2013 Minnesota Hmong New Year Outreach

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Today at the Hmong New Year in St. Paul, our collective canvassed and outreach to over 100 people including young people and elders, and over a dozen institutions.

We handed out MWSM pamphlets, Our Narrative and Movements: Peb Yog Hmoob Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer & Transgender. The pamphlet includes common questions of ‘coming out’ for Hmong LGBTQ people, and common questions about acceptance for Parents/Family with LGBTQ children/family members. To personalize, we quoted Hmong LGBTQ individuals who have contributed their diverse experiences in ‘coming out’ from our 2013 Hmong LGBTQQI Narratives Campaign. Lastly, you can read about the resources, trainings, researches and campaigns we currently have and are working on to enable us to be equipped in supporting our LGBTQ family and community members.

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Half of MWSM members @HNY2013

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 JV’s Transformation and Desire for Consciousness Narrative

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Saving Face (2004)
queerious.com

Story #17

JV is a 25 year old, Hmong American, identifies as a lesbian and residing in Wisconsin.

When I was 13 years old. I was felt confused, unsure of why I had such feelings for the same-sex. So I did what every pre-teen did, I hid it from myself and everyone else. I tried my best to be normal.

I’m out to my parents, all my cousins, and my friends. I made choice not to come out to my elders, out of respect for my parents. I choose to come out because I didn’t want to live a lie anymore. I was tired of living a double life. I was tired lying to people I love. When I first came out it was hard, my parents took really hard. They didn’t speak to me for a few months. I mean I understood why they were so hurt by choice. It’s been eight years now since came out to my parents and things have changed a lot. My parents have done 180 and they support my choice. I mean don’t get me wrong there is still a longs way to go but I’m truly blessed to have wonderful parents. I’m also very proud of both them for making such a great change.

I honestly don’t feel that the Hmong Community is very supportive. I feel as if we exist only in the shadows of the Hmong culture because it is such taboo for our culture. It’s something that is frowned upon and never spoken of. Though we exist, we hide to save face.

I think that the main issues is just acceptance from our community. We’re all still Hmong, even though we’re gay, lesbian, transgender, bi, or queer. Hmong blood pumps our veins and into our hearts. We are all Hmong before we’re anything else, so why can’t we be accepted?

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hmongthrills.tumblr.com

If you’re compel by JV’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.

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.