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Vietnamese LGBT groups fear exclusion from Tet parade

Tet parade
A coalition of Vietnamese gay and lesbian groups is concerned it won’t be able to participate in the nation’s only Tet parade, held each year on the Lunar New Year in bustling Little Saigon.

The colorful procession, scheduled for Feb. 10, draws about 10,000 people and dates back nearly three decades. It typically attracts political leaders and civic leaders in Orange County's Vietnamese community.

For three years, LGBT groups have marched in the parade, but this year parade organizers said they first wanted to meet with the group. But no time or place for the meeting has been set.

In past years, the parade has been financially supported by Westminster, but due to a $10-million budget shortfall, the city dropped out as a sponsor this year. The Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California helped raise $60,000 in a few weeks to keep the parade going.

On Monday, the Partnership of Viet Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organizations submitted an application and paid a fee of $100 to parade organizers, said Pierre Tran, of the Gay Vietnamese Alliance.

Parade organizers said they wanted to meet with the gay and lesbian coalition, but have yet to schedule a time or place, Tran said.

“We just want to present ourselves like ordinary people,” Tran said. “We just want to be part of it. We don’t want to be seen as foreigners or the black sheep of the community.”

The first year LGBT groups marched in the parade, several Vietnamese religious organizations boycotted the event. In subsequent years, religious groups have continued to oppose the group’s presence.

“I think there is a segment of our community, because of their religious faith, that thinks that being LGBT is an abomination or unnatural,” said Gina Masequesmay, chairwoman of the Asian-American Studies Department at Cal State Northridge.

She has marched in the parade the last three years.

“For us to march, it's being too ‘out there’ for them,” she said. ‘But we have to be out there to show that this is OK.”

The federation's president, Nghia X. Nguyen, did not return a call seeking comment.

Minh Tran, who coordinates a support group for Vietnamese members of the LGBT community, said he believed the coalition is being excluded “by default.”

Tran acknowledged that homosexuality is a delicate issue in the Vietnamese community, but he said it is more of a reason to have the groups march.

“It’s very empowering for people to see representation,” he said.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz and Anh Do

Photo: Carrying the flag of the fallen country of South Vietnam, member of a youth group march in the Tet parade in 2001. Credit: Francine Orr/LA Times.

 
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