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.

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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

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AAPI LGBTQ Pride: To Be Me

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Growing up in a Hmong family with 3 other brothers and 1 sister was a real struggle to get by as my parents and close family members expected so much of me to succeed just like my uncle. I was born the second son in our family of 7, including my parents. Here is my story… Ever since I could remember, my family had always praised me to be the brightest, and a person who would always listen to their parents. With this in mind, I couldn’t bear to disappoint them by telling them that I like boys. I, along with close family members and friends, had always knew that I was different.

Having only one sister in the family, my mother had always spoiled her since she was the only daughter. My mother was always buying her pretty dresses, jewelry, makeup products, and all the accessories little girls loved. Of course, you can pretty much guess how jealousy had just taken a hold on me. So, I questioned myself about why I felt this way. I hated myself and I wanted to cry because being a boy, I can’t have girly things.

 

During second grade, I knew I had feelings for other boys in my class. I wanted to only hangout with them, to be put in the same group as them, and wanted to spend my entire day with them. This was all I could ever think about. Sadly, I didn’t understand my feelings at the time and I kept thinking to myself if this sensation of infatuation, only  a phase. I thought I was living a normal life. As I got older, I understood the term gay and that was when I started to label myself as gay. Although, I was still unhappy with the term gay because it didn’t suit me well. I hid myself in the dark corner of my mind and even persuaded myself that I was not gay. Afraid to be known as feminine, I would exclude myself from society and my classmates throughout my entire grade school education. Every friend I made, knew or assumed that I was gay due to my feminine voice, while at that time, I never knew that I wanted to become a woman.

When I was 20 years old, I was introduced to the term transgender and increased my vocabulary to define myself. The moment I heard the word, I immediately searched and googled the term many times. The feelings I received from knowing transgender was so overwhelming and I couldn’t wait any longer, because that was the day my life as a boy ended. From there on out, I considered myself as a woman and I have been living as a woman since that day.


Kimora Cha is 26 years old and identify as a Hmong transgender woman from Sacramento, California.

 

 

 

 


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 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

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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.

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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 Mary’s My Bisexual Sexuality is not a Phase Narrative

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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.

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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 YPX I Want To Be An Inspiration to Hmong LGBT People

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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

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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.