AAPI LGBTQ Pride: My Difficulty in Coming Out

msmadge.blogspot.com

msmadge.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

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


 

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AAPI LGBTQ Pride: I Am My Father’s Son & My Mother’s Daughter

TOU FONG LEE

My secret dwelled deep. I asked myself if I could live in my secret forever. I am a Hmong gay man and a Hmong Drag Queen. I am my father’s gay son and my mother’s drag daughter. I am both a man and a woman and at the same time neither a man or a woman. I do know that I am Hmong, no matter if I identify as a man, woman, or neither. My gay identity made me “less” of a man, according to my family and my culture.

As the oldest son of four children, I was told that Hmong men are expected to grow up, attend college, get a career as a doctor, marry a wife, and raise a family. I was expected to carry on the family name and become a role model to the rest of the younger generations. I have lost count to how many times my father and uncle told me to “man up.” I was expected to be the leader of my household and one day have beautiful kids to carry on my family name.

At age 18, however, these expectations became a great failure to my parents. On graduation, I revealed my biggest secret to my parents that I am gay. I was known as the “lady boy” of my community. Gay to my parents, and perhaps to many Hmong parents as well, meant that I was transgender, confused, a prostitute, and it meant a loss of hope. To them, being gay meant that I want to be the other “gender.” The only definition of what my parents know to be gay was what they heard and a few times seen growing up as kids in the country side of Thailand. To them, I defied the Hmong culture. I went against every hetero-normative belief and I went against the only life they ever knew, the life of Hmong. To them and to everyone else before them, I was known as the sick and a sexual “lady boy”; someone who they falsely think is cursed and preyed on young boys, capable of converting people to my “lifestyle.” On coming out as gay, Hmong people think I will never have a family, a career, marriage, and life. This my parents feared.

Before coming out, I never knew how much my Hmong identity and my gay identity would conflict. All of a sudden my sexual identity became the only identity Hmong people saw me as. I faced great hatred and prejudice from my own culture. I faced racism from non-Hmong people and discrimination and prejudice from my own people, my own family, and the rest of the community. I present myself as a Hmong man, not a gay person. When I put on heels, makeup, and perhaps a dress to imitate the art of drag, I become my mother’s daughter, my brother’s sister, and another Hmong person to challenge the authorities of what “men” and “women” ought to do and not ought to do.

At age 19, I became one of the few Hmong Drag Queens in America. I can literally count on two hands how many Hmong Drag Queens there are in this country. I go to school events in drag, I volunteer in drag, I speak to groups in drag, and I am in drag when I do classroom and university workshops and discussion. I started my life as a Drag Queen not because I identify as transgender but because I identify as myself.

The first time I started drag was the first time I felt so free and so liberated. As a kid I knew I was gay. As a kid growing up in a house with girls, I was always fascinated with how my sister did her hair and how she wore pretty long dresses in the summer time. I always loved how my mom had flowers in her curly hair and the way her eyelashes were bridge long. I started drag as a way of entertainment. Soon enough it became a stress reliever. The way I transformed myself into a different character leaves behind the challenges I faced as a Hmong gay man. It delivered me from the stressful daily tasks and stresses I remember from school and work. However, it was not long before I wanted to be more than entertainment. Being a drag queen meant, to me, being my mother’s daughter. I suddenly became the daughter my mother never had and for a moment in my life it felt acceptable. It felt acceptable to be in drag and to “feminine” household chores. When I put on that wig and transformed myself into an Asian lotus flower, the gay son she so felt bad for was gone.

My identity means more to me than some funky drag show with a few dollars to tip for the night. My identity as a drag daughter is a political symbol, it is a way of self expression and a way for me to bend the gender binary that so unfortunately still exist in both my Hmong and American identity. The art of drag is to imitate the gender norms of the other “gender.”

When I come across other Hmong people I get treated differently. Hmong men do not want to talk to me in fear of association of being gay and Hmong women only talk to me because of my “gay” or “drag” status. I become a sick fantasy for some women to have a need for a “gay” best friend. You see, to my friends I am their “gay friend.” To my cousins I am their “gay and overly feminine” cousin. To my community I am an embarrassment. I come to embrace all parts of my identity and no longer have time for shame or embarrassment. So I like to wear a dress. Some say I enforce the social construction of gender expectation in the Hmong culture. Some say I fight against it. I say, I fight for me.

I am my father’s son and my mother’s daughter. I am just his gay son and I am just her drag daughter. To my parents, I am just their child. No labels, no hatred, no prejudice, just simply their kid.

 


Tou Fong Lee is currently a Junior at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee pursuing a double degree in Psychology and Religious Studies with an interdisciplinary in Hmong Studies. Tou’s primary emphasis is in clinical depression and how external and internal factors influence the way we perceive ourselves and the world. He uses pronouns he//him/his and uses pronouns she/her/hers when he is in his drag form. Tou serves as the Executive Assistant and Pride Discovery Camp Coordinator for the UWM LGBT Resource Center and is participating in a research team. Tou created his university’s first Hmong Safe Space Training Program and is currently working on a project to create a Hmong Queer Campaign to raise awareness to target the Hmong queer stigma. He plans to graduate from his undergraduate studies and pursue his graduate and doctoral work. You can contact Tou Fong Lee on Facebook.

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


 

AAPI Heritage Month: Where Do I Start?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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 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.