The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, a regional network of LGBTIQ organizations in Southeast Asia, in cooperation with ICS of Vietnam, organized a “Regional Workshop to Promote Family Acceptance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Persons in ASEAN” from 22 to 23 February 2017 in Brentwood Suites, Quezon City. The workshop was organized around the idea that families play a key role in the lives of every LGBTIQ person.

“Southeast Asia is a place of great diversity,” Ryan Sylverio, Regional Coordinator of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, explains. “And what we want is simple: that people in Southeast Asia embrace that diversity, including sexual and gender diversity.”

The workshop brought together LGBTIQ organizations from across Southeast Asia and featured members of Vietnam’s PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) as key resource speakers. One of the key objectives of the workshop was to provide a space to share good practices in promoting family acceptance for LGBTIQ persons, and help participants develop plans of action at the national and regional levels.

“It is not up to debate that LGBTIQ people whose families accept them are happier and live better lives,” Dr. Judy Taguiwalo, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said in her keynote speech where she also called on local government units to support campaigns to promote acceptance of LGBTIQ people. “We cannot separate LGBTQI rights from the larger human rights struggle.”

Among the key issues highlighted by participants were the challenges in reconciling LGBTIQ issues with cultural norms surrounding family, engaging with religious communities, and providing safe spaces for parents and other family members to share their concerns and fears openly.

Nguyet, one of the parents from PFLAG Vietnam who had a transgender son and a gay son, called on everyone to engage with families and left the participants with a parting message: “Live true to yourself. Love will heal everything in the end. We will keep sending to you our love from Vietnam.”