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

Raising UP Pao’s OUT of Hiding Narrative

40% Homeless Youth are LGBTQ & the number 1 Reason is family rejection. - Photo Credit: http://queerability.tumblr.com/post/47796790712/40-of-homeless-youth-are-lgbt-the-1-cause-of

40% Homeless Youth are LGBTQ & #1 Reason is family rejection. – Photo Credit: http://fenwayfocus.org/2012/10/spiritday2012/

Story #11

Pao is a 17 year-old, Atheist, Gay man from Minnesota. (Pao is not the real name of the person of this story)

I first noticed that I was attracted to the same sex at the age of 5. I was very young, but I knew what I felt. Growing up, my sister would always dress me up, and I actually liked it. I wouldn’t say it was her fault that she made me gay, I chose to be gay. To me, it felt so right liking a guy. I believe I should have every right to feel what I want to feel without someone judging me. Overall, I feel happy because it is who I am.

Asian Amer Drag Queen Photo Credit: Leland Bobbé from http://www.walltowatch.com/view/8556/Drag+Queens+Before+and+After

Asian Amer Drag Queen Photo Credit: Leland Bobbé from http://www.walltowatch.com/view/8556/Drag+Queens+Before+and+After

Sadly, I’m not out yet. The main reason is that I brought up the conversation to my mom. She never asked if I was gay, but she always told me stories of other gay people. My mom told me these stories so that I wouldn’t turn out like them. But I am gay, which she doesn’t know about. It’s that fear that I have, even though I don’t mind telling her. I asked her if she would kick me out of the house if I were to be gay, and she stated that she definitely would. I am waiting for the right moment when I can tell my family and friends that I am gay, so I can stop hiding who I truly am.

I have never heard of any Hmong LGBTQ, nor have I heard any stories of Hmong LGBTQ and how their parents treated them when they came out. I only know of my own experiences. I think parents have specific views and goals that they want us to achieve for them. One example is getting married and having grandchildren. It’s weird to see a gay guy marry another guy to their eyes. Some parents are accepting and some others are just too traditional. They fear that we might lose our Hmong tradition.

I believe an issue I am facing right now is having to live up to a standard that society holds us to. The issue is having to tell my family that I am gay, and opening up to others. There is no problem with me at the moment, but when the time comes I will handle the issue and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Most of all, I think we fear being gay. There’s no shame in being gay, but we just don’t want to be looked down upon. We still have the fear that is always at the back of our minds. That is why I am only out to certain people. Those people are my good friends. They understand me and they love me for who I am. It is comforting and wonderful to know that my close friends are not ashamed of me for being gay.

GLBTQ Atheist - Photo Credit: http://www.thinkatheist.com/group/glbtqatheists

GLBTQ Atheist – Photo Credit: http://www.thinkatheist.com/group/glbtqatheists

Hmong Atheist - Photo Credit: http://www.hmongatheist.com/

Hmong Atheist – Photo Credit: http://www.hmongatheist.com/

If you’re compel by Pao’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 MYY’s Family Is the Biggest Inspiration & Support to Coming OUT Narrative

http://www.salon.com/2005/06/17/saving_face/

Saving Face film. Photo Credit Salon.com

Story #10

MYY is a shamanist, 21 year-old woman who identifies as bisexual from Wisconsin.

The first time I notice that I was attracted to the same-sex was when I was 12 years old. I could not understand why I was feeling that way about this new girl I just met. All I knew was that I was very attracted to her and I wanted to know if she had felt the same about me. When I confronted her with my feelings, she nicely rejected and explained to me that she did not feel the same way as me. After that happened, I tucked away how I felt about girls and started dating boys. At the time, I was confused as to why I had felt that way, but I didn’t look too much into it.

Hmong Trans* & Queers Rally at St. Paul Capitol for LGBTQ Justice & Equity

Hmong Trans* & Queers Rally at St. Paul Capitol for LGBTQ Justice & Equity – Photo Credit MWSMovement.com

I’m very close to my family, so I turned to them hoping they could help me. I did not know what to expect from them because this whole thing happened so quick. Surprisingly, they were very understanding and supportive. They told me that they will always accept me for who I am, so I should accept me for who I am as well. From there, I started dating my first ex-girlfriend. My family was such a big inspiration because they were there every step of the way while I was trying to figure myself out and come out to my other love ones. It’s been four years now that I’m out and none of my relationships has changed at all. Everything is going well for me right now.

