The sitcom, titled My Best Gay Friends and created by 21-year-old drama student Huynh Nguyen Dang Khoa, has sparked a nationwide conversation about the status of Vietnam’s gay community, which is often misunderstood and portrayed negatively in entertainment and media.
“I’ve seen many movies and comedies about the homosexual community,” Khoa told Tuoi Tre News. “The images of homosexuals are very negative and audiences then have an ugly idea of the community.”
Dang added, “It’s not right. I’m gay and I see my life as very normal. That’s why I want to bring true images of homosexuals to everyone to change their perspective on us.”
Of note, the Khoa is producing the 15-episode series with minimal equipment: a Canon EOS 600D and a tripod. Further, many of the show’s cast members and staff are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community who have courageously come out, including a recent appearance by makeup artist Cindy Thai Tai, who came out as Vietnam’s first transgender person ten years ago.
The show also features straight cast members, underlining its core intent: to normalize the public’s perception of the LGBT community and offer support to its members to be true to themselves.
Minh Thanh, 19, one of the heterosexual actors on the show, told Tuoi Tre News: “Joining this show, I think I’ve contributed to changing people’s perspective on homosexuals. People were born this way; we should know how to respect each other for who we really are.”
Thanks to efforts like this sitcom, a 1,200 person-strong flashmob that appeared in support of LGBT rights last September, and a shift in the mass media’s representation of the LGBT community, the negative perception surrounding the community in Vietnam is gradually changing for the positive.
Most recently, Swedish international human rights organization Civil Rights Defenders gave a U.S. $6,000 grant for Viet Pride 2013, a celebration slated to take place in Hanoi this August. While the event has yet to be approved by authorities, organizers plan to hold a campaign against LGBT-discrimination in the workplace, alongside a bicycle rally, film screenings and workshops.
In the bigger picture, these efforts are reflected in the possibility that the nation may be Asia’s first to legalize gay marriage, something that would have been hard to imagine not many years ago.