Raising UP Europe’s Summoning Courage Narrative

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Story #30

Europe Lor is a 21 year old Gay Hmong American from Wisconsin.

I think I was 11 and I was attracted to one of my classmates. I didn’t think much of it, at the time I kind of knew that being attracted to the same-sex wasn’t really well looked upon and that it was something unique and at the same time I kind of felt like it was normal for me.

The actual reason as to why I came out was because of work, but I don’t want to say that it was just mainly because of work. But it is because of the work that I was participating in that allowed me to summon the courage to open the door that I was so afraid to open. I was working with an Organization that was just starting to build awareness for Hmong-LGBTQ and I felt that if I was going to do this type of work I needed to be honest with myself and my family. So I came out to my mom and then my dad. Another reason was because, I was afraid that I was never going to get the chance to tell my parents before they passed if I waited too long and I wanted them to know the real me before any accidents or anything was going to happen, I just felt like I didn’t want to lie to them whether they accepted me or not.

The issues that I am facing today as a queer Hmong is waiting to be accepted by my parents. It would mean the world to me and make me so happy that my parents would accept for liking who I like and for who I am. It has been 3 years since I have come out and my relationships have completely changed with everyone that exists in my circle.

I feel some of the younger Hmong generation is somewhat supportive of it and the older Hmong generation still holds onto their time from way back and isn’t quite supportive. I think that LGBTQQI is still in the shadows some-what, because the queer Hmong folks aren’t really recognized in the bigger part of our community.

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If you’re compelled by Europe’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 – 2014. 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.

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Raising UP AV’s Not Alone Hmong Bisexual Narrative

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Story #22
AV is a 15 year-old, Hmong American, female, bisexual, and Christian from Wisconsin.

I was probably at the age of 13 when I first noticed that I was attracted to people of the same-sex. I always thought that being bisexual was a choice. It took me awhile to actually admit to myself that I liked both boys and girls. I found it easy to tell my friends and parents. It seemed my parents were willing to accept my bisexuality, especially the fact that my mom wished I was a son. So as I became older, I tended to just open up and tell others that I am bisexual. However, I do feel embarrassed sometimes when I reveal that to others. I felt like people were getting into my businesses. I didn’t like that my family members would ask me why I like girls. They would constantly ask if I have a girlfriend. I felt annoyed because I am a teenager and I wanted people to mind their own businesses.

I do not have a specific reason why I came out. On a specific occasion, we were partying and out of nowhere I started making out with a girl. I felt like I pressured that person to do it, but she said she was fine with it. Therefore, people started to notice I was a bisexual and it felt okay because I did not have to hide it anymore at that instant. It has been 2 years now since my friends know about my sexuality. However, those who do not know do tend to become very upset when I tell them now. Overall, my relationships with everyone is going fine, except my relationships with my siblings, and especially my sisters. They do not like it. They always think that I am lying, but here I am, I want to tell everyone that deep down inside me, I do like girls.

I don’t have much to say about coming out, however, because I did not feel that it was not hard for me to open up to others. However, for those who have a harder time coming out and opening up to others, especially gay men, I do feel very sorry and for them. I think their fathers will be especially hard on them. I encourage them to keep trying and to follow their heart. I am able to say that I am accepted by my parents and friends. For this, I would like to thank them for understanding and loving me. I will and want to help and share stories with those who are Hmong LGBTQ, especially those who are going through hard times in life.

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Sometimes I do feel that the Hmong community is supportive, or at least aware, of  Hmong LGBTQ. I have have seen videos of Hmong LGBTQ that are out, and have done videos. Knowing that I am not alone, and knowing that I can accept the fact that I am bisexual makes me happy. I believe people who are LGBTQ exist everywhere in Hmong communities across the country. The problem is that it is hard to open up and be out, especially since rumors and gossips spread quickly. However, I encourage those out there to open up and go meet new friends. Who knows, you might even meet your future love.

I am involved in a Hmong organization called Hmong American Women Association. One day, the counselor was talking about being LGBTQ with one of the volunteer there. Her name was Sooya. I give credits to her because I think she is amazing. That is all that I have heard anyone speak openly about being LGBTQ. I think the organization can provide others with sources about being lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

If you’re compelled by AV’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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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 Sooya’s Family, Gender & Role Model Narrative

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Story#15

Sooya Xiong is a 23 year old, Bisexual female, Shamanist residing in Wisconsin.

