The Boy from Vietnam
I wanted to make clear that I was inspired to write these posts when I started meeting people who I found interesting, or who I have a story to share about my encounters with them. I'm not insinuating that I have romantic encounters with them, they just were the inspiration for that post. For the details, you'll have to buy my tell-all life memoir one day, haha.
⚠️ Trigger Warning: Transphobic Language Used Below ⚠️
The other day I was hosted through an app called Couchsurfing. Essentially Couchsurfing is "a hospitality service and social networking website. The website provides a platform for members to stay as a guest at someone's home, host travellers, meet other members, or join an event." (Source: Couchsurfing.com) I received the offer from a guy travelling to Berlin from Munich. Let's call him Martin. Martin offered the couch of his Air Bnb to me and let me know he was also hosting a student from Rotterdam, Netherlands (originally from Vietnam) who we'll call Theo.
I know what you're probably thinking...this doesn't sound safe. But before accepting the offer, I looked through both of their Couchsurfing profiles. Both of them have verified profiles; meaning they uploaded their Government ID, Credit Information and paid a fee to have a check done to make sure they're who they say they are. I noticed that the both of them had been using Couchsurfing for several years, they all had positive references from people who hosted them before and everything in their profile looked okay–if anything, my profile was the only one that was sketchy looking. No references, no hosts or verifications, so, I accepted Martin's request.
The main motivator for writing this blog post is something I've noticed about the people I have met this far on my trip. Coming from downtown Toronto I have been exposed to some important human rights and social activism movements. The overall social climate in most metropolitan areas of Canada is acceptance. Not only acceptance but awareness. Opinions are mixed, with a lot of the older generations claiming us to be the snowflake generation. We're often told that we're too sensitive and as a generation, we have a problem with everything. When speaking specifically about gay rights, we have to remember that the first 'pride parade' was a protest. If people didn't speak up, if people didn't challenge what others say, then nothing would change.
So this brings me to the evening at the Martin's Airbnb. We had just gotten back from an amazing Asian/Thai infusion restaurant. I had ordered the Sambal Chicken which was probably one of my best meals since I've been here. When we got back, we were chatting over a bottle of wine and everyone was seeming to enjoy themselves. Martin was sharing his interesting travel stories about riding on the back of an elephant and seeing the sunrise in Hanoi. Theo was sharing stories about growing up in Vietnam and the controlled chaos of their intersections. At one point Martin was sharing a story about when he encountered a transgender female at a store. To give you more perspective; Martin was born, raised and lives in Munich, and is bisexual. Theo, born and raised in Vietnam is now living in Rotterdam attending school, he is gay. As soon as Martin began his story it was bothering me. Writing the words he used, bothers me. He introduces this lady in his story as "So this lady, was a shemale.." and Theo added, "You mean like a chick with a dick?". These are two members who claim themselves to identify under the umbrella of LGBTQ+ and they were using such derogatory words to describe this woman (which the fact that she is Transgender has no relevance to the story, so I don't understand why he had to mention it). I corrected the both of them, just by saying "transgender". Martin discredited me and said "Chick with a dick, shemale, transgender, whatever.." and continued with his story. I again just politely mentioned, "No, if you guys said that shit back in Canada to the wrong person, you'd get your ass handed to you." They didn't seem phased by it and just continued on with the story. It didn't become a huge deal, and I ended up leaving early the next morning. At no point did I feel unsafe, or like I couldn't leave the place, I just had a bad taste in my mouth.
This wasn't the first bit of discrimination I had witnessed while in Europe. I have a couple more stories of things I've seen that makes me upset and angry to see but I'll save those. I'm hoping to find some friends here who are more open-minded and accepting of others.
Since then I have been having a good past day or so. I have something exciting to share with everyone in the next day or so. Also, want to say a HUGE thank-you to everyone who has reached out to me since I started this blog. I've been blown away by the response I'm getting, from people I haven't spoken to in awhile, and close friends and family. Your words keep me motivated to explore and discover, thank you. Till then, go have yourself a beautiful Sunday! Sending love from this side of the world.