Raising UP Chao’s Living with No Secrets Narrative

milouandolin.com

milouandolin.com

Story #24

Chao Vang is an 28 year old Hmong American and identifies as an Atheist gay male residing in California.

I believe I noticed my attraction to other boys when I was in elementary school. Boys I thought that were ‘cute’ or ‘handsome’ were the focus of my attention and my daydreaming. I wasn’t aware I was sexually attracted to people of my gender until I was in middle school. I had no desire to look at girls. There was always that yearning to kiss, holding hands, and more with some of the other boys in the class. I knew then it wasn’t ‘normal’. Boys don’t like other boys, I thought. I wasn’t even aware there was a term for this. A term I so actively use to describe myself today; Gay. However, like many other Hmong, I felt I was the only one. For a long time, I really did feel like a lone soul. Was there anyone out there that could relate to me? Was I the only Hmong homosexual? Haha, boy, I’m glad that’s not the case.

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mglcc.org

I am OUT to everyone who asks. It’s certainly no secret now but I had my struggles. I first came out in middle school but I wasn’t completely comfortable with saying “Yes, I am gay” until I was 21. The reason I came out? Because I was sick and tired of lying about girls. I mean, really. “Oh yeah, she’s totally hot. I would totally do her.” Or “Yeah, there’s a girl I like. Her name is… Mai Xiong?”…Haha, it was all a lie. And the worst part was it was so blatantly obvious I didn’t like these girls I named or had any interest in them. I was more interested in the guys I was having these guy talks with. Then I was saying I was gay. Then denying it. Over and over. There was an intense build-up inside me where I finally just wanted to scream, “I’m gay! Get over it!” However, since accepting myself and coming out finally, I’ve lost many friends. I was never a social butterfly so losing them was devastating. And high school peers who thought I was already gay had even more of a reason to avoid me. I have since moved away from the high school and I have yet to reconnect with any old classmates.

My family, of which my siblings always sort of knew, thought it was a way I was getting attention. My siblings didn’t care too much even though I was being completely honest and serious with them. And even now, it’s not a big deal. I came out to my parents at separate times when I was 18 because they’re divorced and live in different areas. I came out to my dad first and then my mom. My mom was shocked initially and threw a fit, blaming American culture and coming to this country, but she gradually learned to live with it. What was she going to do? Kick me out? I was bringing home a huge portion of the income to support everyone in the household. It wasn’t worth it to her. As for my dad? Yeah, he’s the one that got that metal fly swat and got us every time my siblings and I were being bad. I was expecting it this time. And more. Like a kick out onto the streets. I was fresh out of high school and it was summer. I got into a fight with a friend I had a crush on and now, my dad and I were fighting and was asking what was wrong with me for always getting into fights. I don’t know why he did it but he did. He asked the question. Yep. Right in the middle of our fight, he asked, “Are you gay?” … There was no reply from me. Instead, I started to shed a tear… I tried to. But then I couldn’t hold them back. …The tears just kept falling. And falling. Well, I guess my dad got his answer. And here comes the shocking part. He said, “It’s ok.” Really, Dad? The same man that used to make us fear him by hitting his kids with a tool made for bloody insect murder is now saying it’s ok? Really? Wow. It was such a shocker.

My relationship with my parents isn’t great but at least they don’t hate me for being gay.

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startribune.com

Honestly, I don’t feel I am huge part of the Hmong community since I don’t have a huge circle of Hmong friends and I’m disconnected from family, but among my Hmong colleagues and few friends I do have, it is not an issue at all. In fact, if the topic happens to come up, they try to relate to me on the issue. They’ll say they have a gay relative or a gay friend. Or they’ll ask what kind of men I prefer and so on. However, the Hmongs I know are all younger than me. I’m not sure if that makes a difference or not but it seems to me the younger generations are a lot more accepting.

There was no place for it in olden Hmong society but all cultures evolve and our Hmong culture is no different. But it is something that must be taught and with time, LGBTQQI acceptance can be incorporated into our ever-changing culture.

