“Leave with Pride” campaign: A "sick” leave that fights against people's absurd beliefs about LGBTQ+ community

This article is also available in Vietnamese.

Celebrating Pride Month every year, many campaigns worldwide never miss the opportunity to raise their voices in support of the LGBTQ+ community. This year in Vietnam, the "Leave with Pride'' campaign created by agency MullenLowe Singapore and the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE) has joined the wave with a unique approach: proving the paradox of the "pathologizing LGBTQ+'' stereotype.

Join Advertising Vietnam to take a closer look at the "Leave with Pride" campaign - an extremely challenging journey in the hope of bringing about positive changes to society.

A sad reality supposed no longer existed

In fact, in many countries, especially Vietnam, the LGBTQ+ community has always been judged with double standards and considered "sick" people. In 2015, a study called “Is it because I am LGBT” by the iSEE indicated that one out of five LGBTQ+ people is forced to see a doctor to get their “sickness” treated. On the other hand, out of 2362 survey participants, transgender people are the ones who face more discriminatory behaviors than gay and bisexual groups regarding being forced to get medical care (29.3%); to change appearance, gestures (85.9%); and to face behaviors that put pressure on their romantic relationships (35%).

Moreover, about 9.7% of survey respondents stated that their families forced them to go to a shaman to "remove spells" or use medicine to treat their “sickness”. Besides, through recent interviews and more than 28,000 letters sent to the iSEE, people cannot deny that this reality is still happening and seems to last forever unless there is the proper action.

More than 60% of the LGBTQ+ people are forced to change appearance, gestures, are rebuked and put on psychological pressure

In terms of science, many medical literatures have refuted the argument "LGBTQ+ is a disease". According to official information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychological Association (APA), homosexuality/transgender is a factor of an average person, incurable and unallowed to be treated.

However, the application and implementation of international standards still face many shortcomings in Vietnam. In particular, many hospitals and clinics still open services for LGBTQ+ customers and give them "treatment” using hormone therapy, psychological treatment, or medication, which causes irreversible consequences. The fact is that competent Health authorities have also not made any official statement regarding these harmful practices and non-compliance with this international standard. As a result, this leads to many cases that LGBTQ+ people who had healthy status then started to feel depressed, closed off from the community, and, more sadly, committed suicide.

The journey exploring the message "LGBTQ+ is not a disease"

The idea of ​​​​the "Leave with Pride" campaign began with a story about a teacher who told his student to come down with a "gay disease" and advised him to go for "treatment". This story was once reflected in a report in 2020 about the mindset of ​​“pathologizing LGBTQ+” of the Vietnamese. That was why the creative team of MullenLowe Singapore came up with the idea of executing a campaign raising voices against this stereotype. In finding a partner to bring the idea into reality, MullenLowe Singapore found their companion - the iSEE, an organization that has actively contributed to the LGBTQ+ community in Vietnam.

According to studies conducted by the iSEE, consequences such as stigma and discrimination from the idea of "pathologizing LGBTQ+" can be significantly lessened or ended entirely only when the WHO Vietnam officially declares that LGBTQ+ is not is a disease. Understanding the urgency of this issue, MullenLowe Singapore and the iSEE created the “Leave with Pride” campaign to change the negative thoughts of Vietnamese people towards the LGBTQ+ community and invite them to sign in a petition which will be later sent to the WHO. On November 3rd, the campaign "Leave with Pride" was officially launched in the jubilant atmosphere of Pride Month in Vietnam. 

The call for signatures in the petition sent to the WHO Vietnam

After careful consideration related to many aspects, MullenLowe Singapore and the iSEE decided to choose "LGBTQ+ is not a disease" as the primary and only message and #NgungBenhLyHoaLGBTQ+ (Stop pathologizing LGBTQ+) as the call-to-action slogan of the whole campaign. 

As a campaign aiming to solve a social problem, “Leave with Pride” can only make a change when everyone - regardless of gender, age, income,... - responds and spreads the message to the world. However, to achieve this goal more effectively, the campaign targeted two main audience groups:

  • The group of people that need to be changed (the audience that this campaign “reflects”): those who have prejudices about the LGBTQ+ community and use “pseudoscience” as the basis for their bigotry, stating that “I have no intentions of discrimination, but LGBTQ+ is a disease that needs curing".
  • The group that the media targets and calls for action: those who care about the LGBTQ+ community but do not adequately know the reality that many people consider LGBTQ+ as a “disease”.

Social experiment “What happens when being LGBTQ+ is a disease?”

To kick off the campaign, MullenLowe Singapore and the iSEE created a social experiment video asking: "If LGBTQ+ is a 'disease', shouldn’t the “afflicted” be entitled to sick leave?". This short film has driven many angry reactions towards the reality: many LGBTQ+ people are still considered "sick" ones. They have to face many disparaging words and contemptuous attitudes of the managers and colleagues, like knives to their self-esteem.

The social experiment video opening the “Leave with Pride” campaign

In this video, audiences will quickly recognize the absurd double standards reflected in the behaviors of leaders or teachers appearing in the experiment. Using the approach of exposing the injustices happening inside some workplaces and schools where people are supposed to get full support to develop their intellect and mentality, the video has created many discussions around those stigma and discriminatory attitudes stemming from the prejudice of “pathologizing LGBTQ+”.

According to MullenLowe Singapore, the "Leave with Pride" campaign was executed based on a simple idea; however, the journey to bring the concept into reality consisted of many challenges, especially when finding the volunteers. They face many fears before deciding to join because they have not yet revealed their sexual orientation to their families, and participating in the social experiment may also cause new problems in their personal lives. “Fortunately, we were able to get a few of them to facilitate the experiment for us. Their belief in the project’s aim outweighed their apprehensions. Another challenge was carrying out the social experiment itself. Every moment was a risk for the volunteer. Over the few months of working with iSEE and the volunteers, we had learned a lot about the finer details of the things they were facing, and how they overcame challenges”, said Andrew Ho, Associate Creative Director at MullenLowe Singapore.

Step by step to "touch" and change social stereotypes through the “Leave with Pride” campaign

In addition to the film that hit the nail on the head of social stereotypes and received many positive responses, "Leave with Pride" also marked the journey of spreading its meaningful message via three stages:

Video interviewing experts on the issue of "pathologizing LGBTQ+"

Positive signals lighted up by the “Leave with Pride” campaign

After a long journey with many challenges and obstacles regarding many aspects, the efforts of MullenLowe Singapore and the iSEE in the "Leave with Pride" campaign have initially brought positive signals. Phase 1 of the campaign ended on the last day of Pride Month with impressive outcomes. More than 82,000 people have signed to ask the WHO Vietnam to speak up (reaching 160% of the initial target).

The "Leave with Pride" campaign, along with the key message "LGBTQ+ is not a disease" has impacted the stigma and discrimination against the gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender diversity in Vietnam to some extent. The campaign is hoped to put an end to the prejudice of "pathologizing LGBTQ+" in Vietnam. Therefore, forms of "treatment", "gay treatment" will not be allowed to exist, and the volume of discrimination issues will considerably be turned down.

Advertising Vietnam

“Leave with Pride” campaign: A "sick” leave that fights against people's absurd beliefs about LGBTQ+ community

Ngọc Anh

Ngọc Anh

Senior Content | Advertising Vietnam

17 Thg 12 2021


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