Never in its history has Vietnam criminalized homosexuality—a boast not many countries can make. Of course, that doesn't mean that LGBT people have had it easy, and only over the past few decades have the taboos surrounding sexuality begun to melt away. Today, LGBTs still face hardship in the south east Asian nation, notably in terms of employment. In deciding to open a a gay bar in Hanoi, Panic Bar, organizers have figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone: offering both work and a place to socialize for members of the community.
Hanoi Panic has been working to raise visibility of the LGBT community in Vietnam for a number of years. The bar is their most recent venture, following a series of events and the publication of an LGBT magazine. With a lively schedule of drar shows and other performances, Panic Bar is Hanoi's first queer bar geared towards supporting and employing members of the LGBT community. Eduardo Culbeaux, a member of Hanoi Panic, said:
"I knew we were doing the right thing when we started to get an outpour of messages from the LGBT community, especially transgender people, thanking us for hiring them. In Vietnam, it is illegal to change your gender on your ID card. It leaves a lot of people, especially trans-people, at risk for discrimination."