I know there is still intolerance in the Hmong community regarding the LGBTQQI but me being as disconnected as my family as I am, I don’t have any major issues. I know the United States is still fighting its battle for gay rights and marriage in many parts of the country and we Hmong are no different. We want to be acknowledged and would like our same-sex marriages recognized in the same way a man and woman marries, if such an event would even occur in the first place, with as much of our cultural elements still in place.

If you’re compelled by Chao Vang’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 Meng’s Feeling Free Narrative

1524962_692126054151497_12239647_nStory #23

Meng Vang is a 22 year-old Gay and Hmong-American man from Minnesota.

There wasn’t a certain age when I knew I was gay, but it was probably during middle school. I only knew that I was different because when I am with a girl or girlfriend, I do not feel any attraction towards her, or she doesn’t turn me on. During this time, I still had no idea what gay even was. It wasn’t until my freshman year that I started to notice that guys are what attracts me, guys are what turns me on, guys are my thing, guys are…..they just are.

I still remember why I didn’t want to come out. I was afraid of not being accepted by the community and also by my family. What should I expect after I tell them I am gay? It’s the after effects that scares me about coming out. Where would I go if I was disowned? Will I be able to make it alone in this world where no one understands me? Is death the only solution in the end? These “what ifs” are what causes me to stay hidden. There are many more but these are only some questions in which I often relate to.

The only issue I face is that I take medicine every day from my parents in hopes that I will turn straight for them, but the reality is, I’m gay and this is who I am. I believe being disowned by our family is the biggest struggle that currently impact the lives of Hmong LGBTQ. Hmong culture, well speaking of it, traditional Hmong culture see no value in this topic. It is considered a taboo and being gay is the worst way to be looked down upon. Only if those traditional Hmong people had a little change of education on this topic, they will realize that being different isn’t that bad. It is actually a normal thing like any other identity. I believe Hmong LGBTQ can fit and exist anywhere in the Hmong community, it only takes time to notice that our voices are here.

bonfire

MWSM’s Asian American Marriage Equality Get Together

My first time meeting other Hmong LGBTQ was when a fellow Hmong gay individual invited me to a Hmong LGBTQ BBQ that was celebrating the marriage equality law that recently passed in Minnesota. After that night, I have heard many coming out stories that was basically like how I would manage my coming out story. Well, I came out at the age of 21, why? I really wasn’t expecting to come out yet until I’m done with my education and am financially stable if I were to be alone. But then things took a turn at an event where both parties misunderstood each other and had mistaken the meanings that both parties had spoken about. So then, the only thing I had in mind was the other party caught on and so I might as well tell the truth, but I did it with confidence knowing and hearing many stories already. I held my head up high and proud. I was excited to finally be set free from this burden. Somehow it feels different, yet somehow it feels as if there are no change to it at all. It is as if it was a day fling thing and after that, things went back to normal.

I am no different than anyone else. It’s either they accept or I can careless. Being happy of who I am in life is the biggest success I can have in life. Like I have said many times to this other dork person who is openly gay, I’m not shy if you out me now. I’m not shy to kiss or hold your hands in public. I’m open to show my real self to public, but when you feel comfortable to do things in public, feel free to hold my hands, kiss my cheek, as long as you’re comfortable doing it to me in public. This dork person surprisingly feels the same way.

If you’re compelled by Meng Vang’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 Cuajleeg Kennedy Yang’s Journey Forward Narrative

Disclaimer:
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I am going to take a different route in this endeavor of sharing narratives of being queer Hmong/SEA.  I never had a difficult time coming out or accepting myself as queer.  I do have troubles seeing what is to become of us, queer SEA, in our journey forward after we have come out.  Although these past stories have moved me like never before, I have had struggles that have prepared me for coming out and thus my “coming out” story has not been as inspirational.

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Cuajleeg Kennedy Yang (2013)

Story #21

Before my parent’s divorce when I was around 8-9 years old, I was just happy being myself and loving the things that I did.  Although I had toy guns and action figures as a boy, I also had dolls and mermaids.  I loved what I loved and grew a fondness for mermaids.  This love for myself was reinforced and supported by my loving family who did not care that I had an affinity for “girly” toys.  I lived with this joy throughout my childhood and nothing could have been better.  Happiness was only temporary for me though, because it took the separation of my parents to force my own growth.

