Elijah Ferrian has a chat with The Amazing Race Asia 5 contestants Nic and Lisa Truong-Marchetto about their new social meetup group Les Come Out . Photo by Vinh Dao.
I’m sitting at Kokois with a couple that has been busy for the past few months, racing against time and other competitors all across Southeast Asia. But we’re not here to talk about television shows. We’re here to talk about ‘Les Come Out’, a burgeoning social meetup group with its sights set on the lesbian community in Saigon.
“We got cast on the race, and we are the first ‘out’ LGBTQ partnership on The Amazing Race Asia.” Nic Truong-Marchetto excitedly tells me. “We’re actually the first ‘out’ couple to be broadcast on any Asian broadcast, ever. We are extremely proud to stand in for that.”
This celebration of individuality and a broader acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Asia compelled the married couple to use that spotlight, however big or small it is, to help give back to the community and transmute the energy into something productive.
Nic is a behavioural analyst that works a lot with autism. She also diagnoses and treats kids with ADHD and other neurological and behavioural issues, and develops programmes for children with language delays.
Lisa helps out the company as business manager, while volunteering much time to assisting with the children.
“We left our life for four or so months,” says Lisa, “and when we came back we decided to prioritise our time into doing something for the community here in Saigon.”
“We never had the time before, and now we do,” adds Nic. “The race made us put a pause on the clinical work we do. We had this little void and then we had this choice to make. Should we resume our work, or should we take this new energy that we’ve been given and make something exciting happen?”
That’s where Les Come Out comes into play. It’s a group founded to throw events and provide safe spaces for the LGBTQ community in Ho Chi Minh City. The couple wants to help people, both expat and local, feel comfortable in their own skin, and plans to create parties and social gatherings tailor-made for lesbians and queer folk to let their individuality run free – with no fear of judgement or criticism.
“We’re not here to promote Les Come Out in order to ‘change’ the culture,” Nic explains. “I don’t think I know what’s best, I just want to get queer women together in one safe space. Sharing stories. Information sharing. Collaborations. Support. And if greater visibility happens, and greater things happen, that would be a great unexpected effect.”
They are currently working with two organisations that have helped make this whole dream become a reality: Trung Tam ICS, and NYNA, or Nu Yeu Nu, ‘women that love women’. They are both organisations that focus on the Vietnamese LGBTQ community at large. They have provided Nic and Lisa with an inroad to the local Vietnamese portion of the community that would have been much harder to connect with had it not been for the groundwork NYNA and Trung Tam ICS have already developed.
“We can’t claim to know what will help other local folks come out.” Lisa and Nic both say. “ We do feel that our partnership with NYNA and ICS are major components to this project. They are integral because of all the data and the experiences they have with understanding the specific issues the locals here face, which could be totally different of what queer people experience in the US. They have an idea of what people may find fun and interesting here. The idea that we could even think about doing this without their help is naive.”
The launch party of Les Come Out will be held at Indika Saigon on 11 October at 8pm. VND100,000 at door. The Amazing Race Asia 5 airs 13 October on AXN