Opening Doors: Sacramento Hmong LGBTQIA Meet-Up

juliadee

Someone once told me, “You can empower and educate yourself to the fullest extent, but your community will remain the same.” As an organizer, this quote stuck to me. I have always wanted to build a space for Hmong Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) people to create awareness, education, and take action for a healthier community. I have only lived in Sacramento for 3 years, so I was unsure where to start because California is a huge state and the small amount of Hmong LGBTQIA I knew were living in LA. My other goal is to secure dialogue to keep Asian Pacific Islander (API) and Hmong organizations accountable for LGBTQIA persons and to keep LGBTQIA organization accountable for API and Hmong individuals. My amazing friend Mai Yaj Vaj contacted me about her aunt who share a similar vision and that’s when I met Julia Ann. Julia Ann Yang and I did a call out via social media site such as Facebook, MidWest Solidarity Movement, and Tumblr for any interest. We estimated 5-10 participants then decided to launch a video. Within days, we had more than 30 RSVP participants interested in the meet-up.

Why specifically Hmong LGBTQIA? They encounter intersectionality which is the concept of oppression and discrimination of overlapping social identities. This means, they are the minorities of White people and also of the Hmong community. They face racism from the mainstream and homophobic prejudice from their own community. Also, if they identify as a woman, they experience sexism. To truly understand themselves and the Hmong community, they need their own space to learn, grow, and reflect their own identities.  In fact, I remember in high school and college, I joined the group People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality (PRIDE) to meet people like myself who wanted to learn and understand sexuality and gender. To me, I always felt like PRIDE was a hidden acronym because college administrator were not going to approve LGBTQIA or Queer student org. Oddly, despite the name and being one of a couple people of color within the group, I struggled with the idea of what it means to be queer in my own minority community especially one that holds true to traditions. Mainstream LGBTQIA organizations and clubs fought so long for Marriage Equality which is beneficial, but often forgets the LGBTQIA family and relationships of minorities–which include people of color, disabled, women, and many more.

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I believe Hmong LGBTQIA escape from the Hmong community because of deep rooted gossip, reputation, and inadequate support. How do we, as a community, change that? How can we help Hmong LGBTQIA feel safe in their community? As an organizer, I believe in building conversations and connections when speaking about the issue. Let’s not speak about it behind closed doors, but to truly understand how to build healthy Hmong families. As Hmong LGBTQIA, let’s not judge the whole community due to the lack of education and support. We are the people who need to support one another and our community. We should bridge and build a space for concerned parents and closeted Hmong LGBTQIA. Unfortunately, the Hmong community has obstacles; it is common for Hmong elders who are often set in stone in their ways it become a challenge to open their hearts and minds about Hmong LGBTQIA. On the other hand, many Hmong people I know say we should wait till the generation dies off. Furthermore, another obstacle I believe is people in general are reactionary so they do not want to learn or understand the issues of intersectionality until they are faced with it. For example, many innocent Black children died because they are being racial profiled by the police officer when the mainstream society strives on White privilege and racial stereotypes and thus created Black Lives Matter. In short, equality does not happen overnight, but we can work on ways to understand one another in better ways.

At the Hmong LGBTQIA Meet-Up, we began with introductions, ground rules, facilitated an education portion about how there is no word for Gay in the Hmong Language. Next we moved on to our discussion portion, where we asked four questions. First question was have they felt out of place in other LGBTQ spaces. They expressed how they felt sexualized, objectified, and sometimes the space was unhealthy filled with drugs and alcohol. Also, the space was no safe and it catered to white privilege. Second question, if they were to come out today, would parents will accept if they came out. Most of the folks who were already out to their parents are in denial and it will pass because it’s just a phase. In addition, one participant expressed in order to save face they will not tell their parents about their sexuality. Third question was how the Hmong culture is a barrier for Hmong LGBTQIA. For example, I expressed that as a daughter I cannot practice anything in the Hmong culture because my father won’t teach me because I’m a woman. They expressed that the Hmong culture is rooted in patriarchy and why can’t women xwm kab, we have male and female shamans. The last question was how to be break down these barriers and make the Hmong culture benefit us. They talked about education especially for our parents, that being LGBTQIA is not a phase, creating a safe support to tackle issues like suicide and death. We need more culturally competent resources and services to serve Hmong LGBTQIA youth and families and for allies to step up and educate other allies. Lastly, their sexuality is not who you are but part of you.

