Opening Doors: Sacramento Hmong LGBTQIA Meet-Up

juliadee

Someone once told me, “You can empower and educate yourself to the fullest extent, but your community will remain the same.” As an organizer, this quote stuck to me. I have always wanted to build a space for Hmong Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) people to create awareness, education, and take action for a healthier community. I have only lived in Sacramento for 3 years, so I was unsure where to start because California is a huge state and the small amount of Hmong LGBTQIA I knew were living in LA. My other goal is to secure dialogue to keep Asian Pacific Islander (API) and Hmong organizations accountable for LGBTQIA persons and to keep LGBTQIA organization accountable for API and Hmong individuals. My amazing friend Mai Yaj Vaj contacted me about her aunt who share a similar vision and that’s when I met Julia Ann. Julia Ann Yang and I did a call out via social media site such as Facebook, MidWest Solidarity Movement, and Tumblr for any interest. We estimated 5-10 participants then decided to launch a video. Within days, we had more than 30 RSVP participants interested in the meet-up.

Why specifically Hmong LGBTQIA? They encounter intersectionality which is the concept of oppression and discrimination of overlapping social identities. This means, they are the minorities of White people and also of the Hmong community. They face racism from the mainstream and homophobic prejudice from their own community. Also, if they identify as a woman, they experience sexism. To truly understand themselves and the Hmong community, they need their own space to learn, grow, and reflect their own identities.  In fact, I remember in high school and college, I joined the group People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality (PRIDE) to meet people like myself who wanted to learn and understand sexuality and gender. To me, I always felt like PRIDE was a hidden acronym because college administrator were not going to approve LGBTQIA or Queer student org. Oddly, despite the name and being one of a couple people of color within the group, I struggled with the idea of what it means to be queer in my own minority community especially one that holds true to traditions. Mainstream LGBTQIA organizations and clubs fought so long for Marriage Equality which is beneficial, but often forgets the LGBTQIA family and relationships of minorities–which include people of color, disabled, women, and many more.

HmongLGBTQIA_final

I believe Hmong LGBTQIA escape from the Hmong community because of deep rooted gossip, reputation, and inadequate support. How do we, as a community, change that? How can we help Hmong LGBTQIA feel safe in their community? As an organizer, I believe in building conversations and connections when speaking about the issue. Let’s not speak about it behind closed doors, but to truly understand how to build healthy Hmong families. As Hmong LGBTQIA, let’s not judge the whole community due to the lack of education and support. We are the people who need to support one another and our community. We should bridge and build a space for concerned parents and closeted Hmong LGBTQIA. Unfortunately, the Hmong community has obstacles; it is common for Hmong elders who are often set in stone in their ways it become a challenge to open their hearts and minds about Hmong LGBTQIA. On the other hand, many Hmong people I know say we should wait till the generation dies off. Furthermore, another obstacle I believe is people in general are reactionary so they do not want to learn or understand the issues of intersectionality until they are faced with it. For example, many innocent Black children died because they are being racial profiled by the police officer when the mainstream society strives on White privilege and racial stereotypes and thus created Black Lives Matter. In short, equality does not happen overnight, but we can work on ways to understand one another in better ways.

At the Hmong LGBTQIA Meet-Up, we began with introductions, ground rules, facilitated an education portion about how there is no word for Gay in the Hmong Language. Next we moved on to our discussion portion, where we asked four questions. First question was have they felt out of place in other LGBTQ spaces. They expressed how they felt sexualized, objectified, and sometimes the space was unhealthy filled with drugs and alcohol. Also, the space was no safe and it catered to white privilege. Second question, if they were to come out today, would parents will accept if they came out. Most of the folks who were already out to their parents are in denial and it will pass because it’s just a phase. In addition, one participant expressed in order to save face they will not tell their parents about their sexuality. Third question was how the Hmong culture is a barrier for Hmong LGBTQIA. For example, I expressed that as a daughter I cannot practice anything in the Hmong culture because my father won’t teach me because I’m a woman. They expressed that the Hmong culture is rooted in patriarchy and why can’t women xwm kab, we have male and female shamans. The last question was how to be break down these barriers and make the Hmong culture benefit us. They talked about education especially for our parents, that being LGBTQIA is not a phase, creating a safe support to tackle issues like suicide and death. We need more culturally competent resources and services to serve Hmong LGBTQIA youth and families and for allies to step up and educate other allies. Lastly, their sexuality is not who you are but part of you.

