rainbows, hammers, and sickles

What is it like being gay in communist Vietnam?

Man texts on his phone with the bright lights of Saigon in the background.

Vietnam’s queer scene is thriving with many trendy bars, vibrant cafes, underground parties, exuberant drag shows, and even a proposed law to make LGBTQ+ people more accepted. We spoke with various gay people about what it’s like living in a communist country as a queer person.

April_licious adorned in all silver dances on a pole at her party Sassy Gay Socials  in Hanoi.
Photo by @april_licious


  • Occupation: English Teacher and drag queen in Hanoi
  • Home Country: The Philippines
  • Age: I’ll never tell
  • Social Media: april_licious

What was the drag scene like when you first moved to Hanoi?

Well, when I first moved to Hanoi there wasn’t much of a scene, in my opinion. The girls throwing parties weren’t very social and when they found out I was doing drag, they sent me a f*cking list of rules! Can you imagine? I tore it up and said, “Drag doesn’t have rules!” and they banned me from the collective. So I started throwing my own parties (which are well attended, I might add), and I get gigs all the time. I think the biggest issue is that there isn’t much crowd participation. I tell all the girls, “you gotta mingle after your number!” I hope that changes.

Hiro poses in front of flowers in a blue suit in Hanoi.
Photo by @Hiroki_Ian


  • Occupation: Full-time dandy (and Hotel Manager in Hanoi)
  • Home Country: Japan
  • Age: 27

What was it like coming out at work?

I had no problems or issues when I came out at work. When I first came back to Hanoi after working overseas there were four or five gay people working in my department, some out and some not. I was just living my open gay life, and I actually inspired one of my colleagues to come out of the closet. He hadn’t told anyone before. I think that I spread the positive vibes that there isn’t anything to worry about.

Phat's red hair matches the lanterns  as he poses in the lush garden of his bungalows on Phu Quoc Island Vietnam.
Photo by author


  • Occupation: Copywriter and property manager of bungalows on Phu Quoc Island
  • Home Country: Vietnam
  • Age: 25

I met a lot of gay men that are taking PrEP. Is it easy to get? Are you taking it?

I was taking PrEP in Saigon, but there isn’t anyone here (on Phu Quoc) to hook up with, so I’m not taking it. Hahaha. It’s super easy to get though. You just go to the STI clinic and you can get it for free easily.

Winnie Wakanda's bedazzled eye makeup shines against her purple hair and lip makeup.
Photo by @winniewakanda

Winnie Wakanda

  • Occupation: English teacher and drag queen in Hanoi
  • Home Country: South Africa
  • Age: 31
  • Social Media: @winnie_wakanda

What is it like being black, a gay man, a drag queen, and a foreigner in Vietnam?

To be honest, I think that I am lucky. I found my community two or three months after moving to Vietnam. Back home in South Africa, those questions would be so loaded with a lot of negative answers, but here I don’t feel like I have as many identity problems as I would back home. There is a lot of tolerance here, and I don’t want to say acceptance because same-sex marriage isn’t legal, but the tolerance is off the charts in my opinion.

Ouissam poses with sunglasses and an open shirt by the pool with a backdrop of terracotta shingled buildings.
Photo by @ouissam.jpeg


  • Occupation: DJ and co-owner of Savage (Hanoi)
  • Home country: France (First generation Algerian)
  • Age: 38
  • Social Media: @ouissam.jpeg

What makes you attracted to the electronic music scene in Hanoi, and what kind of response are you getting from the queer community?

Before Vietnam, I was living in Hong Kong, but I felt that I could contribute more to the music community by moving to Hanoi and creating a safe space for everyone. Saigon, Hong Kong, and other bigger cities already had venues. (Like the Lighthouse and the Observatory in Saigon) This is why we picked Hanoi over Saigon. I knew that a space like Savage was much needed over here, and we really saw the result when Snug was naturally created a few months after the Savage opening. Peach, the drag crew, found us a year later, and we decided to join forces by offering a monthly Snug X Peach party, and we developed a strong relationship by having takeovers at Equation Festival (a yearly cave festival outside of Hanoi) or in Thailand at the Wonderfruit Festival.

Tin takes a selfie on a balcony overlooking the streets of Saigon.
Photo by Tin Le Nguyen


  • Occupation: Freelance tour guide in Saigon
  • Home country: Vietnam (Mekong Delta )
  • Age: 21 forever just kidding I’m 43

What is the joke behind “21 forever?”

In Vietnamese, the word 21 is the same as “whore.” So all the gays say that we are 21 forever. Whores forever!

Tell me a memorable story about being a gay tour guide.

Well, actually I met my last boyfriend when I was at the airport waiting to pick up a tour. The people never showed up for my tour and I saw this guy who was waiting for his tour guide that never showed up. We ended up talking and I offered to take him into the city for free. He repaid me with dinner and I didn’t even know he was gay until I ended up staying over at his place. The next day I quit my job and he cancelled the tour he was on. It was fate.

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