I was 12 years old when I knew that I was attracted to both genders. Was I confused? I sure was! My heart would start racing whenever I am around the “girl” with words that I can’t even describe. As for the “boy” it was more flirtation. It has been 10 years since I came out to my parents. The reason why I came out? Well, duh, I am positively sure that I liked both genders; that I was “gay.” I was in a “dark” phase at that time as a youth, and it was time to make a change. I wanted to be able to express myself and be accepted. I needed the family support, especially from my parents.

How did my parents take it? Of course they laugh at me because they thought that I was joking. The word “gay” has been use so much in the family to make fun of someone. It wasn’t until I kept bringing the subject up to my father to this day that he finally understands what it means. He knows I am “bi-sexual” and he supports me (however, we all know parents lecture you and hope that you will end up with the opposite sex).

SX2However it wasn’t until 2008 that I fully revealed myself physically to the entire family and extended families. After my high school graduation on that following Monday my sister shaved my head in our home in Chicago. My mother and siblings were also in the room. It sure did make me feel good because of the support I had. But then I was scared of my father’s reaction that he’ll flip out. He saw my baldness when he came home to Milwaukee the next day, but didn’t say anything. He just laughed. Now that’s a good sign. How did it make me feel? I felt relieved and happy! But then I was told to wear a wig whenever I attend “Hmong events” (which I completely understand why). My extended families and everyone else knew about my sexuality, but it was never really addressed or acknowledge. Some words were said to describe and address me here and there, such as “tomboy,” “hey, new boy,” “son” etc. The gender roles did not change, everyone still sees me as a Hmong woman encompassing the same respect, duties, chores, et.

Some of the issues that I am facing today is how can I as a person who identities both as Hmong LGBTQ and Hmong woman help the Hmong youth who are coming out. I believe I can be a support for other Hmong LGBTQ by providing a safe place for them, helping them deal with family issues, and creating a support system.

If you’re compel by Sooya’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 Yermay’s Family Acceptance & Recognition Narrative

Sept 099Story #12

Yermay Yang is a 33 year-old Hmong Queer Christian from Wisconsin.

 I first noticed that I was attracted to the same sex when I was in college. I realized that I was okay with liking beautiful women and that other people were not like me. When I finally understood what it meant to be a queer person, I felt liberated. My whole life made more sense.

 I wanted to come out so that I can live my life and not have this burden of hiding who I am. It was hard to have a relationship with my mother when I was still in the closet. When I finally told her, it felt like I could start to have a relationship with her again. Coming out was hard on me and my family. I am sure it was hard for my siblings as well because they also had to “come out” about having a queer sister. My father did not speak to me for a year. Through it all, I know my parents love me regardless and always welcome me into their home.

I am out to my family and close friends. My parents were the main people I officially needed to come out to and then they told others in my extended family. My life is not all about being queer so I only tell people I feel like it is needed.

 I do not feel that the Hmong community as a whole is supportive of LGBTQQI people. People still measure things in heteronormative terms. Sometimes queer people do not know how they can fit in within the larger Hmong community, so it makes it even harder for non-queer people to see how we as queer people can fit in. This is perhaps the reason why I have not heard of any past history or stories of Hmong LGBTQQI people.

 Finding acceptance and a place within the Hmong community is still an ongoing issue that Hmong queers face today. Sometimes being queer can take over a person. That is, they will only be known as that “gay person.” People start assuming things about what they are like and what they do. Because of this distorted view on what it means to be a LGBTQQI person within the Hmong community, Hmong queers find it even more difficult to live their lives.

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If you’re compel by Yermay’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 Fue Chue’s Hardest Part In Coming OUT to His Family Narrative

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Story #5

Fue Chue Vue is a 22 year old male from Wisconsin. He identifies as Homo-flexible and follows the Hmong Shaman religion.

When I was little, I was always curious. I’d check out guys and girls, however, checking out girls got annoying because my older siblings would always say, “Damn! Check out that girl’s ass! Her boobs are so huge!” So in annoyance, I’ve come to understand my female friends better. I can recall them saying that any girl who is my girlfriend is lucky and why can’t guys be more like me. I thought it was funny that they say that. Throughout puberty and middle school, I noticed I started to check out guys even more. At this stage in my life, I began convincing myself that I was bisexual. I was always afraid to tell my friends. One day after school in my 8th grade year, my friend and I were walking down the hall and she was brave enough to tell me that she, herself, identifies as bisexual. I also told her then I was bisexual. That year in middle school, I had the biggest crush on this guy. I checked him out every time I saw him, I almost felt like a creep because I would pretend not to look at him in class, but would sneak a peek every now and then. (It’s not my fault the teacher assigned these seats!) But I was always afraid of my own sexuality because my family always made fun of those who are gay.