I don’t feel as if the Hmong Community is supportive of me but I don’t blame them. This is a very touchy and new subject in our Hmong community. I think with a little courage and a lot of education, we can fix that problem. I didn’t even know that we have Hmong LGBTQ organizations out there. I recently found out about an organization from Minnesota called Shades of Yellow. The Asian organization from my university invited SOY to our speak out during Asian Heritage Month back in April, and I was so moved and inspired during their presentation. I think LGBTQ does fit in our Hmong Culture but it’s going to take a lot of time before it fully fits in. I feel that we should speak out more about it and educated those who know little about the LGBTQ community. I believe that in 10-15 years from now, LGBTQ will be accepted and become a part of our Hmong Culture.

Photo Credit MWSM

Hmong queers Vote NO on Marriage Amendment 2012 – Photo Credit MWSM

One of the issues I’m facing today is deciding on which path I want to take on for the future. I’m the next one in line to get married in my family, and I’m also the only one who is not heterosexual. My family accepts me for who I am but what I always question myself if I want to marry a man or a woman, if I want a Hmong wedding, and how do I want to start my family. Yes, I understand that you can get all those regardless of your sexuality but I see the kind of a family my siblings have and that’s what I want as well. I think the Hmong LGBTQQI community is being impacted by our old traditions.

The reason I’m only out to certain people is because people are so quick to judge. All the amazing people who truly love and care for know about my sexuality, and they’re very supportive. It’s the new people that I meet that makes me iffy about if I want to share that kind of personal information with them. They don’t know me enough to understand where I’m coming from, which I don’t blame them. Plus, I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable around me.

If you’re compel by MYY’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 LP’s Anew Beginning to Truthful & Honest Expressions Narrative.

Photo Credit The Voices Project

Kim Ho – Language of Love. Photo Credit The Voices Project

Story #9

LP is a 24 year-old gay man from Alaska. (LP is not the real name of the person of this story)

I am a late bloomer. I was 18 when I became aware that I was attracted to men. This instance occurred when I had met someone at my workplace, and I knew it was lust at first sight. At that moment, I felt as if the world had stop. Every time I am near or working beside him, I feel as if a sharp knife continually pierces through my heart. I became aware of everything about him, my face, his body, everything. I wanted to touch him, to kiss his lips, to feel his big bugle. I wanted him more than anything. Whenever we talk about girls, I became so arouse thinking of him giving it to me or me giving it to him. It was truly lust. That was my first instance of my own sexual desires and my own consciousness about who I was.

Like most Hmong family, I am very family orientated. My parents and my siblings are my life. If I was to come out, I feel I might lose my entire family or be kicked out of my house. Friends and family members who were on the outside are also my backbone. They have shaped me to become the person that I am today. If I were to reveal that part of me to them, I might lose everything that I had built with them.

Photo Credit: MWSMovement.com

I do not know if the Hmong community is supportive of me cause I have not had the chance to engage with the Hmong LGBTQQI community, nor had the chance to come out to them. I think most Hmong LGBTQQI are still silent or have to be silent because of the importance of “family values” in their lives. That is, most of the Hmong youth and those who are part of the older generations that I know are very family-orientated. That means that they are willing to give up their individuality for the betterment of the “family.” As long as “family values” remains unchangeable, and as long as that remains the barrier to coming out, then Hmong LGBTQQI will continue to live in silence. Personally for me, the main issue I face is that there isn’t a Hmong LGBTQQI community where I live. Thus, I do not have any opportunities to know and see any Hmong LGBTQQI faces. And again, the idea of “family value” continues to be a barrier for me because I am the oldest in my family and there are things that are expected of me which does not include coming out or being gay.

There are 3 reasons why I came out. First, I knew that I could not keep my sexuality as a secret for the rest of my life. I did not want to live in loneliness like how I used to be. I had always felt alone for most of my life and if I do not let myself be happy and loved for who I am, I might not want to be alive for much longer. Second, I knew that it would all be okay when I do come out. I am very fortunate and thankful to have a loving and supportive network of outside friends and family that were accepting of me. Last, I want to love and be loved by someone.

It has been 4 years since I first came out and many things did change. No one knew that I was gay because I am not stereo-typically gay, such as being flamboyant. Therefore it came as a shock to many people. It did take some time, but everyone eventually understood why I am the way I am. Like a puzzle, they put everything I had said and done together, and it made sense to them about who I am. I felt that a big burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I could begin to express my feelings more truthfully and honestly. In return, my spirit became lighter and happier. I care less about what other think or say about me because I already came out to the people whom I care and hold dearest to my heart already.