Initially, I was fine and accepted my parents’ divorce.  I knew intuitively that they just didn’t function the way they used to together anymore.  However, my siblings took things differently because this divorce broke them down and shook them up.  It was like a fissure that thrashed, tore, and destroyed what they once knew was home.  Some of my siblings remained physically and mentally strong, while others were still struggling; still trying to recover from a harsh events that turned into their reality.  Out of the strong and the weak, I was one of the strong and so I did all I could to aid.

Due to this unavoidable situation my mom went through many financial hardships trying to pay off bills here and there and maintaining a house. My oldest sister struggled and persevered just trying to hold the bond of our family together.  Some of my other siblings just shut down after the divorce while the others learned to cope with the situation.  The middle brother had grown up as an angry child only to have this divorce amplify those issues.  One of my other brothers and I became his outlet for anger and we were bullied daily by him. I was targeted more so than the other and my siblings saw that, but did not know how to respond other than just shrugging it off and blaming his personality.  Despite this daily struggle I helped my family with chores around the house, like washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and generally just tending to my mom.

I remember whenever I would go crying to my siblings or parents, because I was being bullied, they’d always tell me to be the bigger person.  This began sinking in because I then embodied it by brushing my own feelings aside, thinking that they were wrong to have.  There were moments in my life where I remembered just crying out of no where and not knowing why.  Crying out of no where and realizing that I myself was not even feeling sad.  Crying out of no where and then telling myself that I was weak for doing so. I remember looking into the mirror and training myself to learn how to not cry because I could not take being vulnerable and targeted anymore. What I did not know was that I had come to silence myself so much that I had become detached from my own feelings and emotions.

You would think that I could find solace from this over at my dad’s house, but that wasn’t the case.  I was one of the only children to visit him and sleep over on a weekly basis.  I knew that he loved me and I loved him too.  However before I would go, my mom would tell me that I was never going to be worthy of his love because of the sole fact that I was also her son.  I remember hearing from my father multiple times that my mother did not even love me and is only using me for child support money.  At such an early age, I had to learn how to interpret their messages because they were only protecting me from the harm that they had faced with each other.  This however also bred much distrust and corruption within myself, and also brought so much internalized pain and altered my idea of love.

I began seeing the flaw within all that I cared for, and in order to protect myself from the risk of any further internal mutilation, as well as of my own growing bias of those I cared for, I closed myself off and denied myself the one thing that I always wanted and knew: love. I suffocated my heart and crushed any feelings that began to flourish all because I would rather have dealt with that pain than the more overpowering torture of loving someone, only to realize that it was all a lie.  All that had laid where my heart used to be was nothing but an empty husk of hollowness that slowly pulsated, gasping for life as the void slowly crept inside and began growing within it.

Darkness was the only thing that that held my heart, free of judgment and unconditionally, I was all too eager to accept whatever embraced me in that way.  I came to love the one thing that had been there with me throughout all the tribulations.  It was the only thing that evoked me of my humanity while I already lingered so far off the edge.  It constantly reminded me of how alive I had been through the sufferings that I endured.  When I could no longer see with a clear conscious and vision, it was darkness that enabled me to feel instead.  The very sensation that I had casted away.  I flourishing in the shadows of my own isolation.

I became my own morphed beacon of hope.  My mentality evolved from corruption into my own truth of knowing, that in the end, I was always going to be alone in my own journey and that no matter how similar someone was to me they would never completely understand. There was a haunting tranquility in knowing that even though there are those who loved me, they will not always be there; and the only person to be there with me in the face of darkness will be myself. So from this, I learned how to stand on my own and thus began my transformation into who I am today.

