AAPI Heritage Month: I Write from the “We” that is Erased by Assimilation

 

Film Screening: Hafu: the mixed race experience in Japan. Source: hafufilm.com/en

Growing up fourth generation, developing an identity as an Asian American has felt like something of a choice, or a process. Perhaps it was inevitable but it feels like a reaction. I think that for some folks in immigrant communities who are first or second generation, ethnic identity can involve a strong cultural experience. Not a monolithic or a static one, to be sure, but perhaps a more cohesive one. My identity is of being an American, but a racialized American. Which is also a cultural experience, just an American one.  I’m mixed, with a Japanese American father and a European American mother. My grandfather’s family were Buddhist missionaries who migrated to Hawai’i and helped found a temple there. I grew up in suburban Illinois without much of a community that looked like me or came from similar history.  Coming from a family that was more or less assimilated, sometimes I think I grew to identify as a Japanese or Asian American based on the negative aspects of being a racialized person, rather than the positive aspects of identity, culture, or community. My choice to identify as such was and is a reaction to the self doubt, in/visibility, and microaggression that people of non-European descent experience in America.  Ultimately I see this as a blessing because of the community and history I am still discovering, but also because it provided me with the earliest seeds of doubt about a racial system that I could not name but was keenly aware of.

I write from the “we” that is erased by assimilation.

I am decided by the fact
That our people came here to work in the sugar cane fields
That we came here to minister to those who worked in those fields
That we came here to get rich quick
That we died trying;
That we succeeded and forgot our mother tongues,
That we burned photographs and letters,
That our children would look at us as the enemy;
That we came here to live in segregated neighborhoods,
and that we did business in further segregated neighborhoods
That we came here to move to the suburbs
That each generation was foreign to the one that preceded it;
That our children would resent us for not teaching them who they were;
That we defined ourself against whiteness, while we craved whiteness,
while being used as a wedge against blackness,
That as we lost the our mother culture, we became something else entirely,
That we we were forced, coerced, encouraged, and then rewarded for assimilation;
That we came to sit in furious silence, or to laugh in self-hate,
when our American friends mocked our parents,
That we were still not American even after four generations,
That as mixed kids, we were Asian when you wanted to laugh,
but white when we challenged your racism, no matter where it was directed
That when we grew up, we died a little bit everytime we passed,
That when we grew up, we realized:
We would not be followed in the grocery store, but
our fathers would be followed home from the train station by boys calling them chink;
That our mixedness would be celebrated–
That they would offer our own bodies back to us as currency,
That this currency would only be of value when positioned against a backdrop of white power,
That the outsiders who celebrate our mixedness do so at the expense of our browner cousins;
That whiteness wants to extract the part of us that is not itself, both to taste it and to extinguish it;

Source: eclecticshaman.com

Source: eclecticshaman.com

That we are not the sum of our parts, that we are neither of our parts;
That those who want to consume us, and sometimes do-
Spit us out as not their own,
Swallowed us and owned us, unaware we are
Both/and neither
That the nature of life is dualistic, not binaristic–
That the roots of the family tree divide infinitely in half

 

 

 

 

 

 


10077_4340851356467_1874550948_nSusan Kikuchi works as a labor organizer and currently lives in Minneapolis. She is constantly having the same conversations over and over with herself, using new vocabulary each time.

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 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 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.

Raising UP Kevin’s Liberated Narrative

684C9BDF-B923-4D0B-ACFA-BC4DE9530552_mw1024_n_s

voanews.com

Story #28

Kevin Thao is an 18 year old Hmong American and identifies as an Atheist gay male residing in Minnesota.

When I was a kid, I don’t remember how old, I always noticed this aesthetic feeling towards a male teacher. It’s hard to explain what I was feeling then, but I liked this teacher a lot, especially the way he looked at me. He made me feel, “Giddy” with excitement. So this made me want to go and talk with him.

I am out to only certain people because I still feel uncomfortable letting people know that I am gay. It’s because when I was a kid, I was bossed around, I was hated, and I was bullied. Growing up, I learned how to be independent so I don’t go out and meet people. Regardless, I had friends because of school, but I wouldn’t go hang out with them. Just growing up to be independent, I didn’t tell other people about what I was feeling or about of my life.

I came out roughly about 2 years ago because I was feeling lonely. At first, my parents said they didn’t mind then they changed their mind. They told me that there is no such thing as being gay as a “Hmong” person. Although they ignore me and do horrible things to me, I’ll just have to prove to them that I can be that better person.

Right now, I couldn’t care less about what I do outside in society, since I know who I am and that’s who I will be. I don’t mind telling people that I am gay, but I don’t go around telling them that I am gay. If people ask, I just give them a straight up answer. Being independent wasn’t helping me to what the real world was about. Out in the real world, you’re going to need to communicate, converse, and talking to other people whether it’s about business or just in general.

I definitely feel the Hmong Community is supportive of me. Although, I don’t hang out with many people, when I do, they already make me feel safe and comfortable of where I am and who I am.

I think that everything is fine. I believe that it should be always spread around communities because I want people to realize that a man and women isn’t just the only thing that exist in this world.