Julia and I will continue building dialogue and friendships with Sacramento Hmong LGBTQIA and parents so assist those who are in need of support then hopefully expand from just Sacramento. We also have amazing allies like Mai Yaj and Laura Vu organizers from  Hmong Innovating Politics who are willing to help. We hope to create change by educating and empowering within the community. Hate and prejudice should not be what the Hmong community represents. Change is needed especially when the lives of Hmong LGBTQIA youth are on the line. To be Hmong, means to be free, but are we free in our own families to express our own sexuality and gender?


12466048_10153947787388083_2287745413439177237_oDee is a 26 year old workaholic living in NoCal. An organizer for many causes such as MidWest Solidarity Movement (MWSM), Building Our Future (BOF), Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sacramento (APIQSC), and Sacramento Hmong LGBTQ.

Please feel free to contact Dee at dee@mwsmovement.com

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: Who Am I

IMG_121719646752400

Minji (Left)

Grew up living in the white suburban area, I myself am really white wash. Even though I lived in a white place, my parents still expected me to carry out the traditional Hmong culture. Coming out as a gay queer cisgender male, I never expected there to be any other queer people of color. When I came out, I had the intention of my coming out experience to be more like the main stream coming out story of white folks; “Fuck this, fuck that, I’ll just live off being a gigolo.” Having this mental thought off how my coming out story will turn out to be like all these gay Caucasian, I was prepared to come out. I felt pumped, excited, and thrilled to handle the situation.

I thought I would break free from my cultural background. In reality, the truth was, my parents did take it hard like any other parents out there. My parents were mad, they were angry, sad, and lost as to what they can do for me.

IMG_46359291386522

About a month later after I came out, tears cease to exist, anger is six feet down, and a rainbow shines over. My parents became aware of who I am and that they in their right mind cannot change me of who I am. But me? I wasn’t really in the same state as I expected I was to be. I thought I would be like every other white gay person who came out. That life of white liberation. But no, I still had to adhere to my cultural heritage. I still have to uphold the Hmong traditions, norms, and values. There is no escaping that part of my life being a Hmong son. The only thing that may have been lifted off from me is that I won’t be getting married to a girl, but all other still applies. I may think I am different from any other Hmong man, but in the end, who am I really? I am a son, a brother, a fluffy boyfriend, a Hmong guy, a friend, a minority, a colleague, an activist, a special person. More truly, I am a gay son, a gay brother, a gay fluffy boyfriend, a gay Hmong guy, a gay friend, a gay minority, a gay colleague, a gay activist, a gay special person. I am but a gay man.

But I still hold true to myself of who I am to them; not as a white wash man, not as a man with privilege, not as any other person, but that is to myself that I am the oldest son of a Hmong family; a gay Hmong man.


A down to earth angel with a captivating sincere aura that draws in illumination. I am currently a student studying for my Dental Hygienist Major. Am also a full time working student to be able to support myself and my family as being the oldest son. Am very outgoing and funny.Also have a hobby thing for pigeon and did I forget to say that I LOVE COSPLAY! ^.~ You can contact Minji on facebook.

 

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 YPX I Want To Be An Inspiration to Hmong LGBT People

usakathoey.blogspot.com


Story #37

YPX is a 16 year old, identifies as a Gay Hmong American male and resides in Minnesota.

I notice that I was attracted to the same sex “male to male” since I was twelve years old. I felt that it was a lot of struggle for me because I can’t express my feelings to anyone or my parents. During that time in middle school, I felt really left out at school. The boys would not play with me, and say that I’m gay. I only sit with the girls but who cares anyway because I have best friends who are girls. They don’t really care or mind, and they respect me. As I am growing up, I always have this attraction towards guys because I think they are cute, handsome, and sexy.

I think one of the issues that Hmong LGBT face are fitting in at school. There were times when things come falling down on me. So I think of suicide because I feel really sad, and not happy with who I am. I was not born in the right body/person, and deep inside my heart I know who I am which really is a “girl”. Although, I didn’t end up killing myself because I think that is the not best way to solve my problems. I think that life is very fragile and competitive because you have to compete to be able to survive. I don’t ever think of dying soon. Life is very fragile and can be too short, because you don’t ever know when you gonna go today or the next. To avoid these obstacles, I watch videos of transgender people that inspires me. They give me the courage and hope that I will reach my destiny of becoming a woman, and not think of killing myself. They are my role model and inspiration..

I’ve not heard of any Hmong LGBT stories before, and I’m not really sure. Even though I don’t have much knowledge or experience in being Hmong LGBT, I would like to help and inspire others who feel different about themselves.

©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 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.