For at least 100 years, it has been a tradition of Southern Vietnam on every Tet (Lunar New Year) to pay homage to a gay general of the Nguyen dynasty.
Against that tradition, though, the organizers of this weekend’s Tet Parade sought to not allow a contingency of LGBT Vietnamese to participate in the parade, something they have done for three years straight already. The parade is held with a permit from the City of Westminster, which granted it the exclusive use of public streets for the duration of the event.
Apparently aware that this sort of discrimination could get them all personally sued, the entire organizing committee (the same one involved in shenanigans with Sandy aid money) spent the weekend dodging phone calls from the LGBT groups’ lawyer Luan Tran.
Even Tran Son Ha, a lawyer who’s specifically in charge of participants, told Tran he’s got nothing to do with any decision about the LGBT. The head of the organizing committee, Neil Nguyen, kept delaying talking to Tran, pushing their appointment back and back until Sunday night.
On Monday, representatives of the LGBT groups met with the organizing committee. It became clear very soon that the real power behind the throne was Bishop Van Thanh Tran, of the Lutheran Reform Church Vietnamese, and head of the Vietnamese Interfaith Council. During the lengthy meeting, Neil Nguyen disclosed that if he allowed the LGBT group to march, Bishop Tran’s group would quit the parade and Neil couldn’t afford that.
And when Bishop Tran spoke up, he said the LGBT groups should go “sacrifice themselves for the good of community unity.”
For all that bravado, however, the group never had the guts to give a definite answer. The meeting ended without the organizers ever saying yes or no – which effectively keeps the LGBT group from preparing, considering that the parade is this weekend.
So, just who is the gay general mentioned in the first paragraph? His name is Le Van Duyet, a warrior whose military prowess helped found the Nguyen dynasty, the last dynasty of Vietnam.
The first Nguyen emperor made Duyet the vice-roy of all of southern Vietnam – the area that would become Cochinchina and included today’s Saigon.
Every year, on Tet, his tomb near Saigon is the main congregating point for worshippers seeking good fortune for the new year. “Lăng Ông,” as his tomb is known, is such an obligatory destination for Tet that there is even a group in Little Saigon offering a replica of Lăng Ông for OC Tet revelers.
No words on whether the gay general is banned.