If you’re compelled by Kevin’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 Su’s Short but Sweet Narrative

yes-or-no-kim-pie-kiss

rebzombie.com

Su is a 16 year old who identifies as a Lesbian residing in MN.

I was 12 when I saw my sister’s friend making out with her girlfriend. She explained that this was normal and if I accepted it as normal, I would be happier with my life not miserable. So as I grew up they took me more and more places with them to hang out with other girls like them. They all gave me kisses and eventually they made me kiss a girl on the lips! At first it felt weird, but after a while I thought, maybe I’m lesbian after all!

The only issue I’m facing right now is trying to hide this from my parents. When i’m older I’m sure I can prove I love her (my girlfriend) and that she loves me!

If you’re compelled by Su’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 Meng’s Feeling Free Narrative

1524962_692126054151497_12239647_nStory #23

Meng Vang is a 22 year-old Gay and Hmong-American man from Minnesota.

There wasn’t a certain age when I knew I was gay, but it was probably during middle school. I only knew that I was different because when I am with a girl or girlfriend, I do not feel any attraction towards her, or she doesn’t turn me on. During this time, I still had no idea what gay even was. It wasn’t until my freshman year that I started to notice that guys are what attracts me, guys are what turns me on, guys are my thing, guys are…..they just are.

I still remember why I didn’t want to come out. I was afraid of not being accepted by the community and also by my family. What should I expect after I tell them I am gay? It’s the after effects that scares me about coming out. Where would I go if I was disowned? Will I be able to make it alone in this world where no one understands me? Is death the only solution in the end? These “what ifs” are what causes me to stay hidden. There are many more but these are only some questions in which I often relate to.

The only issue I face is that I take medicine every day from my parents in hopes that I will turn straight for them, but the reality is, I’m gay and this is who I am. I believe being disowned by our family is the biggest struggle that currently impact the lives of Hmong LGBTQ. Hmong culture, well speaking of it, traditional Hmong culture see no value in this topic. It is considered a taboo and being gay is the worst way to be looked down upon. Only if those traditional Hmong people had a little change of education on this topic, they will realize that being different isn’t that bad. It is actually a normal thing like any other identity. I believe Hmong LGBTQ can fit and exist anywhere in the Hmong community, it only takes time to notice that our voices are here.

bonfire

MWSM’s Asian American Marriage Equality Get Together

My first time meeting other Hmong LGBTQ was when a fellow Hmong gay individual invited me to a Hmong LGBTQ BBQ that was celebrating the marriage equality law that recently passed in Minnesota. After that night, I have heard many coming out stories that was basically like how I would manage my coming out story. Well, I came out at the age of 21, why? I really wasn’t expecting to come out yet until I’m done with my education and am financially stable if I were to be alone. But then things took a turn at an event where both parties misunderstood each other and had mistaken the meanings that both parties had spoken about. So then, the only thing I had in mind was the other party caught on and so I might as well tell the truth, but I did it with confidence knowing and hearing many stories already. I held my head up high and proud. I was excited to finally be set free from this burden. Somehow it feels different, yet somehow it feels as if there are no change to it at all. It is as if it was a day fling thing and after that, things went back to normal.

I am no different than anyone else. It’s either they accept or I can careless. Being happy of who I am in life is the biggest success I can have in life. Like I have said many times to this other dork person who is openly gay, I’m not shy if you out me now. I’m not shy to kiss or hold your hands in public. I’m open to show my real self to public, but when you feel comfortable to do things in public, feel free to hold my hands, kiss my cheek, as long as you’re comfortable doing it to me in public. This dork person surprisingly feels the same way.

If you’re compelled by Meng 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

©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.

Don’t Buy Miss Saigon: Our Truth Project

Linda Hawj – Miss Saigon Lies, Don’t Buy it! Boycott The Ordway Theater!

 

My name is Linda Hawj. I’m an artist, activist & organizer from Minnesota. As a 2nd generation, Hmong American, queer womyn of color, this is my truth.

What kind of Minnesota & country are we living in when Vietnamese people, Southeast Asians & Asian Americans, their history & experiences are compromised & violently eliminated repeatedly? All because White people & White Supremacy cries censorship about their White privilege no longer having the “freedom to express” their racist art. What’s truly sad & horrible is how White Supremacy have & continues to police & control what is Racial Justice & Equity, & the Non-Profit Organizations, leaders, politicians, funders & foundations who do “Racial Justice & Equity work” & serve the Southeast Asian, Asian American & Communities of Color. Your White Supremacy is all the Executives, Presidents, CEOs, Boards, Committees, funders & donors, majority all head by rich, White Privileged people that call the shots in their capitalist, political strategies.

3 Actions You Can Take to Support & Share to Mobilize:

1) SUBMIT YOUR TRUTHS HERE: http://dontbuymiss-saigon.tumblr.com/

2) SIGN OUR PETITION HERE: http://act.engagementlab.org/sign/DontBuyMissSaigon?source=field

3) The Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition is taking both individual and organizational endorsements of its statement to stand in solidarity to end Institutional racism, sexism & colonialism. Contact us for more information: dontbuymisssaigon@gmail.com