(UN News): Nguyen Trong Hung opened a café in Son La in northwestern Viet Nam to serve as a meeting place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and to offer HIV testing.
While in middle school, realizing that I was gay, the only thing I could do was to torment and blame myself. My father left, my mum passed away, I was transferred from one relative’s house to another and suffered from both physical and mental harassment. This pattern repeated as I grew up. I wandered a lot as a way to avoid my family and all the memories that come with them.
One time when I returned home, I noted down everything about my daily life in a diary. I pretended to have forgotten it and left it on purpose in a place where I hoped a family member could find it read my story. Perhaps everybody read it, but no one said a thing. I was walking in limbo for a while, deciding whether to come out or not.
In 2013, a friend invited me to work in a coffee shop in Son La. For the very first time, I discovered my true voice and a community that I belonged to. I do not have to run away anymore!
Later, I opened my own coffee shop and turned it into a gathering place in Son La for the LGBT community, and for men who have sex with men. We even have a quick HIV testing service there. I want to help to change people’s behaviors, and to give people with HIV access to treatment.
Before coming out, I felt that my life was drenched in sorrow and pressure. With all the pressure taken off my shoulders, my life has now become an open book.
If I had a second chance, I would not have intentionally ‘forgotten’ the diary, hoping that somebody would read it. With all the knowledge that I have now, I would proudly come out to my family as gay.