BAOUT! Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen Comes Out as Gay at Reception for Ambassador to Vietnam


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Bao Nguyen speaks on Tet Parade

Then-School Board Member Bao Nguyen speaking out in 2013 in favor of allowing LGBT OC Viets to march in the Tet Parade.

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, who is expected to run for the 46th Congressional district for Congress being vacated by Loretta Sanchez, chose the occasion of the first official visit of openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius to Orange County to thank him for his work on behalf of the Vietnamese people — and , from one gay man to another. for his leadership and as a leading gay political figure.

The news is just an aside in the coverage by the Los Angeles Times of the event (which is worth reading on its own right for multiple reasons):

Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen, who is gay, thanked Osius for his influence as an openly gay ambassador in Hanoi.

He called Osius’ work “crucial because young people in the U.S. and young people in Vietnam want to see each other succeed. What’s missing is that Vietnam’s leaders must recognize the trauma and suffering Vietnamese Americans and the Vietnamese people have endured.”

“But that doesn’t mean we take the extreme position of all or nothing in negotiating,” he added. “If you don’t think you can change, or you can’t heal, there’s no point in being at the table.”

If you blinked while you were reading, you could have missed the reference.  Or a reader could have easily suspected — as this author did — that the Times reporter was basing his story on personal knowledge of matters outside of the public record, or was making unsubstantiated inferences.

But no — OJB has confirmed that the disclosure was intentional.  (The failure of the media to pick up on it, other than a slightly less glancing reference in the Weekly conveying Bao’s desire to be a role model, presumably was not.)  In its own way, it was one of those small events that contribute to the earth-shattering sea change in public awareness and acceptance of gays and lesbians — coming soon to a Vietnamese community near you!

There will be time later on to assess the political implications of this for the 46th CD race, where Bao is likely to be competing among Democrats with Lou Correa and Jordan Brandman.  (Both would lose critical support — including presumably that of Rep. Loretta Sanchez — if they allowed Bao to be gay-baited.)  For now, let’s just say that the race for the 46th just became a much bigger deal than it was before.

Long-time Orange County LGBT activist Jeff LeTourneau — who, in the interest of full disclosure, is this author’s brother-in-law and the husband of a gay Southeast Asian man who has coincidentally been completing his own “coming out to the home culture” process in the past year — was asked for and provided the following statement about this event.

It is statistically proven that the single most empowering thing an LGBT person can do is to come out. This is particularly true when it applies to public officials.  Not only do they serve as a positive role model for the community, but they are in a unique position to change laws and policies, while making it much more difficult for those remaining homophobes like Scott Peotter to continue their incessant demonizing of our community for no other reason than their personal political gain.

(Neither LeTourneau nor anyone else in the LGBT community solicited this story, incidentally.  I called him out of concern that the Times reporter had spoken out of turn.  LeTourneau, who has been in discussions with Bao about his public role as a gay Vietnamese politician for some time, confirmed that Bao was coming out, leading to this story.  A second disclosure: my daughter has been, and probably still is, Bao’s campaign treasurer — something that has not affected a word in this story outside of this very sentence.)

Bao’s decision to be “out and proud” — to go beyond being a supporter of the right of VROC (“Vietnamese Rainbow OC”) to march in the Tet Parade to someone who might now openly be a member — is both gutsier and more consequential than one might think.  Much of the Vietnamese community — much like many other immigrant ethnic communities — has been publicly antagonistic to homosexuality, although there have been many differences within it even among those who publicly disapprove about how to deal with it privately, ranging from acceptance to acceptance if it is kept hidden to expulsion from public homes and ostracism in public.  What this action may mean to people in VROC — and to future LGBT youth who might become a part of it — in incalculable.

Beyond that, it forces a greater change in the Vietnamese-American community that might be immediately apparent.  It’s like a sudden and unexpected checkmate.  What do they do in this situation?  Public rally against the Mayor on account of his sexual orientation?  Not likely, at a time when they don’t need the negative publicity it would bring.  Mutter and grouse behind his back?  They’re entitled to do so, if they must, but the absence of protest — like the absence of strong public protest to the Tet Parade — simply attests to its ineffectuality.  The more culturally conservative Vietnamese-Americans don’t have to like that Bao, and many more like him in the future, are openly gay — but they do have to tolerate it.  (And they also have to tolerate negative responses to whatever bigotry they may express, as Scott Peotter can presumably explain to them.)  That — like last month’s Obergefell decision barring states from refusing to recognize same-sex marriage, is only fair.  And they will get used to it — and be better for it.

But if this is — contrary to Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon 66 years less one week ago — one small step for humanity, it is one giant leap for a man.  Those of us who have known Bao over the years have always known that he was, to some extent, a prisoner to his secret — the sort of thing that can distort someone (although he seems to have weathered it quite well.)  Now he’s no longer bound.  He’s just what he is.  And that’s great.

Bao is now entirely free.  For the second time in your life: welcome to freedom,  Mr. Mayor!

Bao, at his victory celebration last Nov. 30, with a bevy of beauty queens who had come to celebrate with him.

Bao, at his victory celebration last Nov. 30, with a bevy of beauty queens who had come to celebrate with him, looking suave.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)