Same-sex couple bonds beyond borders

July 19, 2022 | 15:13
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After travelling halfway around the globe, the young German-Vietnamese same-sex couple Etienne and Thanh will tie the knot in Denmark – a step that is meant to secure their future, not just as a loving couple but also as content creators who want to contribute to improving the LGBTQ+ landscape in Vietnam and the world through their social media presence.
Same-sex couple bonds beyond borders
Thanh and Etienne have been together for around one and a half years

Thanh and I have been together for almost one and a half years now and are happy with our mutual life.

Last November, we started TikTok and YouTube channels to show ourselves and raise awareness for LGBTQ+ issues in Vietnam – an area that has developed rapidly in the last few years, thanks to the efforts of local activists, organisations, and the government, but still needs further improvements.

Despite everything being great so far between Thanh and me, we do have a major problem with staying together in one country in the long run since we have different nationalities.

That is, as a German, I cannot just stay in Vietnam indefinitely. I need a visa, every year. Currently, while I am doing my MA in Vietnamese Studies until the end of 2023, this works out well.

But what comes afterwards?

Heterosexual couples solve this issue by getting married and giving one partner the right to a residence permit. But we can’t do this just yet.

Though Vietnam does not prohibit same-sex marriage anymore since 2015 – which means the country is one of the most advanced ones in all of Asia – there's also no legal recognition of it yet, especially when it comes to a residence permit for me.

Unfortunately, there is also no other territory in Asia where we could marry.

Taiwan has established same-sex marriage in its legal codex since 2019, but this only applies if one person is Taiwanese and the other comes from a territory that also legalised same-sex marriage.

Given Taiwan’s rather restrictive model, Thailand could soon become Asia’s hotspot for couples like Thanh and me. The kingdom’s lower house approved two bills in mid-June that would allow same-sex marriages and also two others that would permit civil partnerships.

However, local activists stated in international media that there would still be a long way to go before these bills would become law.

This means that Vietnam could still take the throne of Asia’s first same-sex marriage capital, if the nation decides to do so.

Same-sex couple bonds beyond borders
Thanh and Etienne publish content under their mutual nickname etivathanh

However, in our personal situation, Thanh and I cannot wait. So, our only chance to stay together for sure is to marry in Europe – or the US or South America, all of which are far away from Vietnam.

But if we want to stay together, there is no other way. Thus, we will travel to Germany and get married in Denmark this summer – a trip that is costly, especially right now as fuel prices have been skyrocketing amid global tensions.

We’ve managed to scrape together what we had to apply for Thanh’s visa, the flight tickets, and arrange the wedding. But to be honest, we’re almost broke now and there are still some essentials missing.

If we were a heterosexual couple, all of this would be so much easier and cheaper. Of course, there would be still the normal annoying paperwork that Vietnamese-German couples generally have to do, but at least we could marry and stay here in Vietnam for the rest of our lives – something that we would both love to do.

But the simple fact that we are a same-sex couple changes everything.

That we are two men loving each other means that we cannot marry in Vietnam yet; that we cannot stay in Vietnam – at least until the final step in the legal framework changes.

By going completely public and telling everyone about our story, we do not just hope for a bit of support but also want to shine a light on this issue.

Surely, there are many, many more couples like us, not just in Germany and Vietnam, but all around the world. The more attention and support same-sex marriage gets, the more we can do for couples like us.

So, Thanh and I started a fundraiser to do two things: Stop worrying about our terrible finances and our future and continue with what we’ve started with our social media presence.

We want to continue raising awareness for the LGBTQ+ community and contributing to slowly improving all of our lives.

Love should not be limited by biological sex or passports, or anything else for that matter.

I believe Vietnam has everything it needs to become one of the most advanced nations in Asia’s and the world’s LGBTQ+ landscape, and I hope that soon, couples from Vietnam and other places can get married right here in this beautiful nation, no matter which gender, nationality, or other differences they might have.

Same-sex couple bonds beyond borders

Thanh and Etienne produce entertaining and educational content around LGBTQ+ topics, life as an international couple, and Etienne’s chosen home, Vietnam. You can find and follow them on TikTok and YouTube by searching for etivathanh or by visiting

If you want to support Etienne and Thanh’s wedding in Denmark, you can do so by scanning the QR code above or following this link and contributing to their ongoing fundraiser.

By Etienne Mahler

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