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.

HmongLGBTQIA_final

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

AAPI LGBTQ Pride: I’m Hiding the Best of Me

Phiengtavanh was born in Vientiane, Laos in 1981; her family immigrated to the U.S when she was 4 years old to escape communism.  She is the eldest sibling with two younger sisters, and a brother. She grew up in North Minneapolis.  At age 17, she enlisted in the military for personal and professional goals; and pursued college at Saint Cloud State University while continuing her service to the MN Army National Guard.  In summer of 2005, she was placed on a  “stop lost” for a deployment to Iraq with the 134th Red Bulls Brigade Support Battalion.  She honorably served over 10 years in the military and took pride in her duties as the Human Resources Specialist.

My name is Phiengtavanh and I am a lesbian
Yes I said it
Not only am I gay
I’m many things and I don’t want you to just remember me as being a gay person
Or the characteristic stereo types
That were supposed to be embedded by social media
Or society that this is how we should be
For those that know me and who has not, well
I’m 32
I’m a veteran
I’m a current student
I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt
I’m a step-parent
And I have a loving partner
And yes I am also a pet owner, I have a little puppy, he’s a Chiweenie
Being is gay is just a part of who I am
It doesn’t really define the whole me
So when I look back at my previous years
I was hiding the best of me when I’m not who I am
So being a lesbian completes the whole identity of me


IMG_3714Phiengtavanh is currently living in Ramsey County – employed as the data entry specialist to the Family Health Division of Ramsey County Public Health and working part-time as a Private Charter Screener for G2 Secured Staff.  In her spare time, she continues to enjoy time with family and friends while participating in various events with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.  Phiengtavanh is one of the recipients of the Minnesota 25 Veterans’ Voices Award in 2013 for her accomplishment within her community and society.

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


AAPI LGBTQ Pride: Refugee’s Baby Memories

kong pic 1

Existing in ruptures, I suppose that is the consequences of living life. In 1993, my family went aboard an airplane that would bring us to the United States. It was not an easy flight, and as I know now, nothing about this life is ever easy. The dizzying pain of the shuttering noise overwhelmed me, leaving pungent ailments, vomit all over my own shirt. I was from a refugee camp, which my tender memories leave only with it, a vision of sipping chocolate aid milk.

In this queer refugee life, I am always imagining the sweet escape, thinking of its landscapes as close enough, to enjoy its everlasting moments. And I linger in these fantasies that wretched my birth and travels to America. Imagining back on my queer life, the blockades of anguish, mixed with sweetness always had a fervent flavor. At the earliest onset, my feelings of queerness, of loving and desiring, were nothing but strange, familiar, and true. And yet, I myself could not fathom its sweetness, which I mustered as anguish. I must perpetually compete with these recurring cleavages in this realm of life. These continual exigencies are what makes life meaningful, interesting at the least, I suppose.

kong pic 2

“I realize now,
Those moments of eery chaos,
Will always thwart my memories,
I realize now,
That illusionary specter of joy,
Were my only hopes of life,
I realize now,
Those discolored ambiences of life,
Were the containment of all which is never to be had,
I realize now,
Those remnants of glimmer,
Was and can never be consumed, and,
I realize now,
The unsettled visions that outline the shallow spirals,
Can liberate me from my desperation,
I realize now,
The protruding anger of my soul,
Was always the symbol of my emancipated queer life,
I realize now,
That moment of desolate altercation,
Is it not the emblem of my refugee life,
I realize now,
Never to let go of the blemishes of my imagination,
It is to be happily queer in a world of deformed chaos.”

That moment is funny to me now. It is as clear as that window that shows the first signs of storm clouds. And yet, that moment exists only as a remnant of memory, driving down that dark, suicidal road. That moment of desperation, I realized, that despair is not death, but the languishing hunger to master life’s most miserable grandeurs. I suppose now that the drive, the run, the escape, the realization, the return, all were leading to this moment in my gay, my queer, my Hmong, my refugee, my bizarre, my funny, my beautiful life.