Coming out to my family was the hardest part I had to do. My siblings already knew that I was gay, but we just never really talked about it. However, to my surprise, they were all accepting of me coming out. I’ve always been the odd one in the family so it’s not like I can really hold a conversation with them all the time because they all have mutual interests in sports and cars, whereas I don’t. With my sisters, they all live out of town, but they all are very accepting of me, since I’m the youngest too. My relationship with my siblings changed for the better after coming out. It’s been 4 years since I told my siblings, and life is better. Even though I’m gay, I’m still the same brother that I’ve always been.

I first came out to my general group of friends my sophomore year in High School. I already knew that they knew that I’m gay, but I felt like I had to tell them myself in order to have an even stronger bond with them. They were all fine with it. I was still a little sketchy with my guy friends, because I didn’t know how they’d react to me being gay, being that I’m a male as well. I didn’t want them to be weird around me. So I was only out to my friends and not the whole school. It was a little stressful trying to hide my sexuality.

Coming out to my parents was very hard. I felt like I can never be their son unless I tell them that I am gay. I wanted to tell them that they have a gay son and I’m no different than any other parent’s children. But that one that night when I came out to them, they asked, “Are you doing drugs, because all gay people will end up doing drugs or already on drugs? You are going to jail because gay people are bad and jail is a place for them. No one loves you, not even your siblings, in fact they’ve come to us and told us to tell you to stop being gay. The reason why your mom is feeling sick is because you’re gay, and your presence is hurting her spirits. They’d rather have a son who steals and does drugs than a gay son.” It hurts me because my parents are so caring and respected by our cousins and friends, and they always tell me how sweet and nice my parents are. And to hear these words come out of their mouths really killed me on the inside. Something inside me died that night. That night, I almost committed suicide. I almost jumped off the bridge into the river, but at the last minute, I thought of my baby nieces and nephews. How much I mean to them, even at a young age. Then my friends came to my mind and lastly my family. I cried a lot that night and I really needed to cry it out because I’ve built up so much inside that I needed to let go. So even though my parents and I have our differences, I still love them. It’s been almost a year since I’ve told them. My dad, surprisingly, is more accepting of it than my mom. I recall him saying, “Let him do what he wants. Who cares? People are people.” Although she still tries to convince me to be straight, my mom is a little bit more accepting of it now. I found little steps at a time work.

I feel like the Hmong community is half supportive. A lot of the times Hmong people just ignore that I’m gay, or they just brush it off their shoulders. But many Hmong people are scared, especially the ones that hate Hmong LGBTQQI people. I believe it’s because they’re ignorant (not knowledgeable) and unaware of what I have to go through. Of course everyone knows that I’m gay, but have they ever considered how I feel when they make jokes about gay people? They don’t, and that’s something I am really against. They make it seem as if being gay is disgusting or uncomfortable. I feel that the LGBTQQI community fits on the bottom of our Hmong culture and community. I say this because when I came out to my parents, they basically said that being gay is worse than a son who is a drug addict or someone who steals. However, I always keep in mind that we are slowly making our way up and no matter how many times we are hit down, we will always fight for the rights that we have.

I have not read or found any source about Hmong LGBTQQI people before. I’ve had my own struggles and so I can relate to these people, but I don’t think I can apply them to myself. And I say that because our parents, friends, and peers, are not the same people. Everyone has their own reaction. So reading about it, sure it’ll make me more knowledgeable and understand what they went through, but when I think going through it myself, no matter how hard it is, is the best way to learn.

I think meeting new people, whether they are your friend’s friends or family, or just being in different places is one of the hardest things to face because we don’t know how people will react.

Same goes for telling your uncles, aunts, and grandparent. Because they are from an older generation, it’s harder for them to accept it. Of course they know what gay is and what gay people like, but will they accept it? I don’t think so. A lot of times, people have told me that their elders accept LGBTQQI people, only if it is not their own blood. It’s sad, but it’s the truth. But I’m always going to stay true to myself, no matter how hard things get.

