Constructing the Vietnamese Queer Identities : A Hierarchy of Class, Gender, and Sexuality

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Title: Constructing the Vietnamese Queer Identities : A Hierarchy of Class, Gender, and Sexuality
Author: Mai, Thao Yen
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för socialvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2016
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Sociology
Abstract: This qualitative research project studies the way in which the Vietnamese queer youth (including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and genderqueer) conceptualize their identities, and the interplay between their self-conceptualization, gender performance, and their interpretation of roles in relationships. Taken place during a time period when positive changes are taking place in the Vietnamese law regarding queer rights, this study also looks at the activist works of community organizations advocating for queer rights, and how such organizations, through their introduction to notions of rights and diversity, help construct the way young Vietnamese conceptualize queerness. Data from personal interviews suggests that many informants still strongly conform to heteronormativity, gender norms, and an essentialist characterization of queerness, which in turn regulates their gender performances and places restrictions on their romantic relationships. These interviews also paint a fragmented reflection of the Vietnamese queer youth community, with a strong degree of separation among different queer groups, and the emergence of a queer hierarchy informed by class, gender and sexuality. The collected data involves qualitative interviews conducted on seventeen young queer people in Vietnam. Half of these informants are volunteer activists working with an organization for queer rights in Ho Chi Minh City. This research also includes the author’s fieldwork observation and notes on the interactions with the informants outside of the interview settings and into the queer field of Vietnam. Guided by feminist methodology, this qualitative study aims to give a voice to marginalized identities and challenge the dominant gendered and classed structures that grant social acceptance to some queer identities while further marginalizing other queers through the regulation of gender performance and desires.

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