Julia and I will continue building dialogue and friendships with Sacramento Hmong LGBTQIA and parents so assist those who are in need of support then hopefully expand from just Sacramento. We also have amazing allies like Mai Yaj and Laura Vu organizers from  Hmong Innovating Politics who are willing to help. We hope to create change by educating and empowering within the community. Hate and prejudice should not be what the Hmong community represents. Change is needed especially when the lives of Hmong LGBTQIA youth are on the line. To be Hmong, means to be free, but are we free in our own families to express our own sexuality and gender?


12466048_10153947787388083_2287745413439177237_oDee is a 26 year old workaholic living in NoCal. An organizer for many causes such as MidWest Solidarity Movement (MWSM), Building Our Future (BOF), Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sacramento (APIQSC), and Sacramento Hmong LGBTQ.

Please feel free to contact Dee at dee@mwsmovement.com

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Raising UP Mary’s My Bisexual Sexuality is not a Phase Narrative

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buzzfeed.com

Story #38

Mary Chang is a 19 year old Hmong bisexual woman located in Minnesota 

My sexuality was not something I could choose. I never chose it, but I found it. I knew since the third grade I was attracted to both boys and girls, but I just never knew what it was called. For a moment I just thought there was something wrong with me. I never understood who I truly was, and why I felt a certain way, and I was incredibly confused. For the longest I walked with the title “Straight Female”. I knew I wasn’t straight. But I knew I chose to be at that time.

In the third grade, I had confused feelings towards a classmate. I knew I enjoyed her presence, and I remembered constantly looking back at her as she sat by the windowsill in class. There was something about her that gravitated me towards her. Maybe it was how smart she really was, or the way she was always silent and mysterious. Whatever it was, I would always stumble and feel awkward in her presence. I always tried to make a good impression whenever we talked, but I always came off  dumb founded when she spoke to me. I remembered on Valentine’s Day, I picked out a specific card just for her. The front of the card boldly said “you wanna hear a secret….?”. And then as you flipped over the cover, it said in over romanticized cursive letters, “I like you!”. I knew it was the one for her, and so I decided to write, “It’s true, I really like you”. But I remembered looking at it again, probably realizing how pathetic and wrong I felt. I thought that my feelings towards her was not right, because in this society, there was only “straight”. I threw the letter away, because I didn’t want to be teased by her or looked down by her. I didn’t want her to judge me. A few weeks later, I stopped seeing her in class, and she never showed up again. I soon found out that she moved away to another state.

It happened again in the 6th grade. But this time, it was different. It was more obviously like a “crush” rather than a “like”. I loved everything about her. The way her hair was chopped medium length. The way she wore boy t-shirts and sweaters. She was into a lot of things like I was, especially art and mangas. We became good friends and drew pictures for each other. I would look at her when she was drawing, and every time she spotted me, she would smile, and my face bloomed like a rose. But the saddest thing was that I kept my feelings away from her. All of it. It wasn’t until the end of the year, the transition to middle school, that I had sent her a letter. I decided to describe every feeling I had towards her. And I’m glad I did, even if she responded the way she did. She was shocked and didn’t know what to say, but told me that I was just a friend to her. And that’s enough for me.

In my freshman year of high school, I was in lust. Have you ever looked at someone and thought, “I HAVE to know that person. I just HAVE to say hi”. She was beautiful. Skin so white and porcelain. Her hair, a bright blonde, and her smile was the most amazing thing you will ever see. When I first saw her, it was like the clouds parted and heavenly light embraced her. I couldn’t take my eyes off. It was around this time that I discovered the term ‘bisexual’ and realized…that’s me. I am a bisexual. It was like I found myself, and I became happier with who I became. I was no longer confused. I told my good friend about her at the time and he (a guy) thought she was cute too. The girl and I managed to become friends and talk over social media. We had amazing conversations, and then, it suddenly stopped after a few days. Then I found out that my good friend was talking to her too and managed to ask her out. I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do.

