Viet Rainbow of Orange County’s story began with five members who got together with a shared objective; the ability to celebrate with the Vietnamese American community in the annual cultural Tet Parade and represent the vibrant Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender brothers and sisters. In late January 2013, under the Partnership of Vietnamese American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organizations, the Viet Rainbow of Orange County (VROC) submitted a participatory application to participate in the Tet Parade 2013 of Little Saigon. The group’s application was not accepted and was told by the organizer, the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, “LGBT is not part of Vietnamese culture.”
During many negotiation attempts, the organizers demonstrated outright discrimination by proposing compromises that would effectively marginalize the Viet LGBT contingent. The group utilized a multi-pronged approach, maximizing our campaign to not only be in the parade but to educate and bring visibility to the community about LGBT issues. We presented our stories to Vietnamese American and mainstream news media including newspapers, television, and radio shows. Garnered support came from local and state politicians, and more than 25 local, state, and national organizations including the ACLU, LAMBDA Legal, and Equality California. Ultimately, a court injunction with the Orange County Superior Court was filed; however, due to the existing private event laws the court could not force the parade organizers to include the Viet LGBT contingent.
On February 10, 2013, over 250 Viet LGBT contingent and allies came roaring with pride. Although sidelined, we demonstrated our existence as members of the community and demanded that our voices be heard. Our vibrant presence represented human diversity and the continued transformation of the Vietnamese diaspora.
Our work continued after the parade. We collaborated and strategized with the Westminster City Council members, City Attorney and city representatives; advocating for a non-discriminatory clause amendment to be included in the city’s special permits. The contingent attended three council meetings urging the city to protect all of its citizens and stand for equality. On March 27,2013, the city essentially maintained status quo and did not amend a non-discriminatory clause or change their special permit processes. The city ultimately demanded that the Tet Parade organizers pay upwards of $18,000 in legal fees.
In retrospect, what was a demonstration of discrimination was in actually one out of fear. And with this in mind, members of the Viet LGBT contingent came together to formally form Viet Rainbow of Orange County, a community-based organization that works to empower the communities to support a more equitable, safe, and unified Viet diaspora and expand its voice in the broader society. Through engagement, education, advocacy, and supportive services, we work to promote positive visibility of the LGBT community to eliminate fear and inspire compassion and affirmation.
Today, Viet Rainbow of Orange County continues to create a collective sense of family and community within our community as well as the community at large. VROC has been highlighted by many well known sources including LA Times, OC Register, GLAAD, NPR-KPCC, and Associated Press through the organization’s work to fight for inclusiveness of Viet LGBTQ constituents. The organization currently models on the pillars of advocacy, outreach/education, community service, and programming.