It has been and still is such a lonely path that I continue to tread on.  Overwhelming sadness that crawls through me and makes me motionless at the most spontaneous of times.  What seems like demons whispering into my ears and twisting my mind.  Pushing people who care for me away and bringing myself solitude just so that I can feel the familiar and welcomed touch of sadness to rush through me and have me feel something if anything at all.  Realizing that moments of true happiness has escaped from me and then already being so out of tune with myself that I was never present to experience them.  The most unbearable feeling of all though are the moments where I sense a state of surrealness within myself.  The feeling radiates coldness as well as warmth through my body, but I have become so numb that it even happens; it is as if I am undergoing an outer body effect.  Purgatory would seem is the closest definition that I have to describing it.  Neither feeling good or neither feeling bad, just there as if I was nothing at all and what seems like a moment just stops and feels like an eternity.

kennedy3

Cuajleeg Kennedy Yang (2013)

The only things that seemed to have grounded me into reality was different aspects of myself who made me, me.  Part of that is myself identifying as a queer hmong man.  I had previous thoughts about this in middle school when I would be called gay on a weekly schedule, but I never thought of it as an insult nor was it spoken to me as such.  It was nothing big for me though, I was not going to let folks define me anyways.  One of the only examples was that I remembered this boy who was very handsome named Jared who just had an amazing smile, amazing hair texture, and style.  Sadly he moved away when it came time to high school.  Other than that one singular attraction, I hadn’t really thought about my sexuality back then.

This did get my mind going about what I really did find attractive, in terms of man or woman.  I began thinking and coming into realization that I had a different and stronger attraction towards men.  This was not coalesced until my sophomore year in high school because I was able to better articulate and have more access to resources to learn from.  I was more equipped to look up terms and definitions to identify myself more.

I officially “came” out to my sister when I was able to define myself.  It was just a weekday and my sister was in her room.  I had gone in very quietly and just said that I needed to talk.  When I finally told her that I was gay, she consoled me and said everything would be fine.  During that time I had cried and only after I “came out”, did I realize that I had nothing to cry about because there was and is nothing wrong with being queer.  After this, I never came out again because it shouldn’t be an “obstacle” that us queers, majority of the time, dread looking forward to.  I am fine with expressing my sexuality but it is but a part that contributes to a larger picture of the whole person that I am.

When seeking out help and friends from the gay community, I was mistaken by many folks whom were interested in other things.  I was not looking for sex at all and only looking to expand my perspectives and insights as a queer Hmong man.  One thing that I do remember was that majority of the people who messaged me were old white men.  It was fine but when they were only trying to dominate me, that was when I had enough of them.  I did message out other folks with more diverse backgrounds but only things I received were silence or ignorance.  I was so done with this and so I went back into my mind.  I did this to find out and process why and how racist and sexist the gay community really is.

Having become my own support, I was able to rely on myself again when I was not receiving support from the gay community. I casted them aside because they were nothing but a mirror of the oppressive ways that I did not need or wanted to be a part of.  I once again shut myself out but I am glad that I did this time because I was then able to seek out more specialized support with other Queer Asian Folks whom were not internalizing racism and sexism.  This then has lead me to being great friends and acquaintances with wonderful people who do great work with racial, social, economic, and intersections of all injustices in our world.  (MWSM)

There are also a lot of things that I wanted to incorporate into this story and how each aspect of my life had intertwined and affected one another, but for the sake of time and my own sanity, I have chosen a few major events that have shaped me.  Other things that I wanted to incorporate were: White Supremacy, Racism, Race, Classism, Sexism, Sexism within the Gay Community, White Supremacy within the gay community, body imaging, Social Justice works, and much much more. If you all have any questions, I am a core member of MWSM so feel free to send me an email Cuajleeg@mwsmovement.com a phone number can also be provided via email.

kennedy1

If you’re compelled by Kennedy’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 MT’s Living in the Light Narrative

The Pink Choice

invisiblephotographer.asia

Story #20

MT is a 15 year old gay Hmong male living in Minnesota.

I started to like the same sex when I was around 7 or 8 years old because I wasn’t attracted to women and I couldn’t have feelings for them. I saw boys as more “cute.”

I came out because I wanted to be free to be who I am and to stand up for myself. I wanted to fight for my own freedom and stay true to my real identity. I think it’s been around 3 years now since I came out. It’s true that relationships I had with some people have changed because those people have called me names. Now, those names have become a joke and we all just laugh about it and go along with it. I mean, people feel more comfortable to be around me now since I am a straight up person about myself and show them the true self of me, I guess people are okay with it the fact I am gay.

