My name is Dung. I’m a man of 28 years living in Vietnam. I’ve gone through a long period of depression and loneliness. For years I wanted to find an answer to this question: ‘Who am I?’ When I was 18, I found out that I felt attracted to men. After my high school I decided to tell my relatives about this and looked forward to receive sympathy and support from them. However, the reaction and unexpected stigma from my own beloved family was a great shock. I felt depressed and decided to move to Ho Chi Minh City to find a peaceful place for my soul.

I had no money, no accommodation, no acquaintance, only a few cloths and books. I found jobs like goods loader and leaflet distributor, to pay for a room and other necessities. In the evening I sat in the park to observe people walking by with their families and lovers. I felt hopeless and lonely, and cried for myself. Because I didn’t have enough money, I often ‘secretly’ attended classes. Several friends and teachers wanted to help me, but also asked me to have sex with them.

Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night and cried my heart out, scratching my body to reduce the ‘gaps’ in my heart. I tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, I threw up all the poisonous drugs and I thanked God for giving me another chance. Then I got a notice from school that I was rewarded a scholarship. For the first time in my life I felt inspired and motivated and I thought: ‘Yes, I am gay, but I have a right to live, to love and to be loved’.

In the evening I sat in the park to observe people walking by with their families and lovers. I felt hopeless and lonely

In 2009, one of my colleagues passed away due to AIDS. I was surprised that I couldn’t see who had HIV and who didn’t have the virus. I started to gather information about HIV and safe sex. In that period, I decided that Ho Chi Minh City was no longer the right place for me and I returned to my hometown. Here together with friends I established CoCoboy, a group of men who have sex with men, with the intention to connect and share information. By the end of 2014, we received funding from a project to support harm reduction and social integration for male sex workers in Vietnam. Our work focuses on health and jobs for more than two hundred men who have sex with men in Ben Tre.

After nearly ten years, my relatives have recognised my efforts and I don’t have to be concerned about stigma from them any longer. Now, my relatives are my companions and support my community work for male sex workers. Every day, I have dinner with my mother and we talk to each other like friends. When I close my eyes and think of my future, I dream of myself happily smiling during a wedding – a wedding of two men being recognised by society.

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