[Humans of Courage] Nguyen Trong Hung - Leader of the MSM community in Son La
27 November 2019
Before coming out, I felt that my life was drenched in sorrow and pressure…
“While in middle school, realizing that I was a gay, the only thing I could do was to torment and blame myself…
That was part of the painful childhood memory that I always want to forget. My father left, my mom 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 grow up: I wander a lot as a way to avoid my family and all the memories that come with.
One time when I returned home, I noted down everything about my daily life in a diary and pretended to have forgotten it at a visible place with hopes that a family member could read it. Perhaps everybody had read it, but no one said a thing… I was walking in limbo for a while between the decisions to come out or not come out.
Until 2013, when a friend invited me to work in a coffee shop in Son La and later to join a project carried out by the Red Cross of Son La province, I, for the very first time, discovered my true voice and a community that I belonged to. I do not have to run away anymore!
When sufficient resources were available, I opened my own coffee shop and turned it into a gathering place for the LGBT community in Son La. It is a truly unique café as we even have quick HIV screening testing service there! As the leader of the MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) community, my roles are consulting and supporting customers, communicating to change people’s behaviors and most importantly, helping HIV patients to access appropriate treatment. Over the last year, I had found and transferred around 50 HIV cases in the MSM community, including also people who inject drugs and sexual partners of people living with HIVto adequate medical treatment.
It has been 6 years since the time I arrived in Son La and have been together with the community there. Before coming out, I felt that my life was drenched in sorrow and pressure… Yet after having recognized my true self, I have become much more open, known how to properly deal with discrimination and actively supported other community members in understanding and protecting themselves. Perhaps with all the pressure taken off my shoulder, my life has now become an open book!
If there were 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 confidently and proudly come out to my family as gay” - Nguyen Trong Hung - Leader of the MSM community in Son La