Bangkok Love Story. Photo Credit: http://formanz.com/

It was hard to come out because of the risks that I knew were coming and because of bonds I have made with my family and friends, but it took me a long time to realize that it is those bonds I had that gave me the courage to believe it would be okay and that things can get better. Although I am not out to everyone, I am out to certain people who matter to me and who made me feel safe to be who I am.

If you’re compel by LP’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 Xiong’s Out of the Box Narrative!

Story #8

Xiong Yang is a 27 year-old shamanist, transman from Minnesota.

I was in kindergarten when I had my first crush. I think I started school a few days after it had already begun. I really liked a girl who had befriended me on the first day of class. I remember thinking to myself that it wasn’t normal. I knew I had to hide my feelings. In grade school, I used to write on the bathroom mirror that “I loved” so-and-so. One time, my brother saw it, because I forgot to erase it, and I freaked out and denied it. Another time in 4th grade, my best friend at the time, confronted me (in a friendly but frank way), are you a lesbian? Of course, I denied it. I had no connections to that term. And when I came out to one of my male friends in 6th grade, that I had a crush on the same girl he had a crush on (I was a tomboy at the time), I could tell he was uncomfortable with it. He kind of laughed it off. I transitioned when I was 13, at the end of 8th grade. In the summer before 8th grade, my mom finally allowed me to chop off my long, wavy hair. It was during the year of 8th grade that I became friends with my current partner. We started dating at the end of 8th grade. We just celebrated our 13th anniversary this summer.

Gender 101

Photo credit by Trans Student Equality Resources – http://transstudent.org/gender101

I think the relationships that had the highest impact on my identity the most were my family members. It was difficult for my mom to adjust to my new and different identity, and for her to recognize my partner. It was even more challenging for my brothers and their wives to get used to my new preferred gender pronouns. I was persistent with communicating with them how I felt, which my communication skills got better as time went on. And the more they saw how I was leading a productive life, the more they realized I was becoming who I wanted to be. I think the times have changed a lot since I was a teenager. A lot of people are exposed to non-traditional ways of gender performance and sexual orientations. I think people aren’t as shocked as they used to be. I don’t think there’s complete acceptance yet. Acceptance is really on an individual basis, depending if people have friends or know someone who is a non-heterosexual, and/or non-cisgender person. There’s still a lot of stereotypes out there about Hmong folks who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer. The Hmong American society and the American society at large are not ready to move past those stereotypes. (The racial stereotypes are still a work-in-progress.)

Mainstream culture and the traditional Hmong culture still see things in black and white or binary. With that thinking, there’s no room for people who don’t fit neatly into those binary systems. I think the only way to really make this be a change is to be the doer. I live my life not as a man or a Hmong or a son or a husband. I live my life as me, and people find labels that they think best fits who I am. I feel people do that in order to find a commonality or something that they can relate to, which is quite innocent and unintentional.

My mom once told me a story of a distant aunt. She never married. When her parents died, she stayed living on her own. I believe she’s still alive today and is living somewhere in Laos or Thailand. I can’t say if this distant aunt is a closeted same-sex lover or asexual or anything else. But this story always stuck with me. And this story came out when I asked my mom if she knew of any queer folks back in Laos.

Marriage equality for couples who want to get married traditionally is still a big issue, even with the passing of the same-sex marriage bill in Minnesota. There’s a lot of politics involved in Hmong heterosexual marriages already. I don’t know how things like the bride price could be dealt with for a same-sex marriage. What about the spirits? Also, when one partner dies, who’s responsible for the last rites? I hope a more knowledgeable person of Shamanism and Hmong culture can figure this out.

Hmong Freedom to Marry

Because I can “pass” as a man, I don’t find myself having to “come out” or “reveal” myself to people about my gender identity or sexual orientation. I like to get to know people on a nonsexual orientation and non-gender basis. In fact, I’ve made that my personal mission: talk one-on-one with elder Hmong people. Sooner or later, they find out that I’m different. I think I’ve been able to sway a few Hmong elders my way or at least get them thinking outside of the box. I want people to know me for me. I don’t want them to have false misconceptions about me just based on what they associate with a certain word. If people could get to know a person and not judge them based on the label that can be associated with that person, I believe that would be a good start to the world becoming a better place.

If you’re compel by Xiong’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.

