AAPI Heritage Month: The Windows To The Soul Has Blinds

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It is called the “mad dog” look; although it exists in many forms, aggravation, harassment, or observation, it’s simply “the stare.” It’s the stares that you get when you’re in unfamiliar situations or places, whether it’s explicit or all just mental, it’s all up to personal interpretation. It might just be admiration or someone may be interested in you, perhaps it is your outfit or your attractive appearance. The perspective from the other side of the spectrum is encountering someone with prejudice against you and “mad dogging,” provoking, or harassing you with their stares.

Gazing for a second too long at an insecure person with anger management issues within the peripheral of your vision can be problematic. Daydreams and wandering minds must be kept under control, because in the unlikely event that a tumbleweed starts rolling and guitar and trumpet music starts playing, mad dogging situations can turn into a standoff between the good, the bad, and the ugly like classic western cowboy duels in the movies.

You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird – Source: fidelialam.com

In some cultures, it’s impolite to make eye contact, an inherited trait from animalistic behaviours. In other cultures, it’s a gesture of endearment and engagement; by focusing all attention to the person that you’re speaking to, you’re showing them respect. But the concept of “it’s rude to stare,” or so we were taught, discourages us from observing people with our eyes and initiating constructive conversations with our mouth and mind. So is it rude to develop observation skills? Isn’t that how prejudice and rumors fueled by incorrect implications and ignorance spread? Growing up, I have had my share of awkward stare downs. Being labeled “guilty by association” by society and being a member of such a small population, it’s like the quote in To Kill A Mockingbird, “you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family,” it couldn’t be helped having certain family members who were friends with people who pledged allegiance to certain colors or cliques.

As much potential hostility as my own community posed, I grew up well aware of clothes and colors I can wear, the perimeters of where I can travel, and which areas with people to avoid due to my skin complexion, melanin composition, and religious practice, but being in unfamiliar areas, the unknown threat from strangers fueled by hearsay and racism motivated by prejudice and ignorance will always have a more paranoid feeling.

Always being cautious, prepared, and ready to react created a shield of anger, “What are you looking at” attitude, and “don’t disrespect me” mentality that was toxic. It not only created a hostile situation for everyone everywhere I went but it also prevented me from meeting genuinely good people. In order to cure the negativity around me, I decided a long time ago that peace, happiness, and equality was worth a life living, not one where prejudice and negativity dictated everything I did. Forfeiting my ego in order to be happy and enjoy the simple things in life was better than constantly being angry and looking over my shoulders for problems. A tap on the shoulder from a friend to say hello will always be better than a cheap shot. So in order to minimize the toxicity in my life, I had to start with changing myself and treating others right. Plant the seed of peace within yourself, then share the fruits of its labors with others.

The process of changing yourself is deeper than simply changing your outward expression and physical appearance. One of the recent memories that I still think back to was from a particularly sunny day during the beginning of spring while I was still an undergraduate student. The warm and refreshing weather that followed the uncovered blanket of winter made a lot of us students unable to stay indoors. My mind was racing with ideas, my heart wanted to pour itself out into words on paper, and my body was aching for sunlight. Before dashing out the door after class and driving to the pond at a nearby park, I neglected to wear my socioeconomic mask and costume. The clothes branding myself as a college student was heavy so I didn’t wear them and my slicked back hair felt more free than the molded comb over so that was how it was left. I went out of my apartment that afternoon as myself; my pants were baggy, my white-t was oversized, and my shoes weren’t polished; I was just my comfortable self, not a fictitious middle-class, law-abiding, and submissive Asian-American college student.

When I got out of my car and started making my way from the parking lot towards the lake, I noticed two men having a conversation and sitting under the pavilion along the path to the pond. As I got closer to them, our eyes locked, their conversation came to a pause, and their attention seemed focus on me. All sense of rationality seemed to leak out of my mind as my optimism wrestled with what appears to be my survival instinct. My fingers went limp as they tightly hugged my palms, my knuckles raised and hardened, and my whole body flexed itself into shape. The angry inner city teenager, whose only priority was survival, overpowered and possessed me for a second. Though the immediate anger and adrenaline stiffened my face, my learned-instinct fought its way to form a smile at them. I continued walking past them to my usual meditation place, the pier by the pond. I wrote my poems and they continued their conversation. Half an hour later, they left; another half hour after that, I left. I left with a few pages of poetry and a head full of thoughts.