Then junior year happened (keep in mind that in this time period, I’ve already dated a few guys). We met in french class, she was a year older than me. We were really good friends, enough were we hung out and talked about guys and sat with each other in lunch. I’ve gotten to know her so well that a lot of things about her sparked my interest. I loved how she had a big appetite and had no shame in talking or laughing with a mouth full of food. I loved joking with her and exchanging sarcasm jokes. I loved how her laugh was so loud and obnoxious, it made me laugh too. Just being around her made me like her more and more. we were close enough were we already had each other’s numbers saved in our phones. One day in class, I had an odd message sent to me from her. She was explaining to me the feelings she had for me and how much she really liked me. Oh my god I was in heaven. My heart raced, my stomach was filled with butterflies. We talked about it and I got to tell her how I felt. Though it was never official, I enjoyed every second I had with her. They way we flirted, holding her hand between and to classes. Holding her from behind while walking back from lunch. I felt empty when I didn’t have her warm hands between mines. We liked each other very much…but not enough to leave our exes for each other. Eventually her ex had come back and she decided she wanted to continue the relationship with him again. She let me know and apologized. Though this happened, we still remained wonderful friends, and I came to understanding.

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thestar.com

The number of Hmong people I’ve met in the LGBTQ community can be counted on one hand. It’s hard to find other Hmong people residing in the LGBTQ community. I have heard of organizations such as Shades Of Yellow, a Hmong LGBTQ organization, but other than that, this website is the only website I’ve ever heard of.

When I came out, I came out only to my mother, because I thought she would be more understanding than my step father. But she just ended up telling me that it’s just a phase. I’m doing it just for attention. I’m doing it because my friends do it too, so she thought I was doing it to fit in. Then she shamed me, “what would your uncles and the elders think of you??” she said. And she went on a lecture about holding a good reputation, and being a good person. She told me that being a bisexual would bring shame to us and that I was a bad person. After that, we never spoke about it again. Even until now, I guess she’s thinking that I’ve overcome this sexuality, since I’m currently in a 3 year relationship with a man. But it doesn’t change anything. Til this day I still find women and men altogether attractive. After I found myself, I found others just like me. I joined LGBTQ clubs and found more people with similar interests and stories. I began to embrace myself and had hopes. I’m managing just fine after realizing that what people think about you, does not affect you in any way at all unless you allow it to. And if people cannot accept you for who you are, then they don’t deserve to be in your life. For anyone out there who was confused and lost just as I am, remember; you are not alone, and you will never be alone. Never let words affect you and live your life with hopes and joy.

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2015. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising UP AV’s Not Alone Hmong Bisexual Narrative

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Story #22
AV is a 15 year-old, Hmong American, female, bisexual, and Christian from Wisconsin.

I was probably at the age of 13 when I first noticed that I was attracted to people of the same-sex. I always thought that being bisexual was a choice. It took me awhile to actually admit to myself that I liked both boys and girls. I found it easy to tell my friends and parents. It seemed my parents were willing to accept my bisexuality, especially the fact that my mom wished I was a son. So as I became older, I tended to just open up and tell others that I am bisexual. However, I do feel embarrassed sometimes when I reveal that to others. I felt like people were getting into my businesses. I didn’t like that my family members would ask me why I like girls. They would constantly ask if I have a girlfriend. I felt annoyed because I am a teenager and I wanted people to mind their own businesses.

