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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AAPI LGBTQ Pride: Learning to Choose Who to Love Wisely

A couple of years ago, I met someone I really wanted to be with and it was love at first sight. When I confessed to her my feelings, she told me she liked me as well but was too afraid to fall in love with me. We saw each other for a month then she stopped talking to me and I didn’t understand what I did wrong. It made me feel like a fool.

Ever since I was young, I suffered from deep depression and it continued into my twenties. After we stopped seeing each other, my depression returned. I drowned myself into music and did not understand why we couldn’t work. I also began throwing my heart to people who I knew weren’t interested in me. Through my depressing Facebook posts, a close friend contacted me and I came out and confided in her about my relationship troubles. After we talked, I collected myself and compiled this list that helped me get through my breakup and depression.  I also wanted to share my personal reflection thoughts that helped me through my process of working through a breakup. I hope my reflections will encourage people to also make time to reflect if they are experiencing depression or in the midst of looking for themselves.

There were many warning signs that our values and relationship practices didn’t align, but I was swept away into the “love at first sight” so I kept telling myself she was “the one.”

I’m glad the break up happened and I had friends who were there to talk and support me through the process, and now I’m thankful that she is no longer in my life.

MY PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

  • My previous actions were not “stupid” (whether I was broken hearted or not). It was a learned experience for my own self growth.
  • Watch out for warning signs, if someone says they are “too scared to fall in love” or “think we are moving too fast” regardless if they say they like you a lot, thank them and move on. My friend stated, “You don’t want to be with someone for two years then they cheat on you and say I wasn’t in love with you till you kept chasing me.”
  • Don’t feel stupid after following your intuition (whether I was broken hearted or not), if you think someone might like you and confess to them, and in the end they didn’t like you. It’s fine. You saw the correct signs and took action based on it.
  • It is okay to leave your heart on your sleeve, that’s just the person you are. You just keep loving and if that person brings you down, it wasn’t meant to be. At the end of the day, you need to pick yourself back up and start over.
  • Find someone who compliments your life, not someone that brings it down. (Throughout my dating experience, I’ve always fallen for people who were “broken” and their actions were probably unclear, they never complimented my life. They made it more complicated.)
  • Keep continuing on the journey to self-love.

Dee is a 26 year old workaholic living in NoCal.dee

                                                                                                                                                                 

Celebrate June PRIDE Month by contributing your narrative to be part of AAPI LGBTQ PRIDE Narrative Series. If you identify as AAPI LGBTQ and want to contribute your narrative or have questions, please email Linda for more information – linda@mwsmovement.com


Celebrating our AAPI LGBTQ Pride

June is the time of the year that PRIDE month is celebrated across the United States and the world. A time for our LGBTQ and ally community to engage in festivities, parades and march with pride to remember those who came before us, who we are now and where we want to be. Through the celebrations and fun, we must remember that our fight to end discrimination and oppression is long from over. Our LGBTQ family and community, we still face persecution based on our sexuality, gender, ability, class, faith and immigration status. Often our experiences as LGBTQ Asian American and Pacific Islander are silenced and dismissed in which MWSM collective will be highlighting six narratives for the this June 2015.

With each individual who comes to realize that there are Asian queers and queer Asians, that space where the gay zone meets the Asian zone opens up a little more.”- Helen Zia, Writer, Journalist, Scholar

Never forget. Happy Pride Month!

-Maica

Raising UP JH’s Belief Of Losing Face Disempowers Ourselves And Family Members Narrative

theguardian.com

Story #36

JH is a 23 year old, identifies as a Straight Hmong American male and resides in California.

At the age of 10 years old, I notice that I only liked girls. I would not say that I am attracted to the  ‘same sex’ because I feel more like a male stuck inside a female body. Thus, it is right for a guy to like a girl. I also felt confused because how society view a “normal” relationship is a guy and a girl yet not a girl/girl or boy/ boy relationship.