Was it racism or just my own delusion? It didn’t help with the fact that a historical Klansman gathering site was not too far away from there, nor did the fact that the site of the largest mass execution in the US (Dakota War of 1862 that led to a mass execution of 38 Dakota Men on December 26, 1862 under President Abraham Lincoln’s order) was located only 5 miles away. Despite preaching peace and actively striving to fight for equality, was I still a wolf in sheep clothing, subconsciously flaring my animalistic strength? Were there still toxic residue from the years of racist encounters and different cultural clashes? It’s amazing how simple eye contact can potentially cause chaos, yet a simple smile can clear minor paranoid misconceptions.  The opportunity to learn from our observations shouldn’t be discouraged, especially among strangers or unfamiliar subjects.


 

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Steven T. Vang is a self-proclaimed nerd for words, writer and activist from the Twin Cities.

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

 


 

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Raising UP Mary’s My Bisexual Sexuality is not a Phase Narrative

buzzfed.com

buzzfeed.com

Story #38

Mary Chang is a 19 year old Hmong bisexual woman located in Minnesota 

My sexuality was not something I could choose. I never chose it, but I found it. I knew since the third grade I was attracted to both boys and girls, but I just never knew what it was called. For a moment I just thought there was something wrong with me. I never understood who I truly was, and why I felt a certain way, and I was incredibly confused. For the longest I walked with the title “Straight Female”. I knew I wasn’t straight. But I knew I chose to be at that time.

In the third grade, I had confused feelings towards a classmate. I knew I enjoyed her presence, and I remembered constantly looking back at her as she sat by the windowsill in class. There was something about her that gravitated me towards her. Maybe it was how smart she really was, or the way she was always silent and mysterious. Whatever it was, I would always stumble and feel awkward in her presence. I always tried to make a good impression whenever we talked, but I always came off  dumb founded when she spoke to me. I remembered on Valentine’s Day, I picked out a specific card just for her. The front of the card boldly said “you wanna hear a secret….?”. And then as you flipped over the cover, it said in over romanticized cursive letters, “I like you!”. I knew it was the one for her, and so I decided to write, “It’s true, I really like you”. But I remembered looking at it again, probably realizing how pathetic and wrong I felt. I thought that my feelings towards her was not right, because in this society, there was only “straight”. I threw the letter away, because I didn’t want to be teased by her or looked down by her. I didn’t want her to judge me. A few weeks later, I stopped seeing her in class, and she never showed up again. I soon found out that she moved away to another state.

It happened again in the 6th grade. But this time, it was different. It was more obviously like a “crush” rather than a “like”. I loved everything about her. The way her hair was chopped medium length. The way she wore boy t-shirts and sweaters. She was into a lot of things like I was, especially art and mangas. We became good friends and drew pictures for each other. I would look at her when she was drawing, and every time she spotted me, she would smile, and my face bloomed like a rose. But the saddest thing was that I kept my feelings away from her. All of it. It wasn’t until the end of the year, the transition to middle school, that I had sent her a letter. I decided to describe every feeling I had towards her. And I’m glad I did, even if she responded the way she did. She was shocked and didn’t know what to say, but told me that I was just a friend to her. And that’s enough for me.

In my freshman year of high school, I was in lust. Have you ever looked at someone and thought, “I HAVE to know that person. I just HAVE to say hi”. She was beautiful. Skin so white and porcelain. Her hair, a bright blonde, and her smile was the most amazing thing you will ever see. When I first saw her, it was like the clouds parted and heavenly light embraced her. I couldn’t take my eyes off. It was around this time that I discovered the term ‘bisexual’ and realized…that’s me. I am a bisexual. It was like I found myself, and I became happier with who I became. I was no longer confused. I told my good friend about her at the time and he (a guy) thought she was cute too. The girl and I managed to become friends and talk over social media. We had amazing conversations, and then, it suddenly stopped after a few days. Then I found out that my good friend was talking to her too and managed to ask her out. I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do.

Then junior year happened (keep in mind that in this time period, I’ve already dated a few guys). We met in french class, she was a year older than me. We were really good friends, enough were we hung out and talked about guys and sat with each other in lunch. I’ve gotten to know her so well that a lot of things about her sparked my interest. I loved how she had a big appetite and had no shame in talking or laughing with a mouth full of food. I loved joking with her and exchanging sarcasm jokes. I loved how her laugh was so loud and obnoxious, it made me laugh too. Just being around her made me like her more and more. we were close enough were we already had each other’s numbers saved in our phones. One day in class, I had an odd message sent to me from her. She was explaining to me the feelings she had for me and how much she really liked me. Oh my god I was in heaven. My heart raced, my stomach was filled with butterflies. We talked about it and I got to tell her how I felt. Though it was never official, I enjoyed every second I had with her. They way we flirted, holding her hand between and to classes. Holding her from behind while walking back from lunch. I felt empty when I didn’t have her warm hands between mines. We liked each other very much…but not enough to leave our exes for each other. Eventually her ex had come back and she decided she wanted to continue the relationship with him again. She let me know and apologized. Though this happened, we still remained wonderful friends, and I came to understanding.

thestar.com

thestar.com

The number of Hmong people I’ve met in the LGBTQ community can be counted on one hand. It’s hard to find other Hmong people residing in the LGBTQ community. I have heard of organizations such as Shades Of Yellow, a Hmong LGBTQ organization, but other than that, this website is the only website I’ve ever heard of.