I think the younger generation of the 21st century is more accepting than the older generation of Hmong people. I honestly have told people straight up and asked them questions about me being who I am and some of the answers from them are pretty okay-ish. One reply that I have heard the most when I asked them was, “I am cool with gay people but as long as they don’t do gay s*** to me then I’m cool with it.” This response was mostly from boys and it made me feel more comfortable being around them to express myself and be myself.

I have not heard any Hmong LGBTQ stories but I have three friends two are gay and one is bisexual. 🙂

Being who I am as a gay man, the issues I’m facing is trying to be this Hmong guy who is himself with his own freedom. Also, I’m trying to live in the light and not in the darkness of a community that is not educated enough about this reality and its social life that exists today in society

If you’re compelled by MT’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 John’s Painful Past to a Brighter Future Narrative

lockers

sites.dartmouth.edu

Story #18

John is a 20 year-old gay Hmong man from California.

I remember the first time I came out was to a classmate in the 2nd grade. The classmate asked me jokingly, “John, which guy do you like?” I told her I liked a certain boy in the 4th grade and I answered with his name. It was the most shameful day of my life. The girls in my class yelled and hollered that I have a crush on this guy and it made me cry. Ever since then, I was constantly bullied by the girls in my class until recently. On the other hand, I came out to my high school teacher that I was confused of my sexuality. I knew I was either bisexual or gay but in the end I found out I’m attracted to men.

The first reason why I haven’t come out yet to my family is because of my parents would be angry for ruining their last name. Secondly, it’s hard and it’s going to be difficult for them to accept a Gay family member in their home, especially if I brought over a boyfriend to hang out. Lastly, I’m not so sure if I can get married with my partner, so I’m not ready yet, but probably one day I’ll confront them.

Xhokeezheng Photography

I’m my opinion, the Hmong community is not really supportive of Hmong LGBTQ, because some of our parents or family from Laos or Thailand is still really old fashioned. They don’t really think about sexuality besides beginning a family or having a career in becoming a doctor. I believe that most LGBTQs in the Hmong community should test their family members to see if they do care whether or not their children are LGBTQ.

My little brother is the baby in my family and told me he was gay at age 16, but he was scared to come out, and so, I understood him. I’m a big brother that he mostly follows and talks with to express his feelings.  I’m glad that I became a part of his world to influence him to be a strong and brave person…

For now, my issues are confronting my parents; my confidence depends on some people, for example, some straight guys that understand LGBTQ, because there are some that don’t like gay guys around them. It makes them badly nervous and it makes them think that we only want to have sex with them, but we aren’t. We are just trying to build a relationship with other gay men and connections with everyone.

Some of my friends and teachers understand my issue and it makes me feel like I have another family who understands the feeling and pain I’m going through this whole lifetime.

glsen.orgrespectny

glsen.org/respectny

If you’re compelled by John’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 Xyooj Xub’s Struggle for Love and Acceptance Narrative

xyoojxub

Story#16

Xyooj Xub is an 18 year old, Hmong American and identifies as a Gay/Queer male residing in Minnesota.

Ever since I could remember (I’m guessing the earliest age being 4, and self-identifying as a boy for the most part of my life) I’ve always felt a romantic pull to other boys and men. I found boys and men attractive and often wished I could’ve expressed that; however, even at that age, I recognized that it was dangerous to say such things. I quickly learned from one incident in which I told my cousins and siblings I thought one boy was cute, that ridicule would soon follow.

I came out to select individuals when I was 16 and 17 because I felt I was hiding a part of who I am, and that didn’t feel good. I came out to my friends, sister, and twin brother and I found that they were okay with who I am. However, for various reasons that aren’t exclusive to sexuality, I’ve dropped or drawn back from many of my relationships with these people. My immediate family, a select few of cousins, and most friends, are aware of my sexuality. The thing I’ve realized is that I don’t need to constantly assert what my sexuality is to everyone. It’s simply who I am and it’s my business, no one else’s to be concerned with. Other reasons why I choose to only reveal my sexuality to certain people are my concerns of safety, comfort, and fear of discrimination.