Ruptures in the human heart, physically and emotionally, are inevitable consequences of living. This discursivity in my happiness will settle itself. Living an unsettled life, of queerness, and embracing all of its exigencies, its messiness, of loving that man, of hating myself, of loving myself, I like the view from this focal point. For now, I will allow the intermittent episodes of my life to encapsulate itself into an everlasting nothingness, to be sorted out in other spaces and times unknowable.

 


Kong Pheng Pha is a writer from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota.me in sf

 

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


 

 

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


AAPI LGBTQ Pride: My Difficulty in Coming Out

msmadge.blogspot.com

msmadge.blogspot.com

My parents are old-fashioned Filipino Christians. They are not so open-minded when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer sexuality. Although I was raised by them in this hetero-normative belief, I realized I liked boys at a very young age, which was around 11 years old. I knew this because I was attracted to our neighbor who was a few years older than me. While growing up with my parents, it was difficult to feel accepted. With their old-fashioned ways, they wanted to be the one who is respected and obeyed despite their children’s opinions. I love my parents and all, but they make me feel like I do not belong.

One moment that impacted me the most, was right after the 2013 fall semester finals, I came home and brought my best friend with me. During that time, he and I were dating and he was noticeably flamboyant. When my mom met him, she was really nice to him. She acknowledged that he was my best friend and accepted him the way he was. But even then, I knew that my mom was judging him secretly. I wondered what was going on in her head, because whenever she had seen a flamboyant man on television; she often said “Ay bakla!” which translated to, “Oh he’s gay!” She makes it sound like she’s disgusted too. I tend to get really irritated whenever she does this, but I understood that this was a learned belief and idea that shaped her personality. One thing that makes her that way is the fact that she is a devout Christian woman. She listens to the words of the pastor so if the pastor is homophobic, of course she and other church members will believe it’s perfectly OK to make homophobic remarks and comments. I know this very well, because my pastor does. He often comments about it usually during pride week with his joke of, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” The sad fact about it was that everyone in the church laughed at it as if it was not offensive. My mom puts a lot of her trust in our pastor and I have witnessed my mom absorbed the homophobia presented by our pastor. If I was to come out to them at this moment, it might not be a very good scene.

After I had brought my boyfriend home to meet my mom, the next day, she kept asking me if he was gay. All I said was “yes,” because there was no use in sugar-coating it. Surprisingly, she was accepting of him being gay. She accepted that I have homosexual friends, however, she told me to promise that I would not be gay. It was the hardest thing for me to accept and experience in her homophobic request. I don’t understand how she can accept my friends and not me. She kept on saying that, “it is in the bible and it is not what the Lord wants.”

After her whole spiel of homosexuals being sinful through God’s eyes, she then threatened to throw me out of the window if I was gay, which I knew was just a joke. Although she could be joking or not joking, this ingrained joking-communication style that most Filipino use to cope or express with their emotions, was still hurtful. Hurtful to hear my parents or one’s parent say that your identity is sinful, and by the end of the day, I could not come out to her. I bottled it in.

This moment was important to me, because it made me realize that it is not time for me to come out to my parents. There is a good time for everything, but right now is not the right time for me. What’s important is that I have friends who care and understand me. Thanks to them, I have been able to survive living in this world while closeted from my family.

 

 


To be quick and short, I am Rio Marasigan, a 22 year old Filipino-American living in the Windy City of Chicago. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, which was a major place in my life where I have grown.

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

AAPI Heritage Month: Where Do I Start?

Where do I start? Writing a narrative is a bit challenging. I do not know where and when I should start my narrative. I mean, I have erased my sentences a few times, and just when I thought it was a good start, I erased it all over again. Was I too blunt and in your face? Am I taking too long to get to the point? Gosh, how about I start in the middle? My narrative here, what I want to talk about is my traumatic experience of being a victim of a sexual assault and my seasonal depression.

I didn’t noticed my seasonal depression until recently when someone close to me had mentioned that I maybe experiencing this every year at this time. I did not want to believe it but my trauma was more than enough for me to believe it. It is hard for me to talk about this traumatic experience. Even now as I write, I am reminded of the time, feelings, thoughts and struggle that I went through. I first came out about being sexually assaulted to a couple of my closest friends from high school. When I told them of my experience I thought that I would be more emotional and vulnerable, but I felt nothing of that sort. I felt numb. I gathered my emotions and got the courage to talk to them about my trauma, but that was it. I thought that it was enough that only two people knew. I did not want anyone else to know, especially not my family.