When I came out, I came out only to my mother, because I thought she would be more understanding than my step father. But she just ended up telling me that it’s just a phase. I’m doing it just for attention. I’m doing it because my friends do it too, so she thought I was doing it to fit in. Then she shamed me, “what would your uncles and the elders think of you??” she said. And she went on a lecture about holding a good reputation, and being a good person. She told me that being a bisexual would bring shame to us and that I was a bad person. After that, we never spoke about it again. Even until now, I guess she’s thinking that I’ve overcome this sexuality, since I’m currently in a 3 year relationship with a man. But it doesn’t change anything. Til this day I still find women and men altogether attractive. After I found myself, I found others just like me. I joined LGBTQ clubs and found more people with similar interests and stories. I began to embrace myself and had hopes. I’m managing just fine after realizing that what people think about you, does not affect you in any way at all unless you allow it to. And if people cannot accept you for who you are, then they don’t deserve to be in your life. For anyone out there who was confused and lost just as I am, remember; you are not alone, and you will never be alone. Never let words affect you and live your life with hopes and joy.

©Linda Her and MidWest Solidarity Movement, 2011 – 2015. 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 JH’s Belief Of Losing Face Disempowers Ourselves And Family Members Narrative

theguardian.com

Story #36

JH is a 23 year old, identifies as a Straight Hmong American male and resides in California.

At the age of 10 years old, I notice that I only liked girls. I would not say that I am attracted to the  ‘same sex’ because I feel more like a male stuck inside a female body. Thus, it is right for a guy to like a girl. I also felt confused because how society view a “normal” relationship is a guy and a girl yet not a girl/girl or boy/ boy relationship.

I don’t know how to tell my parents, friends, and relatives. I’m scare that they will hate me forever if I do come Out. I don’t know where to begin, and I have no support. I don’t think there is any Hmong Community support for myself or other LGBTQQI people, because Hmong culture value the fear of “losing face.” They are embarrassed of having any LGBTQQI children, but it’s their fear of not knowing or maybe because they don’t want to feel blamed.

©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.

Raising UP T.V.’s I Choose To Share My Sexuality With People I Trust

Going South, 2012

Story #35

T.V. is a 20 year old, identifies as a Gay Hmong American male and resides in North Carolina.

The first time I was aware that I was attracted to boys… well I don’t remember much but if I recall, it was back when I was small like in the age of nine or ten. I would always want to feel abs from a person I was close to back then and he was a teenager. I didn’t know that I like to touch or feel his abs, but I was like so small back then, so I didn’t know better. As I grew older, I started to realize that I am starting to like other Asian men. It was hard at first, but I just kept that to myself.

In coming Out to my family and most of my friends that will be a no. I have my reason to not come Out to them, for example if I do, they might or will shun me away, and not consider me as a part of them anymore. I hate the feeling of being alone and most of all, I fear that they will condemn me. I don’t believe that the Hmong community think LGBT should never exist. In a way, I could say some of them would not have a problem with it. Yet, I am facing the fear of being shun away still and sometimes fear being lonely. I do not know any Hmong male or female that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender besides myself.

I am Out to a few of my friends. I trust them to be my friends, and they love me either way. Plus they have a kind heart and make me feel welcome. They are cool with it, and I love them because they accept me.

©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.

Raising UP Anonymous’s I Owe This To Myself, Honesty And No More Lies

time.com

time.com


Story #34

Anonymous is a 26 year old, identifies as a Gay Hmong male and resides in Washington.

I never really understood what homosexuality was when I was growing up, but all I know was that I was always attracted to other boys, and never to girls. As far back as I can remember being attracted to the same gender was when I was 5 years old. I remember when I was about 9 years old, the movie Titanic first came out, I was attracted to one of the man in the movie. It wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio but to one of the officers who saved Rose from the water at the end. I don’t know how to describe the feelings but I daydreamed a lot about him. I would sketch pictures of him and glue it to my wall. All I know was that I was crazy about him, a British actor.