I keep in mind to never give up. I’ve given up so many times before and I’ve been so close to death, but being gay should not be a reason to kill your own self. It sucks being feared and looked down upon, but at least at the end of the day, you know that you are true to yourself. Instead of looking to please others, live your own life. Impressing them does nothing. It just makes them see you as weak and vulnerable. So with my final words, I wish you all the best in life and remember you are not alone, we will help each other.

Please share your story by clicking on the link below:

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 Tou Fong Lee’s Self-Love & Acceptance Narrative

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Story #4

Tou Fong Lee is a gay 19 year-old Hmong American man living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The very first time I noticed a same sex attraction was probably back in 5th grade. I saw a pretty cute looking fifth grader who was also a boy.  Of course I did not know what these feelings were at that time, but I did not feel shameful or guilty about having them. Back in 5th grade, life was basically about recess and getting to the lunch line first. It was not until my middle school years that I really started to think about these feelings and emotions that I had towards people of the same sex.

I first officially came out in his Sophomore year of High School.  I decided to take this course of action because I was tired of pretending to be someone else, and I just wanted to be myself!  I was tired of describing a person that I liked with the pronouns She/Her/Hers and wanted to reflect those with the correct terms of He/Him/His, because they were correct with what I was attracted to.  I was only out at school from my Sophomore to Senior Year of High School and on my day of Graduation, I came out to my family and more specifically to my parents.  My mother and I were very close, and I remember sitting down at the table getting ready to come out to her and feeling so scared out of my mind and unsure of her reactions that I bawled my eyes out.  The following two months after I had came out of the closet to my parents, it was very awkward.  Nothing felt comfortable, nothing felt right, and nothing felt close like how it did before.  I felt so isolated and felt like I was a big disappointment because I felt as if I had let my parents down.  I do not think that they have or will ever accept me as myself, but our relationship is slowly getting back to normal, in a sense.  I think it is important to carry out life normally after leaving the closet.  I am still the same person that I was before coming out to everyone. All I can do is continue to be that normal boy.  That’s all I can ask for myself.

One thing that I learned that was important from my personal experience is that before coming out, one has to be ready. By that I mean ready to love yourself, accept, and be proud of who you are.  In my opinion, the whole coming out process is almost a spiritual and life changing step but only if you are truly ready. Coming into terms that you are LGBTQ identified means loving yourself for who you are, and no longer hiding anymore.

For the most part, I am out to everyone. There are still groups of people who I feel do not need to know my sexual orientation or that I have the need to disclose it to them. I feel that at this stage in my life, having experienced many forms of “coming out”, I have no obligation to come out to anyone else now besides the people that I love and who love me in return.  Back in high school when I first came out, I felt the need to tell everyone that I was gay and that I needed all of their acceptance. At a point in my life I started to realize that I did not need to come out to everyone and that it was still okay. I am not, in any way, hiding my sexual orientation or who I am, but more so choosing who to share and open myself up to.  Lastly I think it is obvious that I am an openly gay Hmong American man.

I personally have not heard and do not know of any stories about our Hmong LGBTQ. However, I work as the Executive Assistant at the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and have started our campus’ first Queer People of Color organization.  I am hoping to bring a sector of Shades of Yellow to our campus.

From my own impression, the Hmong Community is supportive of the LGBTQ community, at least to a certain extent. I feel that the younger generation are more accepting than their parents, grandparents, and the elder folks. I still feel very discriminated against at social events and gatherings. Oftentimes, I just want to belong and talk to someone who I can relate to. LGBTQ Hmong people have always existed in our history.  The only difference was that no one has ever had the chance or support to stand up and make their voice heard until we arrived in the United States of America. I respect the elders in our culture who continues to hang onto traditional roles and expectations.  However, time changes everything, and we too should move forward or we will fall behind. LGBTQ Hmong people are no different than heterosexual Hmong allies.

Some issues that I face today come more from the Hmong culture than the cultures that I seek elsewhere. I identify as a gay Hmong man who face these issues and these struggles within my own culture and race. I feel that our culture is not comfortable and educated on LGBTQ people. When we are faced with change, we struggle to move forward to a mutual understanding. Our entire culture, traditional gender roles, sacred roles such as marriage and funeral ceremonies, do not include or pertain to LGBTQ people. With my own impressions, two husbands or two wives have “no place” in the traditional marriage or funeral ceremonies. That is what makes it hard for LGBTQ Hmong folks who still want to hold onto their roots. Our traditional rules and laws are being “challenged” and forced to face a change that I feel is needed and should be implemented.

Please share your story by clicking on the link below:

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.