Vietnam's LGBT community celebrated Pride for the third consecutive year this weekend, marking the latest in the historically censured Asian nation's gradual embrace of diversity.
Although VietPride 2014 was a big hit with an estimated 300 attendees, organizers stressed that homosexuality, bisexuality, and nonconforming gender identities remain taboo subjects in Vietnam. And while the country's ruling communist party last year lifted a longstanding ban on same-sex wedding ceremonies, the elected body briefly considered but stopped short of establishing a legal right for same-sex couples to marry.
"Misunderstanding and social stigma is still widespread," explained organizers on the VietPride 2014 website. "Insinuation, ridicule, parents’ disapproval, and humiliation are experiences familiar to many LGBTs. In schools, families, offices, factories, their dignity and security are still compromised. Many LGBTs, especially youth, live in fear of being disowned, despised, or treated differently."
But since 2012, the rainbow flag has been proudly unfurled and flown freely during the southeast Asian nation's Pride festivities. Just last month an LGBT-themed music festival brought diverse communities together and built bridges among LGBT and non-LGBT Vietnamese.
While the mood at Saturday's event was celebratory, VietPride organizer Nguyen Trong Dung told Agence France Press that "homosexuals need to be 'accepted by their families' before wider society ends its prejudice.'"
Stuart Milk, nephew of the late American LGBT civil rights icon, Harvey Milk, served as the event's headlining speaker, and was greeted with the enthusiasm of a rock star, posing for pictures with jubilant celebrants and taking part in the now traditional rainbow-adorned bicycle parade through downtown Hanoi.
While at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi during VietPride, the president of the Harvey Milk Foundation's board of directors — a civil rights leader in his own right — delivered a message to the Vietnamese and to the world at large:
"Hope is not silent for LGBT Vietnam today," Milk told the crowd, in a slightly modified riff on Harvey and Stuart Milk's shared belief that "Hope will not be silent."
Step alongside the parade route in this promotional video for VietPride 2014, complete with well-wishes from around the world, and see more photos from the event below:
Find more photos from VietPride 2014 on the following pages.
People dance under a large rainbow flag during Vietnam's Pride celebration in Hanoi.
Stuart Milk, center, at the opening of VietPride 2014 in Hanoi with the organizers, USAID, and the U.S. Embassy — with Nga Hiền (left), Tran Khac Tung, Leah Cobelli, and Nguyen Thanh Tam at the Goethe-Institut Hanoi.
Ballon Pride in Hanoi.
Dancing under the rainbow flag in Hanoi.
Stuart Milk and friend at American Club Hanoi.