S.

“I know the LGBTQ community in Vietnam is frowned upon,” Nguyen said. “It’s very viewed as taboo. A lot of countries are becoming progressive [in Asia], but a lot of them are very discriminatory.”

In many U.S. capitals, including Des Moines, Olympia and Albany, LGBTQ+ events are being held throughout June to raise awareness about sexuality and gender.

It’s “about celebrating being who you are and being open and honest and feeling appreciated and feeling loved,” said Ryan Bos, executive director of Washington’s Capital Pride events.

Some LGBTQ+ people may not follow their birth gender or mainstream sexuality. Some, like drag queens, may dress or behave as a gender or lifestyle that is out of the mainstream. Drag queens are typically men who dress in women’s clothes and perform onstage. 

Famous American drag queen RuPaul explained why to The Guardian.

“We are wearing clothes that are hyper-feminine, that represent our culture’s synthetic idea of femininity,” she said.

In the U.S., alternative lifestyles are often celebrated but not always tolerated. 

Last year, 52 individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ members in the U.S. were slain in hate crimes, according to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in New York. This was an 86 percent increase from 2016. Sixty-seven percent of those crimes were committed on LGBTQ+ people who were 35 or younger. Almost half of the cases involved people meeting each other online or through personal ads.

In many parts of the world, homosexuality is acceptable. But in others, it is feared, disparaged and sometimes punishable by death. 

Same-sex activity is illegal in 23 Asian countries, according to a 2016 index by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) in Geneva, including Singapore, India and Malaysia.

While Vietnam does not criminalize same-sex sexual activity, it is not culturally embraced, according to the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSee) in Hanoi. Pride parades have been held in recent years, but many people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender say they’ve faced discrimination or punishment. Some LGBTQ+ children and teenagers have left home and taken to the streets, according to a 2014 study by iSee.

Same-sex activity is illegal in 34 of 55 African nations, including Kenya, Gambia, Cameroon and Ghana, according to ILGA. In Angola, homosexuality is illegal, and parents have the legal right to physically punish their children.

In Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, same-sex relations may be punishable by death.

“We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” said former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in a 2014 speech on state television to mark the 49th anniversary of Gambia’s independence from Britain.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in the Mideast nations of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Iran, and in the South Asian country of Afghanistan. 

In the Chechnya region of Russia, there has been a “purge” of gay men, according to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. At least 100 men the government said were gay have been detained.

One in three transgender youths has considered suicide, research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows. This was nearly two times higher than the figure among youth who did not identify as transgender. Transgender youths were also more likely to engage in substance abuse.

Transgender youths who used a name they chose to correspond with their gender identity — rather than their birth name — were significantly less likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Pride organizers say statistics like those are the reason public displays of acceptance are necessary for society to manage its conflicts in lifestyles. 

“Income inequality is worsening, and many states still lack LGBTQ employment protections, making it increasingly important to highlight the contributions of queer workers,” wrote Jessie DiStefano and Michael A. Fowler in the 2018 Boston Pride Guide. “Queer immigrants are facing increasingly outrageous attacks from the current administration. While we have won many battles, our continued Rainbow Resistance remains as imperative as ever.”

Pride events are widely attended in many parts of the world. The 2017 Worldpride festival held in Madrid attracted 2.3 million people.

“It’s amazing how people come and be united,” Angola native Volkeria Zamgo said of the parade in Washington.