Abstract a family-oriented system, meaning family takes precedence

AbstractThis paper highlightssome of the cultural barriers that exist for Hmong people who identify aslesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ). Hmong American men andwomen face social and cultural struggles where they are expected to adhere toHmong requirements of gender roles handed down to them by their parents, andthe expectations of the country they were born in. Despite the perception thattraditional Hmong culture holds no place for queer Hmong Americans, individualsare finding spaces for acceptance and slowing moving the large Hmong communityto a place of understanding and tolerance. A vital part of this movement isShades of Yellow (SOY), an organization that supports queer Hmong. particularlyas more Hmong Americans continue to negotiate multiple identities, includingsexual orientation. Introduction            The Hmong are a Southeast Asian ethnic group of peoplewho originated from the region of Hunan in northeastern China.

To this day,there are still uncertainties as to the exact time period the Hmong inhabitatedChina. The first wave of Hmong immigrants came as early as the late 1970s, withthousands who continued to migrate in the past 4 decades.             According to the 2010 U.S.

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census, approximately 260,000 HmongAmericans are primarily residing in Californa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and NorthCarolina (Pfiefer et al., 2013), with the majority in the the Midwest and WestCoast. The Hmong culture is strongly rooted in a family-oriented system,meaning family takes precedence over the individual. The Hmong community in theUnited States consists of people from approximately 18 clans. One of thehighest held Hmong traditions is that each clan maintains its distinctivehousehold/tribal bloodline.

The Hmong collectively share a  set of values that all its clans agree on,including practices that are deemed taboo – homosexuality being one of them.For the most part, homosexuality has been nonexistent (Hahm & Adkins,2009). In fact, there is no direct translation for the words gay or lesbian inthe Hmong language. Instead, the Hmong adapted the Thai word, “kathoy,” torefer to LGBTQ people in general. However, “kathoy” primarily refers to men whodress as women, and does not necessarily denote their sexual orientation (Yang,2008). In the Hmong community, heterosexual couples are essential because theycan have children and preserve the culture – same sex couples cannot bearchildren in the same fashion as does a heterosexual couple (Boulden, 2009).Although the Hmong culture does not denounce the homosexual behavior per se,conventionally a group of Hmong people is likely to disown individuals who areself-identified as homosexual.

Moreover, the Hmong community has been forced toconfront their traditional heterosexist values after their resettlement in theUnited States as the the Hmong American LGBTQ community is slowly making itsmark.   Downfall of Self-Identifying as LGBTQ            Because the Hmongcommunity is such a close social network, any challenge to the culture’s socialnorms may be interpreted as also challenging the culture as a whole. Ultimately,all Hmong individuals are born with the expectancy to carry on their family andclans’s name and reputation (Boulden, 2009; Lee & Pfeifer, 2006). If onecomes out and self-identifies as anything other than heterosexual, she or hewill bring great shame to the family. This can cause parents, relatives,siblings, and close fiends to disown that individual (Hahm & Adkins, 2009).

Once an individual self-identifies as nonheterosexual, the individual may feelit necessary to withhold his or her sexual identify from others (Rosario et al.,2004). However, she or he may act on feelings of same-sex attraction and pursuerelationships with other same-sex individuals in secrecy (Boulden, 2009;Rosario et al., 2004).             If the individual’s sexual orientation is discoveredagainst his or her will, the consequences may lead to mental health issues. (Hahm& Adkins, 2009). In a study conducted with 10 gay Hmong, ranging from 18 to30 years old, most reported experiences of struggling with fear of rejection anda variety of mental health issues including periods of depression, suicidal ideation,drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, high risk behaviors, such as gang involvement,and high risk sexual activities (Boulden, 2009). An example took place on May11, 2001, when a 17 years old Hmong American female, Panhia Xiong, and her 21years female partner, Yee Vang, committed suicide (Her, 2014).

The incidentoccurred after Panhia’s mother discovered her daughter’s relationship with Yeeand prohibited them from seeing each other. Situations like this one raiseawareness of the LGBTQ Hmong community and the potential risk of suicide amongLGBTQ Hmong individuals (Her, 2014). Self-Acceptance and Networking with LGBTQAdvocates            Despite the downfall with identifying as LGBTQ, some havetaken this as an opportunity to reach out to their community and network withadvocates and supporters of LGBTQ. For instance, in 2003, members from theHmong community in St.

Paul, Minnesota, began a social gathering of LGBTQ youthfrom the Hmong community (Shades of Yellow, 2007). This group established acommunity known as Shades of Yellow (SOY), the Hmong nation’s first nonprofitcommunity organization. What began as a safe space for young LGBTQ Hmongindividuals to gather and discuss the issues they faced in their environmenthas become a place where individuals now gather to discuss ways to promotelasting change in the Hmong community (Her, 2014; Shades of Yellow, 2007). In2006, SOY became a formal organization dedicated to make a difference in theHmong community in the State of Minnesota (Her, 2014). Gradually, conservativeelders and parents of LGBTQ Hmong youth began reaching out to SOY support inresponsse to familial conflicts (Ramirez, 2012).

   Conclusion             As a result of their upbringing by Hmong parents in American,Hmong American men and women are born into a world where they must navigate expectationsof gender and sexuality on both sides. Men are able to receive preferential treatmentfrom the family without the societal pressures of having to uphold their role asa man, while women are expected to fulfill the expectations of their Hmong parentsand in-laws in an environment that says gender does not matter. Living under a dualset of rules creates stress for heterosexual Hmong American men and women, whilecreating futher complications for LGBTQ individuals. While Hmong American men andwomen have the option of aging out of their immediate family’s gender expectationsand have developed methods of resistance through different channels, the same opportunitiesare not available to LGBTQ Hmong Americans.   

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