I don’t speak openly with my family about my life. I deal with depression that partially stems from my dysphoria about my sexuality, thoughts on gender, disconnection from my Hmong culture, and more. I don’t have much support from Hmong folks in general, and I find that on top of dealing with a variety of forms of oppression (racism, heterosexism, classism, etc.) from mainstream America, I must also do so within my own community. It puts that much more strain on my mind. Somedays, it becomes too much and I break a bit.

From personal tales of others, I’ve heard of queer Hmong youth being thrown out of their homes, disowned by their families, rejected by peers, or were told not to reveal their sexual identity to others in the family and community. In the worst case scenario, death occurs. The most prominent story I can recall was reading about the young lesbian couple, Pa Nhia Xiong (17 y/o) and Yee Yang (21 y/o), who committed suicide together in their despair of knowing their love would not be accepted by their families or community. A link to their story can be found here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/asianamericanartistry/message/763.

I don’t feel supported in general by the Hmong community. There aren’t even words in our language to describe our existence and I know well enough to say that I and other queer Hmong folks of this time can’t have been the first to have felt these ways. I feel I’m on the margins of margins with the identities that I identify with. I feel that, with not many resources or guidance available, many queer Hmong folks here in the U.S. get swept into the mainstream LGBTQ scenes, which itself has so many issues (white-focused, racist, misogynist, transmisogynist, classist, fat-shaming, body-shaming, etc.). I had to figure a lot of things out for myself and put forth a lot of effort to find resources that would help me better understand what healthy acceptance/love of myself and others meant. I wish this struggle didn’t have to exist for so many folks already struggling and I wish there were more available resources to prepare queer Hmong folks for a number of things in life.

If you’re compel by Xyooj Xub’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 Pheng’s School Challenges and Discovery Narrative

pheng

Story#14

Pheng is a  year old and identifies as a gay male residing in California.

I didn’t realize it until the end of my freshmen year in high school. I’ve always been attracted to men – both physically and emotionally. I guess I was just so used to ignoring my true feelings because of how I grew up.

Growing up I always was surrounded by girls, rarely guys. I just felt more comfortable around them than anyone else. I would do so much with my aunt and cousins (all female) whether it be playing house, playing with their barbies or stuffed animals, and even watching movies of Barbie, princesses, mermaids, you name it.

My memories bring me back to always not fitting in with the guys while playing sports; they played too harsh for me and used too much profanity for my taste. So instead I played tetherball with the majority of the girls; I was the best of course. But every time I did try to play with the boys, now that I think back, I was just being taken advantage of. I wasn’t there to play, I was there to be used, to catch the ball and hand it over to one of the “better” guys. Absolutely ridiculous. Playing tetherball with the girls though, that was a joy. I was always so competitive, so passionate about my doings when around them; I was comfortable. I just didn’t fit in with the guys, they did things out of my interest; video games being one of them. When I try to hang out with them, it just didn’t seem right. It was awkward, and let me mention, boring. But having hung out with my female cousins so often, I grew to have a feminine personality, and I’m admitting it now. My gestures, the way I talk, and the way I walk; it was something else. And for that, I was bullied and tormented my whole childhood.

Growing up I was a careless child, or so I thought. When being called names and such, I recall ignoring them, yes, but at the same time – I was dying inside. I hated myself and how and who I was as a person. None of my girl friends at school seemed to notice anything of course, but the guys did. We’re talking elementary school here, I was so young. At my elementary school, there was a certain group of boys in my grade and the next; they were my bullies. I remember being called gay, gayass, f***** fag, loser; you get the point. Like I said, I ignored the majority of it; after all, I’ve been doing it since forever.

One time at one of our annual school carnivals, one of those boys called me a “fag” and pushed me on the ground, scraping my knee. It was bleeding and I didn’t know what to do but kneel on the ground huddling my bleeding knee. I remember my sister Yer being there too, coming out of the crowd and shoving him while screaming something like “What the f***, why’d you push my brother?,” as he walked away chuckling. I still need to thank her for that. I think I was bullied so much throughout my elementary years; I didn’t even care much anymore.