It has been a year since I came Out. I first came Out to one of my African-American girl friend because I know she was very accepting and supports the LGBT community. One of the reasons why I came out was because I fell in love with this Korean guy. First, I never thought that I could ever fall in love with someone even though I am attracted to men. There was something about him that just sparks up every time I see him around. I get butterflies in my stomach, and he was the light into my darkness. My feelings for him were hard, and when he went back to Korea for the summer, I missed him so much. I would take long walks down the beach thinking about him wishing he could be there with me, walking down by the shore. Everything I do, I always wish that he was there. The sad thing was that he was straight. When I found out that he had a girlfriend, everything came crashing down. I was so heartbroken. and I never had these kind of feelings before. I’ve had crushes in the past but it was never to the point where I wanted to be with them. When he returned back to the states, I never thought that I could receive a hug from someone who I really like. I was happy and sad at the same time, happy by receiving a hug from the man of my dreams, and sad that he will never be a part of me.

I am only Out to my close friends, and coming Out to them was a relief. I love them to death. It was as if the weight I’ve been carrying has been lifted off my back. They love me even more for being ME. I have always hated the feeling of “Pretending to be Straight.” Now I can just be myself. I have gotten much closer to my friends now than, then. I haven’t come Out to my family yet.

I haven’t heard any past history or stories of Hmong LGBT, but I am sure that there are cases back in Laos. It seems like being LGBT isn’t accepted in the past and the individual have to marry the opposite sex just to be “normal”. I think the younger generation has a more modernized mind-set, so they’re more supportive. As for the older generations, I’m not quite sure. Some believed that homosexuality is a Western thing, that once Hmong people came to the US, they started to become gay. No race, ethnicity and country is free from Homosexuality in their culture. It’s everywhere.

gayasiatraveler.com

gayasiatraveler.com

Going to my First Pride Parade this year was such an amazing experience. The streets were so colorful, and it is so nice to see all kinds of people who are the same as you. Met lots of nice people. and had the best time in my life. When you are Out, at times, you just don’t care what people think anymore. Now I am happy the way I am. Life is Beautiful.

It was hard for me to accept myself as a gay man, but the Korean guy who I fell in love with was a part of making me realize my self-acceptance of my real human emotions and feelings. He was the first one who I can picture spending my entire life with. Just sad that he will never return the feelings back to me. He was the one who made me want to be with another man. When I was still “hiding in the closet”, I was trying to picture myself with a girl to just try to be “normal.” I always had these questions popping into my mind that if I ever dated/married a woman, “Will I be happy with her? Will she be happy with me? Will I ever be able to touch her?” etc etc.

I don’t want to live a lie anymore, and just be honest with myself.

©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.

Raising UP George’s No Rainbow Flags Necessary Narrative

MS2

weddingpaperie.com


Story #33

George Yang is 31 year old who identify as a Gay Hmong male, Christian, and resides in Washington.

I have not heard of any Hmong LGBTQIA Narratives. I was aware about my sexuality somewhere in my teens say, 15 years old. I am out now that I’m in my early 30s; half my life. With plans to getting married to my partner who is Puerto Rican, and starting our journey into becoming adoptive parents. Our kids will be of a different ethnicity.

Being from Pennsylvania where the Hmong community is mostly Christian with a lot of influence from the modern world, I say the Hmong Christian community has become supportive with LGBT people. Pennsylvania does have a small Hmong community so there’s a lesser chance of a bigger gay Hmong population. There’s another guy that I know of from Eastern Pennsylvania that is gay, and opened about it. But he like I, we don’t need to be waving rainbow flags around. We live our lives like the rest of the people in the world.

©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.

Raising Up Our Narratives for Change Jan 2015

We’ve been away to rest, school, work, and take care of our families, and ourselves in the past several months. We are in the process of re-launching our Raising Up Our Narratives to shake up Minnesota Nice with our Asian Trans* and Queer selves this January 2015. Stay tune!

At this time we have decided to close submissions for one our important online organizing efforts, Raising Up The Hmong LGBTQQI Narratives to re-launch a new version. The Narratives campaign has amplified the many truths, struggles, and positive sides of being Hmong and LGBTQQI. We received over 30 submissions from across the states, and have reached over 16,000 views from around the world since publishing the stories more than a year ago. Additionally, we’ve also received positive messages from our readers who can identify with the stories. Writing and speaking is important in documenting our existences into history, and to end the dangerous and silencing idea that “There are no Hmong gays (LGBTQQI) ever.” There are still several remaining Hmong LGBTQQI Coming OUT stories that will be posted on December 12, 2014, and throughout this month.

Your story is important. If you are interested in sharing your story with our Narrative 2.0, getting involved, or have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact Dee at dee@mwsmovement.com.

Thank you to all who have shared their stories, creating visibility, and speaking your truths.