Hello. My name is Cong Hien Nguyen. Born in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) in 1985, I moved to Quebec at the age of six with my parents and my older sister. For my parents, who have lived through the war, Quebec represents a democratic and pluralistic society where my sister and I can reach our full potential. I know that for my parents, it also means starting from scratch in exchange of a better future for us, their children. Quebec was the land of welcome for my mom’s entire family who emigrated from Vietnam in the 70s and 80s to escape the war and its aftermath. My father’s entire family also left Vietnam for the United States a few years before us. My family was the last to leave the country. I still vividly remember my arrival in Montreal – Mirabel. It was in March ‘91. From the window of the plane, I saw the snow. It was immaculate, shimmering and perfect. As I stepped outside, I discovered the cold of winter.
My adaptation to the Quebec way of life was relatively easy, despite the linguistic gap that separated us in the beginning. To master the French language, I copied the children’s books and memorized the rules of grammar and conjugations of Bescherelle. Being a shy boy and not having many friends, I spent my time building Lego brick houses like if I was an urban planner or an architect. At the age of 12, I received my first computer, courtesy of a generous uncle. I was not much interested in computer games. I was rather having fun repairing the computers for family relatives and friends. Being a methodical guy, I liked helping my classmates understand the material one module at a time, and I was also being recognized in high school as the guy who knows how to fix computers. This status gave me a certain respect on the part of all. I made my coming-out to a few close girl friends in secondary 3 and slowly, I revealed my secret to others. I have never been bothered by my homosexuality – almost the whole school knew it – although I did not show it either.
I chose to go into computer science at the college level, even though architecture was a field that fascinated me more than computer science – for a 17-year-old, I made my choice based to the number of years of study. Computer science is an area where male representation is the majority. But this did not stop me from being who I am. I discovered the Village and the nightclubs with co-workers when I worked at Les Ailes de la Mode, a time in my life where I met many people of diversity. I will always remember my 19th birthday when I brought fifteen straight friends to the Village. For me it was a highlight because I had reached a point in my life where I was comfortable with my sexual orientation. I met my first boyfriend while I was at university through a dating website. My friends encouraged me to join, but I did not see the relevance. For me, this kind of site only creates ephemeral relationships. Well, it’s been 12 years since I’ve been with him.
At the professional level, I have been working in the IT department for a major mining company for over 11 years. I came out to my bosses from the beginning because this aspect of me should not be taboo. I am a guy who values transparency and sincere relationships. I have always participated in the social events of the company with my boyfriend. At first, I was a little uncomfortable to be photographed with him. The discomfort was quickly dispelled. The openness of my workplace has contributed a lot.
My contact with Fierté agricole started at one of those Christmas dinners that Maria organized to bring gay farmers together; a true revelation and blessing! For an urban guy like me who is open about his homosexuality, I discovered that this is not the chance for everyone has. My contact with Maria, a very inspiring lady, made me open my eyes to the importance of helping these men and women who often work in solitude to feed the population. But what is my link with agriculture? My link can be established through my boyfriend who was a farmer. I was among the founding members in 2012 and my boyfriend was one of the directors. Not wanting to be left behind, I was involved in all activities as a volunteer and took part in Community Days to promote the mission of the organization. Since April 2017, I sit on the Board of Directors of the organization because I believe that I can give more by being actively involved. I believe in the human dimension of the organization where we make a difference to one person at a time, one link created at a time and one bridge built at a time across the province.
Life has not always been easy for me and today, I realize the tremendous opportunity to be a privileged person thanks to the welcoming host society of Quebec. Thank you. It’s now my turn to help others.