Participation in sports can highlight injustices faced in Asian LGBT communities, said Amazin Lêthi, a gay Vietnamese-American activist, speaking in San Francisco earlier this month.
Lêthi was born in Saigon and raised in the US, Europe, and Australia; she describes being bullied for being different, and channelled her energy into body-building, in which she became a successful competitor and later a fitness author.
"I use sport as a platform to share my own story and in the hope that will inspire other API [Asian and Pacific Islander] people to come out within the community and within the ethnic community," she told The Bay Area Reporter. "Through the language of sport, I can bring you into my conversation about social issues."
Lêthi pointed out that at events with professional athletes, she is still often the only LGBT person and the only Vietnamese person present.
Lêthi's foundation, named for her, became the first organization in Asia to award scholarships to homeless Vietnamese youth. Funded by international governments, corporations and celebrities, it also does leadership training with the same youth.
Vietnam removed its ban on same-sex marriage three years ago, but also never formally legalised such relationships, meaning that while gay people can get married, the government will not recognise the union.
Lêthi's concern is the treatment of LGBT youth in schools, particularly the "discrimination, bullying and violence" they experience.
Citing the importance of pride events, which can be sparsely attended in Vietnam, Lêthi said, "even if it's just 20 people, it's showing a presence within the community that rainbow people exist."