Despite intentional omission in recorded history, instances of homosexuality, although rare, did exist in Việt Nam’s history. There is ample amount of carefully kept court documents of Vietnamese kings from the 16th, 17th & 19th centuries who maintained male concubines in their harems or favored male company. The most well-known of these was Khải Định (1885-1925) who, despite having 12 wives, had only one son who was said to be adopted. It was recorded that he liked to dress flamboyantly and made a hobby of designing clothes for himself and his entourages. Most notably, whenever Khai Dinh went to the theater, he would order all female roles to be performed by cross-dressing male actors.

    KING KHẢI ĐỊNH (1885-1925)

    At the end of the 1960s, the Sài Gòn Daily reported the existence of e female prostitution ring catering exclusively to female clientele. Shortly thereafter during the American War era, The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Việt nam recorded that there were 18 gay bars & 3 lesbian bars in Sài Gòn.

    As a Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by Confucian teachings, LGBTQ+ lifestyles are still largely regarded as a social evil. Particular sectors in Vietnamese society view homosexual lifestyles as an unwanted by product of cultural exchanges with Western countries. In rural areas, openly homosexual people and couples are ostracized, often by their own families. In urban areas, living openly as an LGBTQ+ person involves living with a string of perpetual problems of various kinds. Workplace discrimination, unlawful charges, harassment, and hate crimes are all real possibilities and since only segments of LGBTQ+ people are newly recognized by Vietnamese law since the end of 2015, very little protection can be found from law enforcers.


    The first modern homosexual wedding in Sài Gòn was on April 7, 1997 between two men (as reported by Reuters) in a small ceremony in defiance of local protests. The couple’s marriage documents were rejected and in response, homosexual marriage was officially outlawed in 1998. The Marriage & Family Law (2000) also expressly listed homosexual marriages (no relationships) as a forbidden union.

    One recent legal case involving homosexual people involved a wedding between two men on February 8, 2012 in Cà Mau (a province in Mekong Delta). The wedding was witnessed by both grooms’ parents and thousands of protesting locals. The wedding was stopped by police and the couple was charged a fine and sent for re-education. Citing the Marriage and Family Law of 2000, councilman of the National Lawyers’ Association, Trương Xuân Tâm declared that the police had no cause to arrest and fine the grooms, since they had never submitted a marriage form to the government and their wedding held only cultural significance.

    After months of extensive legal lobbying and campaigning by ICS (Information, Connecting & Sharing, an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & questioning (LGBTQ+) people in Vietnam) iSEE (institute of studies of Society, Economy & Environment) & 6 other LGBTQ+ groups in 2013, the newest version of the Marriage & Family Law, updated in 2014, has made international news by abolishing the clause that outlawed homosexual marriages in the 2000 version. Thanks to a new law, Việt Nam will no longer be able to prohibit same-sex couples from entering into unions. However, the law does not go as far as recognizing same-sex unions and granting LGBTQ+ couples with equal marriage rights. Rather, the law more or less turns a blind eye to same-sex unions. Same-sex marriages can now take place, though the government does not recognize them or provide legal protections in cases of disputes. The government abolished fines that were imposed on homosexual weddings in 2013.


    In November 2015, in an unprecedented move, the Vietnamese national assembly has approved a new law legally recognizing and protecting the right of transgender people. This is seen as the greatest step forward for LGBTQ+ advocacy in Việt Nam. This has had and will continue to have a very positive impact on the transgender community - they now have the freedom to be who  they are and  be accepted, supported, and protected by the law. Similarly, this is also beneficial for the LGBTQ+ community as it is a proof that our rights campaigns  have begun to gain definite success.







    NDP Khanh. (2016, June). Pride. Ơi, 40-49.

    Published 20/07/2016 Viewed 3382 Category LGBTQ+
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