Chao Vang is an 28 year old Hmong American and identifies as an Atheist gay male residing in California.
I believe I noticed my attraction to other boys when I was in elementary school. Boys I thought that were ‘cute’ or ‘handsome’ were the focus of my attention and my daydreaming. I wasn’t aware I was sexually attracted to people of my gender until I was in middle school. I had no desire to look at girls. There was always that yearning to kiss, holding hands, and more with some of the other boys in the class. I knew then it wasn’t ‘normal’. Boys don’t like other boys, I thought. I wasn’t even aware there was a term for this. A term I so actively use to describe myself today; Gay. However, like many other Hmong, I felt I was the only one. For a long time, I really did feel like a lone soul. Was there anyone out there that could relate to me? Was I the only Hmong homosexual? Haha, boy, I’m glad that’s not the case.
I am OUT to everyone who asks. It’s certainly no secret now but I had my struggles. I first came out in middle school but I wasn’t completely comfortable with saying “Yes, I am gay” until I was 21. The reason I came out? Because I was sick and tired of lying about girls. I mean, really. “Oh yeah, she’s totally hot. I would totally do her.” Or “Yeah, there’s a girl I like. Her name is… Mai Xiong?”…Haha, it was all a lie. And the worst part was it was so blatantly obvious I didn’t like these girls I named or had any interest in them. I was more interested in the guys I was having these guy talks with. Then I was saying I was gay. Then denying it. Over and over. There was an intense build-up inside me where I finally just wanted to scream, “I’m gay! Get over it!” However, since accepting myself and coming out finally, I’ve lost many friends. I was never a social butterfly so losing them was devastating. And high school peers who thought I was already gay had even more of a reason to avoid me. I have since moved away from the high school and I have yet to reconnect with any old classmates.
My family, of which my siblings always sort of knew, thought it was a way I was getting attention. My siblings didn’t care too much even though I was being completely honest and serious with them. And even now, it’s not a big deal. I came out to my parents at separate times when I was 18 because they’re divorced and live in different areas. I came out to my dad first and then my mom. My mom was shocked initially and threw a fit, blaming American culture and coming to this country, but she gradually learned to live with it. What was she going to do? Kick me out? I was bringing home a huge portion of the income to support everyone in the household. It wasn’t worth it to her. As for my dad? Yeah, he’s the one that got that metal fly swat and got us every time my siblings and I were being bad. I was expecting it this time. And more. Like a kick out onto the streets. I was fresh out of high school and it was summer. I got into a fight with a friend I had a crush on and now, my dad and I were fighting and was asking what was wrong with me for always getting into fights. I don’t know why he did it but he did. He asked the question. Yep. Right in the middle of our fight, he asked, “Are you gay?” … There was no reply from me. Instead, I started to shed a tear… I tried to. But then I couldn’t hold them back. …The tears just kept falling. And falling. Well, I guess my dad got his answer. And here comes the shocking part. He said, “It’s ok.” Really, Dad? The same man that used to make us fear him by hitting his kids with a tool made for bloody insect murder is now saying it’s ok? Really? Wow. It was such a shocker.
My relationship with my parents isn’t great but at least they don’t hate me for being gay.
Honestly, I don’t feel I am huge part of the Hmong community since I don’t have a huge circle of Hmong friends and I’m disconnected from family, but among my Hmong colleagues and few friends I do have, it is not an issue at all. In fact, if the topic happens to come up, they try to relate to me on the issue. They’ll say they have a gay relative or a gay friend. Or they’ll ask what kind of men I prefer and so on. However, the Hmongs I know are all younger than me. I’m not sure if that makes a difference or not but it seems to me the younger generations are a lot more accepting.
There was no place for it in olden Hmong society but all cultures evolve and our Hmong culture is no different. But it is something that must be taught and with time, LGBTQQI acceptance can be incorporated into our ever-changing culture.
I know there is still intolerance in the Hmong community regarding the LGBTQQI but me being as disconnected as my family as I am, I don’t have any major issues. I know the United States is still fighting its battle for gay rights and marriage in many parts of the country and we Hmong are no different. We want to be acknowledged and would like our same-sex marriages recognized in the same way a man and woman marries, if such an event would even occur in the first place, with as much of our cultural elements still in place.
If you’re compelled by Chao Vang’s story, we invite you (if you identify as Hmong LGBTQQI) to contribute your narrative to our collection and documentation by taking this 5 minute survey: http://tinyurl.com/HmongLGBTQQIStories
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