Another situation I recall is having been dared to touch a girl’s butt to prove to a student of my grade that I wasn’t gay. Of course, I attempted it but I didn’t end up doing it. At the end because of talkers a couple students and I got escorted to the principal’s office. I did my part of the explanation, and didn’t get in any trouble. I guess my good grades and relation to my principal saved me from trouble. He knew me, I was everywhere. I was probably the biggest troublemaker at the school; but I had good grades and supporting teachers so I never really got in major trouble.

The last of my drama in elementary school would have to be when I got 3 of the 6th graders (I was in 5th) in trouble, possibly suspended (I don’t recall), for calling me gay. I was switched seats, and sat by friendlier people. I think I made such a big deal of being called “gay” that our principal addressed the situation at an assembly. Now that I think about it, I feel pretty darn special for him to have made a statement protecting my rights (not directly, but I got the feeling).

As far as my childhood in elementary, family wise, I would have to say it was just as bad; but different. I took it more personal, because it was my family, cousins, that kept bugging me and calling me names. It was usually my cousins that were teens and in their twenties. I was always questioned about who I hang out with, the way I talk and walk the way I do, basically everything. Like I said, I’ve been trying to ignore negative comments so much I got used to it; therefore sometimes I just zoned people out. Maybe it was because I was mad? Disappointed in myself? I know I just didn’t ignore their comments, because if I did, I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t recall those hurtful remarks that scarred me as a child. All the things I chose to ignore, today, is everything about me.

Some of the things an older cousin of mine have said to me when I was a kid, I still stuck to me till this day. I do so because it’s one of the reasons why I am able to reflect and admit to myself that through out my childhood to my freshmen year in high school, I was running away from this big truth to my life. I hear his exact voice saying this every time I think about it, “Pheng, if you ever turn gay, I’m going to kick your ass.” Me, feeling like a glass that just hit concrete; shattered. A little was the content, more it was because he was one of the very few of my cousins that I truly look up to. Since then, I grew to be more afraid of what others thought of me.

Growing up and going to middle school I told myself that I was straight. Even bisexual was out of the question. I looked at girls only. I had a couple girlfriends, which definitely made my parents happy; and me, temporarily. But I can’t help but think back on checking out all the guys at school. I could remember more cute guys than I could remember the girls. Boys in the locker room, them playing ball in the gym, everything about guys excited me. Teacher, substitutes, my fellow classmates, the list goes on and on of my attraction towards them but of course too scared and ignorant to admit it to myself; so I continued thinking the way I did about “being gay”, that it was a bad thing.

Then I hit high school, which would be about 2 years ago. I still considered myself straight. Through middle school and most of my freshmen year when I was asked if I was gay or even bisexual, I made sure I immediately reply, “no” or “of course not”. That seemed to help suppress my feelings towards men. Not until I found online resources, press about gay equality; it was then that I had to at least think about it. Events that really impacted my thoughts of life and people in general was some of the educational conferences I applied for and got into at colleges in California. Pursuit of Higher Education (POHE) and ShadowNite at UC Berkeley were the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. There was such a diverse group of students there, everybody fitting in regardless of race, personal differences, or sex orientations. I then was not only motivated to pursue high education; but to pursue myself. Reach the heart of my soul, hug it, comfort it, and tell myself that I’ll be okay to be what I want to be. I thought a lot about it, and couldn’t deny the truth. At the end of freshmen year I progressed to thinking I was bisexual.

Sophomore year is when I came to the realization and understanding of my true self, I am simply gay. I could tell you that I am so much of a happier person now that I am able to express myself in the ways I want to. I don’t have to say things that’ll hide my identity. I don’t have to deny the fact that I truly am indeed attracted to my same sex. I don’t have to deny me. I am truly happy, I am satisfied, actually grateful, of the person I’ve become.