When I came back home from the trip I went with my co-workers and employee I was scared that my family would find out about the bruises–or in this case, hickeys on my neck. And they are not just your regular hickeys; they were huge and covered the whole front side of my neck. I panicked about what to do if my parents see this, if they saw the bruised-like hickeys on my neck. I had to cover it up with something and the answer was make-up; more precisely I used foundation to cover up my neck and it helped calmed me down. For a whole week I applied on the foundation until the bruised-like hickeys could no longer be seen. After my traumatic event, I tried to forget, but it never really went away and I was just lying to myself that it was not a big of a deal. I went through a whole year of keeping my traumatic event to myself without telling my parents. I pretty much do not remember what I did or how I did it so that I can keep my mind off of what happened to me.

I struggled with being a Hmong daughter and at the same time a victim of sexual assault. As a child, I was always warned to be careful around boys–and this was through the stories of girls being kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and/or raped. I thought “this will never happen to me,” because I know that I have been warned, thus I am careful around those who I interact with. I always think about what my mother has told me when going to someone’s house who I did not know, especially being careful of the drinks, because you never know what they could have put in it. In the stories my mother told me, these Hmong women were always portrayed as helpless beings or persons wanting to look for the attention by the way they dress and act. They were always with men who they did not know and were blamed for consequences as if they were seeking for it. This in turn has made me believe in a stereotype about how sexual assault and rape happens. In the most common myth, you are at a place far away from home, with some friends. You are probably having fun and staying out late at night. These guys who you do not know came up to you and offered you some drinks. (Be mindful that these drinks were already pre-ordered and not ordered in front of your face.) You drink it without knowing if it was drugged or not, and then, BAM! Next thing you know, you wake up in bed with a total stranger not knowing what happened. Although it was just a story, this myth was repetitively reinforced to me again and again, so I started to see; it became my reality. I have mentally prepared myself that if I shall ever come across this scenario, I’ll know exactly what to do.

In the communities we participate in and at home, we have gotten so worked up telling and preparing young girls about this horrid situation, which we seem to have dismissed the fact that it is not more than just a myth. In reality, it is NOT SOMEONE whom you DO NOT KNOW that will inflict this gender-based violence to you, but it is someone whom you personally know and have built a trusting relationship with, who can willingly commit gender-based violence to you. As a society, we always tell young girls not to take drinks from strangers or go out alone, but at the same time, we neglect to tell young boys not to rape. Socially and culturally, men and boys are not taught to respect women and girls’ bodies nor how to negotiate consent and not take advantage of women and girls as objects. This needs to change for the better.

After a year of suffering from this trauma, I came to understand that the reason why I am still having nightmares and trauma over this was because I was socialized and felt pressure to be silent about traumas regarding gender-based violence experiences. With all the stories my mother had told me, it had not prepared me for anything. All I learned was to avoid getting sexually assaulted and if it did happen to me, I must have done something to deserve it. This story my mother had told me, had taught me to be silent, just like her, and her mother, and her mother’s mother, and all the Hmong mothers before her. There was no outlet for me to speak out until I finally got a hold of my voice. This voice had came out to my own brother about my trauma and with this voice it had helped me to reflect and write about my lived experiences. Afterwards, I adopted the identity as a Hmong Feminist. I started to learn about the harm of rape culture and how to address it through a Hmong woman feminist lens. It is still difficult to write and talk about my experiences as I have only begun, but I will continue challenge this notion through critical conversations and will continue to seek a deeper understanding of how to heal, while renewing the meanings of my relationships with the people I interact with.


Nplooj Siab is dedicated to youth organizing and has a life-long goal to write a book.

Celebrate May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by contributing your narrative to be part of AAPI Midwest Narrative Series. If you identify as AAPI in the Midwest and want to contribute your narrative or have questions, please email Linda for more information – linda@mwsmovement.com