I do not have a specific reason why I came out. On a specific occasion, we were partying and out of nowhere I started making out with a girl. I felt like I pressured that person to do it, but she said she was fine with it. Therefore, people started to notice I was a bisexual and it felt okay because I did not have to hide it anymore at that instant. It has been 2 years now since my friends know about my sexuality. However, those who do not know do tend to become very upset when I tell them now. Overall, my relationships with everyone is going fine, except my relationships with my siblings, and especially my sisters. They do not like it. They always think that I am lying, but here I am, I want to tell everyone that deep down inside me, I do like girls.

I don’t have much to say about coming out, however, because I did not feel that it was not hard for me to open up to others. However, for those who have a harder time coming out and opening up to others, especially gay men, I do feel very sorry and for them. I think their fathers will be especially hard on them. I encourage them to keep trying and to follow their heart. I am able to say that I am accepted by my parents and friends. For this, I would like to thank them for understanding and loving me. I will and want to help and share stories with those who are Hmong LGBTQ, especially those who are going through hard times in life.

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Sometimes I do feel that the Hmong community is supportive, or at least aware, of  Hmong LGBTQ. I have have seen videos of Hmong LGBTQ that are out, and have done videos. Knowing that I am not alone, and knowing that I can accept the fact that I am bisexual makes me happy. I believe people who are LGBTQ exist everywhere in Hmong communities across the country. The problem is that it is hard to open up and be out, especially since rumors and gossips spread quickly. However, I encourage those out there to open up and go meet new friends. Who knows, you might even meet your future love.

I am involved in a Hmong organization called Hmong American Women Association. One day, the counselor was talking about being LGBTQ with one of the volunteer there. Her name was Sooya. I give credits to her because I think she is amazing. That is all that I have heard anyone speak openly about being LGBTQ. I think the organization can provide others with sources about being lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

If you’re compelled by AV’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documentation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising UP Sooya’s Family, Gender & Role Model Narrative

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Story#15

Sooya Xiong is a 23 year old, Bisexual female, Shamanist residing in Wisconsin.

I was 12 years old when I knew that I was attracted to both genders. Was I confused? I sure was! My heart would start racing whenever I am around the “girl” with words that I can’t even describe. As for the “boy” it was more flirtation. It has been 10 years since I came out to my parents. The reason why I came out? Well, duh, I am positively sure that I liked both genders; that I was “gay.” I was in a “dark” phase at that time as a youth, and it was time to make a change. I wanted to be able to express myself and be accepted. I needed the family support, especially from my parents.

How did my parents take it? Of course they laugh at me because they thought that I was joking. The word “gay” has been use so much in the family to make fun of someone. It wasn’t until I kept bringing the subject up to my father to this day that he finally understands what it means. He knows I am “bi-sexual” and he supports me (however, we all know parents lecture you and hope that you will end up with the opposite sex).

SX2However it wasn’t until 2008 that I fully revealed myself physically to the entire family and extended families. After my high school graduation on that following Monday my sister shaved my head in our home in Chicago. My mother and siblings were also in the room. It sure did make me feel good because of the support I had. But then I was scared of my father’s reaction that he’ll flip out. He saw my baldness when he came home to Milwaukee the next day, but didn’t say anything. He just laughed. Now that’s a good sign. How did it make me feel? I felt relieved and happy! But then I was told to wear a wig whenever I attend “Hmong events” (which I completely understand why). My extended families and everyone else knew about my sexuality, but it was never really addressed or acknowledge. Some words were said to describe and address me here and there, such as “tomboy,” “hey, new boy,” “son” etc. The gender roles did not change, everyone still sees me as a Hmong woman encompassing the same respect, duties, chores, et.

Some of the issues that I am facing today is how can I as a person who identities both as Hmong LGBTQ and Hmong woman help the Hmong youth who are coming out. I believe I can be a support for other Hmong LGBTQ by providing a safe place for them, helping them deal with family issues, and creating a support system.

If you’re compel by Sooya’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documenation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Raising UP the Hmong American Bisexual Narrative

A Miao woman in China.
Photo by: Pius Lee http://www.dailytravelphotos.com/archive/2009/03/24/index.php

Story #3

Emo Miao Girl is a 19 year-old bisexual Hmong American woman from California.