I don’t know how to tell my parents, friends, and relatives. I’m scare that they will hate me forever if I do come Out. I don’t know where to begin, and I have no support. I don’t think there is any Hmong Community support for myself or other LGBTQQI people, because Hmong culture value the fear of “losing face.” They are embarrassed of having any LGBTQQI children, but it’s their fear of not knowing or maybe because they don’t want to feel blamed.

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2014. 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 Emily’s What’s After Acceptance Narrative

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enjoythaimovies.com

Story #32

Em Thao is a 26 year old, identify as a Lesbian, and resides in California.

I knew I was gay when I was in the sixth grade chasing after this beautiful blonde named Georgia. Liking her was so normal to me because I wasn’t aware of what being gay and being straight was. I just knew that my heart goes spaghetti for her. I grew up thinking that I might just be bisexual which means I can I still marry a man and make my mom happy. After a few failed relationships with men, I concluded that I am definitely a lesbian. And that is how I knew.

I came out bisexual first to my friends, then my cousins and finally my brothers in high school. Everyone was very supportive, it was weird for my older cousins at first, but that dissipated quickly. My brothers never judged me, they could careless if I am gay or straight. I love them so much for that. It is because of this group of supportive people, I decided to come out to my mom at age 25. She always knew that I was gay, but she never wanted to to confirm it so she never ask me about it. We joke about it a few times, but that was that. I admit that I coming out to my mom could have been better on my end. I was scared so the words literally just spilled out. She said a few things and ran to her room. After a few months of not talking to each other, she finally told me that she love me and that I didn’t chose to be this way. She was just afraid of what people might say or do to me. At the moment, I am completely open to everyone in my family and group of friends. Co-workers are still a sensitive subject. Through my experience, I found out that Hmong Americans are more acceptable to homosexuality whereas the more traditional ones still have a backward way of thinking.

Flower Hmong schoolchildren. Bac Ha, Vietnam

terragalleria.com

The issues of being Hmong LGBTQQI are marriage and children. How do you perform a ceremony with two women or two man? Who’s going to be the one to pay? What about children? We all know that Hmong parents are not very open minded when it comes to adoption, how will they treat their grandchildren? What will these children learn from their community? I am getting to that stage and I am afraid that I don’t know any of these answers.

I had a few Hmong LGBTQQI friends back when I was younger, but we lost touch over the years. It would be super awesome to have an organized group to just meet and greet with other Hmong LGBTQQI. We should let them know that they are not alone, there are people like them, especially the young ones.

If you’re compelled by Emily’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 – 2014. 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 Wilson’s Revive and Thrive Narrative

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ph.news.yahoo.com

Story #31

Wilson is a 17 year old Gay Hmong American from California.

I was about 13 years old when I started acknowledging that there was a possibility that I liked men. I always hid it from everyone because in this community (Asian or not) the word gay is used in such bad connotation it made me feel like something was wrong with me. Of course, this made me super scared to say anything to anyone, but I kind of put the worries aside and just day dreamed all through the next couple of years.

Well, there certainly are phases. The very first phase I remember was the phase of denial. I felt fuzzy around handsome men, but I always told myself that I just respected them a lot, or that they were just an icon for me to follow. Then I acknowledged my sexuality and hated myself. Depression struck me for about 3-4 years and it even got so bad that I tried to kill myself. Now, I’m completely okay and open about my sexuality. I mean, people are always going to judge and make fun of it, but eventually, you’d just laugh along side with them because it doesn’t matter. None of the sexuality stuff really even matters because I personally rarely bother to think if the person sitting next to me is gay or straight. In fact, that is the least of my worries. It’s not as big of a deal as it was back in the 1970’s, not saying it’s not a problem still, just saying, don’t be afraid to say something to someone. Start with one person and then build up. You’d be surprised at how many people will support you. And sometimes even if they don’t support your sexuality, they are still friends with you. I happen to have two friends who say gay marriage is wrong, but they completely accept me with all of my “mistakes” and stuff.

