We spotlight VietQ, one of Seattle Foundation’s Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) grantees that is leading the way in coalition building and advocacy for LGBTQIA+ Vietnamese people.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI): This month, we honor the contributions of people and nonprofits advancing equity for people from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora.
“We want to normalize what it means to be a queer Vietnamese person. However, we want to normalize this in a way that is culturally relevant to the Vietnamese community. For many of us on the VietQ Committee, living our authentic lives means compartmentalizing how we dress, behave, and talk to fit the cultural molds of being Vietnamese/Vietnamese American. There is mental anguish, exhaustion, and social anxiety in navigating what we want to express, but oftentimes not having the language to convey what we feel. As first and second-generation Vietnamese Americans, our Vietnamese is a foreign language so we reach for the limited acceptance we get in the Vietnamese community.”Tran Tonnu, Co-Founder of VietQ
VietQ is a Seattle-area nonprofit devoted to empowering and embracing the identities of LGBTQIA+ Vietnamese folks in the Pacific Northwest by raising visibility through awareness campaigns, events, and mentorship.
As a first-time-ever grant recipient through Seattle Foundation’s Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N)grassroots grantmaking program, VietQ was founded in 2019as a coalition to support the LGBTQIA+ Vietnamese community.
Through leadership development, coalition building, mentorship, training and education, culture and the arts, VietQ seeks to normalize what it means to be a queer and transgender Vietnamese person.
They have made significant progress toward their mission by hosting an inaugural LGBTQIA+ Vietnamese “Ban Conference” on February 29, 2020. Outcomes from the conference are serving as a catalyst for sustained conversations and advocacy campaigns focused on increased civic engagement and combating homophobia, transphobia, and cultural norms. “Our conference provided a safe-space for a community that has never had the chance to convene to collectively plan and mobilize,” Tonnu continues.
VietQ shared that “ban” which means friend is also a coded word for “partner.” It is a word in which Vietnamese moms, dads, family members and others describe the partner of a LGBTQIA+ Vietnamese person, and, at the same time, it is the community’s way of showing acceptance.
“We are so grateful to Seattle Foundation for giving us seed money to make this event possible. We had over 150 people in attendance with people from all over including California, New York, and even Canada.”Tonnu
Kendy Trinh and Lana Pham, participants in the Ban Conference and now members of the leadership team, describe what VietQ means to them:
“There is nothing like VietQ in Washington that focuses on Vietnamese queer identity. I wanted to join VietQ leadership because I’ve lacked participation in the Vietnamese community and this gives me the opportunity to actively participate with people I can identify with. The Ban Conference created a welcoming space for all identities, brings together our cultural experience and awareness to things that we might not have thought about and a chance to heal with each other.”Trinh
“VietQ provides a safe community and space for Viet queer and trans individuals to gather, grow and not only appreciate, but maintain, their shared culture. The Ban Conference opened my world to the existence of other people like me. I joined VietQ, because I wanted to build a community that allows other Vietnamese queer and trans people to feel love and be better versions of themselves. Sharing and creating a space with other Vietnamese queer and trans individuals is resistance to white and cis-hetero hegemony.”Pham
In the early formation of VietQ in 2016, they translated healthcare materials for an organization called the “The Q Card”. Translating these materials for Vietnamese people who did not speak English gave them the language needed to disclose their LBGTQIA+ status to healthcare providers. In 2017, VietQ hosted an intergenerational panel and documentary screening of LGBTQ Vietnamese folks to raise visibility and awareness within the Vietnamese community and learn about this community from different perspectives.
Post-conference, the organization has expanded. One of their long term goals is to continue building a large and unified Vietnamese community to provide stronger advocacy for historically marginalized groups, specifically transgender, Black and Indigenous folks. Van Vu, Co-Founder of Ban, shared, “We are aware of our own privileges and the position of power we get to be in. We are committed to uplifting the voices of those most marginalized in our community and know that it’s important for us to have a racial and class lens as we build our organization.”
VietQ is grateful to API Chaya, their fiscal sponsor, and Asian Counseling Referral Service who lent their facilities and resources to help VietQ host their first annual conference.
Like many nonprofits navigating racism sparked by the coronavirus while also practicing social distancing, VietQ is organizing a series of virtual events to build and maintain connections. Their series centers culture, mental health, and community.