Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gay in Vietnam

I saw the boy again yesterday.

This time he took me swimming. He was explaining to me gay culture in Vietnam. Like anywhere else, there are many types of gays.

"Bong" or shadow of a person, shiny, refers to those who are girly. But there are more discrete ones. I was beginning to piece together what it meant to be gay in this country.

My expat cousin told me before that gays are aggressive here, they stare and touch with no remorse or fear. Earlier in the day I made eye contact with a boy ... he said bye and as I drove pass him on my motorbike, he smiled at me and I smiled back.

I asked the boy I was with how gay people meet each other.
"At clubs, bars, cafes... there is no one spot, they're just everywhere."

This guy jumps into the pool.
"He's gay."
"How do you know?"
"Because he's staring at us... here, let me go ask him." My jaw dropped. How can you be so frank. I stayed on the other side of the pool. When I had enough courage to return I asked him what happened.
"Yup, he's gay."
"You asked him!?"
"No, but he touched me... he touched my wrist with his and my ankle with his.... a lot of boys want me."

Another culture shock.


We spent the rest of the time in the pool talking about body image.
"So guy guys in Vietnam like skinny. Everything needs to be tight... that guy over there, he has a nice body." He pointed to mr.bones.
"He's too skinny, he doesn't have a chest."
"True, but everything is tight." I began to wonder if being attractive meant being boyish. What does masculine mean in Vietnam?
I began to realize that the pool was full of guys checking each other out.
The boy continued, "there are three parts that are attractive physically: chest, stomach, ass." I guess biceps aren't important here.

"If you have a body, a personality and a great job, you'll never be lonely." This was an interesting philosophy.


"There are a lot of gay people here. A lot who are married. Those who consider themselves "tops" have a choice.. they can be with a man or a woman, they are the ones that have families and sleep with men on the side. 'Bottoms' on the other hand... can never love women because they are woman..."

I tried to argue, but I didn't have the vocabulary to justify my argument.


"I had a boyfriend in Taiwan.. he was SO CUTE" Everytime he mentioned Taiwan, he was slip against the pool wall. "He invited me to go to the states with him... he'd take care of everything."

I taught him the term sugar daddy. He was amused.

"I don't talk to him, long distance doesn't work. How can you love someone you don't interact with physically?"

"Now that I agree with."

I push the water off my face.
"Let me get you some medicine... for your acne."
"Oh yeah... I gave up a long time ago... I really don't care."
"Well, skin is important in Vietnam"
"Anywhere else too, but I've tried everything trust me... and I don't let it get me down." Or at least I try not to.
"You're right, there's more to a person.. definitely. But I'm not going to lie, I think being physically attractive is important." I thanked him for his honesty. I've heard too often how people say 'personality' outways looks, but you need to stop kidding yourself. Stop trying to radiate good character when you know looks are just important to you.


"So, I'm fat, huh."
"No! You have a chest and an ass... two out of three.. that's good enough." I looked at his body. He had no chest, no ass, some abs. Earlier he gloated about how people liked his body. I guess because it was "tight." But malnutrition seems more appropriate.

He bought me a coconut drink on addition to the pool entrance ticket. As I rode on the back of his motor bike, it rained and i put my head on his back to shield my face.
"haha, I guess so, but I think the coffee shop with the live music was more romantic."
"really!? couples never go there..."
"Why not?!"
"Cuz they can't kiss and do couple things.."

I tried to explain that it doesn't matter... just being there with a person makes it romantic... but once again, I lacked the vocabulary to make my case.

He dropped me home. He didn't pick my pocket, he didn't take me down a dark alley. He didn't tie me up and try to convert me to communism.

He just took me home and said good bye and I wanted to hug him for a second for being so nice, but I don't know what either of our intentions are.

So there you have it... I am gay in Vietnam.


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