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theinspirationroom.com

One of the biggest reasons I came out was because I felt like I was morally cheating myself from the love that everyone else was experiencing. I came out because I loved myself, and because I knew there was nothing wrong with me. I loved myself enough to stand up to it, and I’m glad I did. The relationships haven’t changed too much. If anything, it get’s funnier with the girls, but with the boys, they might distance themselves, but just give them time. They’ll get over it, or they’ll ask you if you like them.

I’m out to everyone except my dad because he is really religious. He probably would kick me out or something because he is the type of guy who doesn’t take crap from anything. Maybe when I’m old enough to support myself properly I’ll tell him, or maybe one day I’ll just come home with a boyfriend. I’m not sure how it’ll go down, but it’s all alright with me.

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ethnicjewelsmagazine.com

I think the social aspect of the Hmong people on this topic is a big problem. I’ve never seen a bashing, but I know at times there is a problem with homophobia and isolation. Another is general approval of the parents.

I have heard of a Hmong LGBTQ person from my cousin and one of my acquaintances, but there wasn’t too much information given to me other than them telling me it’s going to be weird at first, but it’ll get better.

I think it would be awesome if Hmong people were more supportive. I believe that a lot of Hmong people would like to believe they’d support it, but when it gets down to it, they would be very hesitant, and I don’t blame them. We are a fairly new race to this whole “being on the spotlight” thing in America and other events, and I think it’s going to take a while before anything supportive comes from the Hmong community. As to the LGBTQQI’s existence in the Hmong culture, I’m sure that a lot of people we know are gay or questioning, but the fear is just keeping them locked up.

If you’re compelled by Wilson’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 – 2014. 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 LV’s Bittersweet Awakening Narrative

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lgbtqnation.com

Story #25

LV is an 23 year old Hmong Transman who identifies as Straight residing in California.

I think I was in the 3rd grade when I realized I liked women. One of my classmates suggested we play spin the bottle to kill time at the Jump For Heart fundraiser at our school. My friend and I were the only ones playing, so as I watched the bottle spin hoping that it wouldn’t land on me, which it did, I thought to myself why I even agreed to play along.

When she leaned over to give me a kiss, I started to stiffin’ up and before you knew it. She kissed me. In my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this was “wrong” so I scooted myself away from her as fast as I could. I then ran to the water fountain and started washing off my lips.

But a few seconds after as the cold water splashed on my face from me panicking, I realized that I actually liked it. From that day forward my view of life completely changed and started to make sense.

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meltingplots.com

I do feel that my family (including cousins) have acknowledged that I am transgender. Over the years, I have had a few Hmong un-related to me hear about me and lecture me about how women are supposed to do this and that. But most of that criticism I get from older Hmong men. With the older Hmong women, they joke about more than serious bash talk. But as the jokes die down, in the end they tell me i’m brave for what i’m doing.

I also notice that Hmong people are not really educated on how diverse sexuality is. Even being in America for 30+ years, there hasn’t been much done to show the Hmong elders about who we are and why we are the way we are. So though we exist, we are not acknowledged.

I was listening to the Hmong radio the other day and the host had stated his opinions on marriage equality. He said that if it were to become legal in California then it would turn this state into hell. So that’s a perspective from one Hmong elder. But my father was also in the room and reassured me that he supported gay rights because it would be wrong for same sex couples not to be able to have the benefits of heterosexual couples. I think because of how I have transitioned before his eyes and him knowing how I am still the same child he raised, his heart has warmed up to the LGBTQ community.

Me myself am not facing any issues as of yet. But hearing stories from other Hmong LGBTQ persons, it seems they are afraid to come out or transition due to losing face (reputation) of themselves or their family.

I came out as a lesbian crossdresser when I was 15 years old, though It always bugged me when people would call me a lesbian. At the age, I didn’t know what transgender was, so lesbian was the closest I could come out as.

When I turned 21, I began my female to male transition. It wasn’t easy coming out to my family as transgender was it was coming out as lesbian. I knew my traditional Hmong parents couldn’t handle anymore but I couldn’t hold back my identity any longer.

It’s been almost 2 years on T now and I have complete support from my family and friends.

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kityanpoet.com

If you’re compelled by LV’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.