Now here’s what everyone’s been waiting to read — my coming out story. I actually just came out to my dad, him being the last one to know in my intermediate family, about a month ago. It was harsh, as for things happened very oddly. My close friends and siblings in my household knew about me being gay and they were supportive; which I’m thankful for. But let’s start with coming out to my mom, who is a very nice lady. I would always tease about having to tell her something. One night, she came and laid next to me on my bed. She asked in Hmong, “What do you need to tell me?” I said like I usually do, “nothing Mom, I’m just messing with you.” And eventually after constant questioning and assumptions, I told her. Her reaction took me by surprise. She stopped talking, stared at me, and I saw the rage build up in her little by little. Looking at me straight in the eyes she exploded with questions like, “who told you that?”, “who’d you hear that from?”, and ended off with saying “I don’t want to hear those words from your mouth again.” I was devastated. Out of all the people in the world, I would at least expect her to understand and accept me for who I am. She was my mom. I was disappointed and felt uneasy. For the next couple of days I randomly feared that she may do something to me, just because she and people of my religion were so against it. After all, I am the first Lor in my family to be gay. But of course I was just thinking way too much. My mom later then tried to convince the rest of my siblings to persuade me to change who I am, they simply shut her down. They supported me and argued against my mom. My mom is now slowly, but progressively, coming to an understanding of who I am and that it wasn’t easy for me, all that I went through to be who I am today.

The story to my dad finding out about me, is an interesting and emotional one. My relatives from another state started talking about me I guess. Started spreading rumors, messing with my step mom, my dad, and my older sisters’ head. They were so confused and shocked about what they were hearing; that I was gay. My dad called me out of my room, to sit next to him and discuss my situation with him as a few of my family members were present to support me. He asked if I was going to confirm that the rumor is true, or deny it. I tried my best to slowly let him know that it wasn’t just a rumor. I could of lied to him to make things a lot easier, but I honestly couldn’t; and at the end I admitted it to him. He was speechless. He lectured me, as he started choking in tears. I did the same as I just shut up and listened. Tears after tears, I grew a little stronger. I started reasoning with him, as he kept on repeatedly saying that I couldn’t fulfill my duties as being a person, being Hmong, if I was gay. He was furious, he didn’t want to hear a word from me, and nothing I said would change his mind. And I know him too well, I argued the least I could because I just know there was no point in arguing with my dad.

It’s been a month or so since I came out to everybody. I know my parents are disappointed in me, upset, a little of everything. But I can’t do anything other than hope and keep hoping for their understanding. It’s tough, it really is. Especially when you look at your parents and see disappointment in their eyes, no joyful facial expressions at all sometimes. But there’s something I know and they know, is that I’m not a half-bad son. My grades are good, I’m involved in school, I work and support myself, in what way have I not satisfied their wants and needs other than now? I have a strong feeling that one day it will all be better. That time will heal this brokenness between us all. My parents are unconditional lovers and I have no doubt they’ll still be there by my side at the end.

Being gay, it’s never easy to express your sex orientation. There are always different thoughts and opinions out there of LGBTQQI people like us. We’re still the same person as we were yesterday, maybe one or two things have changed, but does that make us a bad person? It doesn’t, not one bit. Yes, you’ve changed, but you changed for the better; for yourself. Resources and support is out there, in social media, community organizations, or even clubs at school. Be sure to surround yourself with them, it’ll do nothing but benefit you. I live in Fresno, CA, and the community is as supportive as can be. Although the Hmong community in particular may not be as open to it as I would like; I am here to make a change. Take a stand, represent us people of color, and make sure that future generations can feel as comfortable in their own shoes as can be.

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My advice to anybody and everybody out there is that it gets better, just be patient. Those struggles, those tears, those years and years of confusion and possibly even misery, that’s all hard work. To define who you are, to find yourself, and build yourself to be the strongest person you’ll ever know. That’s the challenge and at the end of the day; it’s just up to you to decide who you want to be tomorrow. Be patient, embrace the love and support around you. You’re living in a world of rainbows, just keep your head up and smile, embrace your true colors.

If you’re compel by Pheng’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.

What Does Marriage Equality Mean for the Hmong American Community?

Make sure to grab your Hmong Today newspaper and check out one of our collective member, activist & scholar Kong Pha’s piece on ‘What Does Marriage Equality Mean For the Hmong American Community?’ Drop us a few comments, let us know what you think Marriage Equality means for the Hmong American community and to you.

Hmong Today Newspaper: Hmong Americans & Marriage Equality