My multimedia website Dynamic Issues in Multiple Identities of Vietnamese Americans in Race, Gender, and Sexuality allows me to think about different ways that a website can be used to discuss the complexity of queer Vietnamese American identities. This includes lesbian, bisexual women, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ) of multi-generational Vietnamese Americans and adoptee Vietnamese Americans, Chinese Vietnamese Americans, Vietnamese Amerasians, and other mixed-heritage Vietnamese in greater Seattle. As a “straight” woman of color, I do not claim this website to be representative of all queer Vietnamese Americans. Instead, it enables the exploration how queer Vietnamese Americans deal with specific homophobic issues in the Vietnamese American community in greater Seattle as well as racial discrimination in mainstream society.
In the article, “Landmarks in Literature by Asian American Lesbians,” Karin Aguilar-San Juan states:
I feel a responsibility to acknowledge the positive accomplishments of our community – a community that is harmonious as well as conflicted, cohesive as well as rife with personal animosities and petty rivalries…We need to continue developing our own specifically lesbian venues, where being lesbian is neither secret nor taboo and where we can freely explore our own experiences. In the meantime, I believe the Asian American feminist community (including our writers) is making progress against homophobia. (Juan 937 - 939)As in the case of Juan who came out in her Asian American community, many queer Vietnamese Americans - either “coming out” or “in the closet” - have actively engaged in community projects as activists to help building community, yet they still face homophobia and have difficulty asking for equality in their marginalized Vietnamese American community.
According to Joan Varney, the word queer includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals. He argues: “Queer analysis contests the operation of the normal by revealing that any sexuality, including homosexuality, is not natural or normal, but a product of discourse” (Varney 87). Like Varney, D. Eng and A. Hom assert that the term queer represents a “political practice based on transgressions of the normal and normativity rather than a straight/gay binary of heterosexual/homosexual identity” (Eng and Hom 1). In contrast, the notion of queer identities makes no sense and the term queer is inappropriate in Vietnamese language because in the Vietnamese traditional culture, heterosexual orientation is proper while other sexual experiences are considered immoral. Most Vietnamese American parents expect their children to grow up heterosexual because they have no or little revelation to queer characteristics. Often, a sense of oddity and frustration emerges when Vietnamese American children come out to their families.
This multimedia website offers opportunities for networking to bring queer Vietnamese Americans together in a positive, accepting and safe space for discussions about sexual orientation without the fear of judgment. The Internet offers a safe cyber-room and anonymity to explore queer Vietnamese American personalities, queer longings, and other aspects of complex queer identities in Seattle or elsewhere. In her article,“Head-Hunting on The Internet: Identity Tourism, Avatars, and Racial Passing in Textual and Graphic Chat Spaces,” Lisa Nakamura argues that:
Cyberspace is a place of wish fulfillments and myriad gratifications, material and otherwise, and nowhere is this more true than in chat spaces. Both textual and graphic chat spaces encourage users to build different identities, to take on new nicknames, and to describe themselves in any way they wish to appear. (32)
In my website, digital technology via the World Wide Web is utilized as an instrument to incorporate different media objects – such as images, text, video, and especially, chat-rooms –that allow users to communicate with each other in real time. For example, messages can be sent and received instantly, and users also have options for anonymous discussions. In a healthy situation, the Vietnamese American community in the greater Seattle area should be united as a strong ethnic community and queer longing should be treated courteously and equally. The contemporary Vietnamese American cultural identities including language, food, politics, art, history, dialogue, and community building should help define contemporary queer Vietnamese American identity in cyberspace and distinguish it from other queer minority identities in the mainstream capitalist U.S. culture. In reality, the sense of queer belonging in Vietnamese American community has yet to be fully explored.
My website aims to explore how queer Vietnamese Americans in Seattle and other cities resist heterosexual supremacy to lead their own liberation from the mainstream society where minor racial, ethnic, gender and sexual statuses are stigmatized by the dominant and white LGBTQ population; to address the ways that LGBTQ individuals give voice to Vietnamese marginalized minorities asking for equality; and to examine the connection between race, gender, and sexuality of queer Vietnamese American personal identity politics. In building a strong Vietnamese American ethnic community to advocate progress for social change, I believe that Vietnamese Americans in greater Seattle should fight against homophobia and that the complexity of queer Vietnamese American identities should be appreciated in order to respect the principle that everyone is born equal and deserves equal rights. The information for this project comes from email conversations, journals containing oral histories, online articles, and research theses on the subject.