How to come out when ‘gay’ isn’t in your language? LGBT website provides translation resources for sexual minorities in Asia

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02/14/2021

When 13-year-old Tien wants to tell his mother he’s gay, he goes to the library. But he quickly realises there aren’t any appropriate words for homosexuality in Vietnamese. He eventually finds a mix of words in his native language and English to confide in his mother, who is not very conversant in English. Tien is the protagonist of The Magic Fish, a graphic novel for young adults by Vietnamese-American writer Trung Le Nguyen, published in October last year. Inspired by Nguyen’s own story, it draws on his struggle to find the right words to express same-sex attraction and non-binary identities in the absence of such vocabulary in his mother tongue. Unfortunately, this is a quandary faced by a large number of people in the LGBT community: access to relevant information, a great deal of which is online but only in English. For millions across Asia, it is a monumental problem. The less widely spoken the language, the smaller the number of reliable sources of useful information.

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