In the year 2009, I was a sophomore in high school and I had a friend who claimed that she was “bisexual.” At that time, she was my friend. Of course I shared with her my problems and my curiosity of liking girls. So knowing she was bisexual, I looked up to her for advice here and there just like anybody would. At the end of the year, she moved and we became very distant, however, I eventually found out she was fake the whole time! I also learned that she claimed herself as bisexual simply for others’ attention! Anyway, my bicuriosity kept thriving into the rest of high school.

That was when I had my first and last girlfriend. I was not sure of what I was doing or wanted. I was confused at that time about my sexuality. So I gave it a try and from there I liked the feeling of being nourished by a woman. I knew that it is a woman whom I would share the most common interests with, not to mention the same sensuality with our bodies too. My attitude at that time was that only another woman could understand and love me the way I wanted to be loved. It was a great feeling that I felt, just like how any other couple would have felt.

Coming out as bisexual was difficult because of the fact that I am Hmong. I did not want to make my parents look bad and ruin their “reputation.” I was also afraid that my friends would not like me anymore if they knew about my sexuality. However, after a few months of feeling this way, I no longer cared. I showed off my pride with different colors and began hanging out with a different group of people. I began telling friends about my sexuality even if they did not ask me about it. I wanted to just shut them up so that they would not be so curious anymore.

A scene from the film Miao Miao. Photo credit from: http://www.withanaccent.com/2013/05/08/netflix-instant-files-miao-miao/

A scene from the film Miao Miao.
Photo credit from: http://www.withanaccent.com/2013/05/08/netflix-instant-files-miao-miao/

Facing my parents was the hardest experience for me. I was worried about how my own Hmong people would view me. I could already imagine what my parents will say or do to me if they knew. There seems to be so many things that they dislike in our generation. It seems as if they were born to hate things. They are upset when a daughter dyes her hair, cuts it, goes out, stays up late, or have a friend or boyfriend over. This seemed all too typical of Hmong parents. I am not saying all parents are like this, but I know so many Hmong parent who are like this. I knew the answer all along if I were to come out to my parents. The Hmong community is just too strict, conservative, traditional, and uptight about family reputations. I do not think I will live to see the day where people like us will be accepted by all of society, including the elders in Hmong society. Aside from my parents, even some of my own friends began to keep their distance from me because they thought I was going to hit on them. How sad is that? Soon, I noticed that many people were keeping their distance from me even though I was just a stranger to them.

I have not heard about any Hmong queers growing up. However, my curiosity began to peak and I began to Google about Hmong queers and Hmong LGBTQ to see if there was anything out there. Sadly, the first story that I stumbled upon was about the couple that had committed suicide many years ago. It makes me extremely sad when I read tragic stories like this.

No Apologies Quote credit by: https://www.facebook.com/AwesomeBiQuotes

No Apologies
Quote credit by: https://www.facebook.com/AwesomeBiQuotes

Now, I am out to everyone. I do not care what people think or say about me anymore. It is my life and I want to be myself. I myself am open and supportive of everyone. I do not judge others. We all have a reason why we are the way we are. We are all human beings. We all struggle in life and share problems within society. I would not want to see someone I care for suffer alone.

The main reasons why I came out as bisexual was because I came to a point in my life where I did not care anymore (about what people thought about my sexuality). It has been 4 years since I first was aware of my sexuality. In my experience, most men are asses! Yet, I dated the wrong girls as well! One mistake of my life was dating a girl who was a player. Right now, I am happily in a relationship with a man, my high school sweetie. He understands the struggles that I face. He is a supporter of the LGBT community. Even as an LGBTQ person, dating has been difficult. I just want everyone to be careful with who you fall in love with. However, stay true to who you are. Everyone will dislike you if they know you are fake, and that might include yourself, who is being fake to your own self.

Please share your story by clicking on the link below:

http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2013. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution with the intent to sell, use and/or duplication of these images, audio, video, stories, blog posts, and materials on this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Excerpts and links as stated by MidWest Solidarity Movement members may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.