Being Gay and Queer in the Laotian Community

Danny K.

Check out our MWSM collective member Danny and his published piece on Little Laos on the Prairie: Being Gay and Queer in the Laotian Community

“One of the biggest thing that sets me apart from most Laotians is that I’m gay. I’m one of the few out gay Laotians in Minnesota and I don’t want it to be that way. There have been questions and curiosity if there are LGBTQ Laotians out there, and I am here to say, “Yes there are LGBTQ Laotians in the community, and yes we do exist.” We are more prevalent than the community thinks about, or are informed about internally and externally of the Laotian community.”

If Danny’s story compels you, please support his leadership and activism through donating $20, $30 or $50 to our Trans* and Queer Southeast Asian Organizer retreat Aug 17 and 18, 2013. Your donation will enable Danny, and Trans* and Queer Southeast Asian activists, organizers, and scholars in understanding the importance of social justice work, activism, and service learning in their community.

Click here to donate: Trans* and Queer Southeast Asian Organizers Retreat Fundraiser

Raising UP Calyvn’s Breaking Down the Walls of Disguise Narrative

Calvyn Moua

Story #7

Calvyn Moua is a 26 year-old man living in Minnesota. He identifies himself as Gay and a Christian.

I knew that I liked the same sex ever since I could remember.  If I had to put an age to it, I would probably say about six or seven. I just felt good or extremely happy when looking at other boys or males. Some kind of chemistry just hit me right when seeing a cute boy.

My mother told me a true story of someone she knew from Laos back in the days. She knew a girl in her village who liked girls and grew up marrying one. She acted like one of the boys ever since she was born. She would go hunting and fishing, as well as cut wood. Whatever job a man did, she would do, sometimes doing it better. She married her partner for about five years and then passed away when she drowned in the river while fishing. This time period was around 1960’s.

I believe that one of the most important thing that Hmong community has done to support LGBTQQI are the leaders standing up and fighting for issues that are important to our community. For example, (former Mn Senator) Mee Moua has voiced her support of the Hmong LGBTQQI community. I believe Hmong society in general still needs a lot more information on this subject because many of the older generation still see same-sex relationships as confusing or alien. I am not sure how homosexuality fits in the Hmong culture, but it should exist and fit in any culture.

Former Mn Senator Mee Moua

The most important issue I am facing today is the misunderstanding of being gay. Many arguments about my sexuality among certain “friends” has made me very upset because I didn’t know that people can be so stubborn and naive. Again, the world, and not just the Hmong community, need more information and testimonies to show others that we are normal too.

I came out because it didn’t feel good to be hiding behind a wall that I wanted to break down. When that wall came down, it seemed like my world was so much brighter and healthier. I did not want to hide my true identity from my love ones because that hinders me from being one hundred percent (of who I am). I feel that my friends and family deserves the best from me. By coming out, I felt more comfortable around everyone. It was hard at first for my mother especially but she has come to respect and support me 100%. Nowadays, she even talks to my boyfriend who lives in Laos via skype. She is very happy for me. I love you MOM.

Calyvn Moua on top of the world now.

I just wished that I would have came out sooner, even though at that time it would have been harder, but at least I would have been happier. Nonetheless, I am out and never felt better. I would like to say I am out to everyone, but unfortunately I am not. I am proud to say I am out to all my friends and my intermediate family.

©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.

Pride Canvassing & Trans*/Dyke March at Twin Cities Pride, 2013

What an exciting summer this has been! This 2013, MWSM decided to take a different route at Twin Cities Pride (TC Pride). We recruited a team of 10 volunteers to go out and canvass the various non-profits and churches that were present and outreaching about their mission and services. For some of our volunteers, this was their first time at Pride, and canvassing so we made sure to pair them up with someone with canvassing experience. We wanted to find out from the many organizations and churches to identify what services and programs they provided, so we know where to connect our community members to , and possibly collaborate in the near future. The whole team had long and great conversations about the services, leadership dynamics, goal measurements, how does intersectional justice look like in their work, and how do they address institutional racism, white privilege and supremacy. We talked to about 15 organizations and churches, and will be talking to more in the next month to then produce a data report Fall 2014. We will keep you updated!

Meet the team that canvassed!

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After a morning’s hard work of canvassing at TC Pride, MWSM joined and marched in solidarity with the Trans*/Dyke March.

#MG_4121

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#MG_4128

#MG_4129

#MG_4130

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HAPPY PRIDE!