AAPI Heritage Month: Where Do I Start?

Where do I start? Writing a narrative is a bit challenging. I do not know where and when I should start my narrative. I mean, I have erased my sentences a few times, and just when I thought it was a good start, I erased it all over again. Was I too blunt and in your face? Am I taking too long to get to the point? Gosh, how about I start in the middle? My narrative here, what I want to talk about is my traumatic experience of being a victim of a sexual assault and my seasonal depression.

I didn’t noticed my seasonal depression until recently when someone close to me had mentioned that I maybe experiencing this every year at this time. I did not want to believe it but my trauma was more than enough for me to believe it. It is hard for me to talk about this traumatic experience. Even now as I write, I am reminded of the time, feelings, thoughts and struggle that I went through. I first came out about being sexually assaulted to a couple of my closest friends from high school. When I told them of my experience I thought that I would be more emotional and vulnerable, but I felt nothing of that sort. I felt numb. I gathered my emotions and got the courage to talk to them about my trauma, but that was it. I thought that it was enough that only two people knew. I did not want anyone else to know, especially not my family.

When I came back home from the trip I went with my co-workers and employee I was scared that my family would find out about the bruises–or in this case, hickeys on my neck. And they are not just your regular hickeys; they were huge and covered the whole front side of my neck. I panicked about what to do if my parents see this, if they saw the bruised-like hickeys on my neck. I had to cover it up with something and the answer was make-up; more precisely I used foundation to cover up my neck and it helped calmed me down. For a whole week I applied on the foundation until the bruised-like hickeys could no longer be seen. After my traumatic event, I tried to forget, but it never really went away and I was just lying to myself that it was not a big of a deal. I went through a whole year of keeping my traumatic event to myself without telling my parents. I pretty much do not remember what I did or how I did it so that I can keep my mind off of what happened to me.

I struggled with being a Hmong daughter and at the same time a victim of sexual assault. As a child, I was always warned to be careful around boys–and this was through the stories of girls being kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and/or raped. I thought “this will never happen to me,” because I know that I have been warned, thus I am careful around those who I interact with. I always think about what my mother has told me when going to someone’s house who I did not know, especially being careful of the drinks, because you never know what they could have put in it. In the stories my mother told me, these Hmong women were always portrayed as helpless beings or persons wanting to look for the attention by the way they dress and act. They were always with men who they did not know and were blamed for consequences as if they were seeking for it. This in turn has made me believe in a stereotype about how sexual assault and rape happens. In the most common myth, you are at a place far away from home, with some friends. You are probably having fun and staying out late at night. These guys who you do not know came up to you and offered you some drinks. (Be mindful that these drinks were already pre-ordered and not ordered in front of your face.) You drink it without knowing if it was drugged or not, and then, BAM! Next thing you know, you wake up in bed with a total stranger not knowing what happened. Although it was just a story, this myth was repetitively reinforced to me again and again, so I started to see; it became my reality. I have mentally prepared myself that if I shall ever come across this scenario, I’ll know exactly what to do.

In the communities we participate in and at home, we have gotten so worked up telling and preparing young girls about this horrid situation, which we seem to have dismissed the fact that it is not more than just a myth. In reality, it is NOT SOMEONE whom you DO NOT KNOW that will inflict this gender-based violence to you, but it is someone whom you personally know and have built a trusting relationship with, who can willingly commit gender-based violence to you. As a society, we always tell young girls not to take drinks from strangers or go out alone, but at the same time, we neglect to tell young boys not to rape. Socially and culturally, men and boys are not taught to respect women and girls’ bodies nor how to negotiate consent and not take advantage of women and girls as objects. This needs to change for the better.

After a year of suffering from this trauma, I came to understand that the reason why I am still having nightmares and trauma over this was because I was socialized and felt pressure to be silent about traumas regarding gender-based violence experiences. With all the stories my mother had told me, it had not prepared me for anything. All I learned was to avoid getting sexually assaulted and if it did happen to me, I must have done something to deserve it. This story my mother had told me, had taught me to be silent, just like her, and her mother, and her mother’s mother, and all the Hmong mothers before her. There was no outlet for me to speak out until I finally got a hold of my voice. This voice had came out to my own brother about my trauma and with this voice it had helped me to reflect and write about my lived experiences. Afterwards, I adopted the identity as a Hmong Feminist. I started to learn about the harm of rape culture and how to address it through a Hmong woman feminist lens. It is still difficult to write and talk about my experiences as I have only begun, but I will continue challenge this notion through critical conversations and will continue to seek a deeper understanding of how to heal, while renewing the meanings of my relationships with the people I interact with.

