Vietnam: The archive that celebrates a secret LGBT culture

“This boy – his life is so overwhelming,” Dinh Nhung sighs, handing over a photograph of a teddybear, the stuffing bleeding from its ripped seams. Its 22-year-old owner, whose family would not accept that he is gay, travelled illegally to Russia to work in a sweatshop, but returned after seeing a man shot dead by police in the street.

“When my father was shouting at me, my mother also cut my favourite things,” reads the caption. “She cut this teddy bear on its neck and legs. However, the scissors were not sharp enough. She cut, but not completely.”

“Cut, but not completely” is a thread that runs through many of the stories that Nhung and her colleagues at Hanoi’s Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) have painstakingly archived since 2009. From love between prisoners in re-education camps, to domestic violence, to the daily hardships borne by sex workers and those living with HIV, the collection is an unflinching account of the struggles and frequent despair experienced by Vietnam’s LGBT community, past and present. But other stories are happier – or, at least, more defiant.  Read more via the Guardian