Tuan Nguyen and Richard Bingham both love the water, so it’s not surprising that they met while swimming at the Athletic Centre. Twenty-six years later, U of T is still a big part of their lives. “We exercise here, and it’s our intellectual and cultural centre,” says Richard (BA 1976 VIC, MLS 1980), who runs a language school not far from the St. George Campus. Tuan (BSc 1987 VIC) is a research analyst with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
Tuan: I left Vietnam in a boat with an older brother and sister. I was 15 and all I had was a pair of shorts. On the South China Sea, we ran into pirates and storms. People were dying. It was such a shock for me, and as soon as we got on land I swore that I would never set foot in a boat again.
But in the summer after I met Richard, he took me on a camping trip in Georgian Bay in a 15-foot open boat. Everything was fine until, a couple of days in, we ran into a storm. We made a wrong turn, the boat hit a rock and everything flashed back. I almost had a nervous breakdown. Richard stopped the boat, set up the tent, heated up some mushroom soup and opened a can of pineapple and some ham. Right then I knew he was my captain, my matelot. I knew that I could trust him with my heart.
Richard: Tuan’s father is a goldsmith in Vietnam. He had made wedding rings for each of his 10 children, except Tuan. One day a few months after gay marriage became legal in Canada, Tuan and his father had dinner together. His father told Tuan he would consider it a great honour if he could make wedding rings for us. Tuan and I had never even talked about getting married. But once it came up we said, “Sure, why not?” His father performed a Confucian ceremony at the family home. We had one witness from my side and one witness from Tuan’s side. We didn’t think much about the actual event; it just seemed like, “tomorrow we’ll go shopping, then we’ll get married.” In the end, though, it was quite emotional for us.
I love Tuan because he is committed to resolving any issues so we can always live in harmony. His Buddhism has been my enlightenment in many ways.
We met when he was 20 and I was 30. We grew up, and experienced so much, together; I think that’s why we stay together.