Nplooj Siab is dedicated to youth organizing and has a life-long goal to write a book.

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 the Hmong American Bisexual Narrative

A Miao woman in China.
Photo by: Pius Lee http://www.dailytravelphotos.com/archive/2009/03/24/index.php

Story #3

Emo Miao Girl is a 19 year-old bisexual Hmong American woman from California.

In the year 2009, I was a sophomore in high school and I had a friend who claimed that she was “bisexual.” At that time, she was my friend. Of course I shared with her my problems and my curiosity of liking girls. So knowing she was bisexual, I looked up to her for advice here and there just like anybody would. At the end of the year, she moved and we became very distant, however, I eventually found out she was fake the whole time! I also learned that she claimed herself as bisexual simply for others’ attention! Anyway, my bicuriosity kept thriving into the rest of high school.

That was when I had my first and last girlfriend. I was not sure of what I was doing or wanted. I was confused at that time about my sexuality. So I gave it a try and from there I liked the feeling of being nourished by a woman. I knew that it is a woman whom I would share the most common interests with, not to mention the same sensuality with our bodies too. My attitude at that time was that only another woman could understand and love me the way I wanted to be loved. It was a great feeling that I felt, just like how any other couple would have felt.

Coming out as bisexual was difficult because of the fact that I am Hmong. I did not want to make my parents look bad and ruin their “reputation.” I was also afraid that my friends would not like me anymore if they knew about my sexuality. However, after a few months of feeling this way, I no longer cared. I showed off my pride with different colors and began hanging out with a different group of people. I began telling friends about my sexuality even if they did not ask me about it. I wanted to just shut them up so that they would not be so curious anymore.

A scene from the film Miao Miao. Photo credit from: http://www.withanaccent.com/2013/05/08/netflix-instant-files-miao-miao/

A scene from the film Miao Miao.
Photo credit from: http://www.withanaccent.com/2013/05/08/netflix-instant-files-miao-miao/

Facing my parents was the hardest experience for me. I was worried about how my own Hmong people would view me. I could already imagine what my parents will say or do to me if they knew. There seems to be so many things that they dislike in our generation. It seems as if they were born to hate things. They are upset when a daughter dyes her hair, cuts it, goes out, stays up late, or have a friend or boyfriend over. This seemed all too typical of Hmong parents. I am not saying all parents are like this, but I know so many Hmong parent who are like this. I knew the answer all along if I were to come out to my parents. The Hmong community is just too strict, conservative, traditional, and uptight about family reputations. I do not think I will live to see the day where people like us will be accepted by all of society, including the elders in Hmong society. Aside from my parents, even some of my own friends began to keep their distance from me because they thought I was going to hit on them. How sad is that? Soon, I noticed that many people were keeping their distance from me even though I was just a stranger to them.

I have not heard about any Hmong queers growing up. However, my curiosity began to peak and I began to Google about Hmong queers and Hmong LGBTQ to see if there was anything out there. Sadly, the first story that I stumbled upon was about the couple that had committed suicide many years ago. It makes me extremely sad when I read tragic stories like this.

No Apologies Quote credit by: https://www.facebook.com/AwesomeBiQuotes

No Apologies
Quote credit by: https://www.facebook.com/AwesomeBiQuotes

Now, I am out to everyone. I do not care what people think or say about me anymore. It is my life and I want to be myself. I myself am open and supportive of everyone. I do not judge others. We all have a reason why we are the way we are. We are all human beings. We all struggle in life and share problems within society. I would not want to see someone I care for suffer alone.

The main reasons why I came out as bisexual was because I came to a point in my life where I did not care anymore (about what people thought about my sexuality). It has been 4 years since I first was aware of my sexuality. In my experience, most men are asses! Yet, I dated the wrong girls as well! One mistake of my life was dating a girl who was a player. Right now, I am happily in a relationship with a man, my high school sweetie. He understands the struggles that I face. He is a supporter of the LGBT community. Even as an LGBTQ person, dating has been difficult. I just want everyone to be careful with who you fall in love with. However, stay true to who you are. Everyone will dislike you if they know you are fake, and that might include yourself, who is being fake to your own self.

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