LGBTQ+ Pride Month: Sou Saelee

1. What is your LGBTQ status and would you briefly explain it for those who may not be familiar? I identified as gay, represented by the letter “G” in LGBTQ+. In a nutshell, it means I feel romantically and sexually attracted to someone of the same sex.  2. What does the term “come out of the closet” mean to you? In the LGBTQ+ community, people come out to others to self-disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. To me, “coming out of the closet” means that I’m ready to live and love authentically and not have to keep my LGBTQ+ status a secret.   I don’t have the typical coming out story where I tell my parents and wait for their reactions, hug and cry. My coming out process involved disclosing to some of my closest girl-friends. I was relieved they were very supportive and understanding and continue to be so until today. They showed me what loving and caring is all about.  3. What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?  I feel this would be an ongoing conversation if I was to give my younger self advice but, essentially, I would tell my younger self to not be afraid of my feelings and who I am because I am not alone in my experience — someone out there is also going through the same process; I’d tell my younger self to be strong and seek out resources or help if I’m feeling down, isolated, or confused. Most importantly, I would tell my younger self to love, accept and appreciate myself for who I am.  4. What, if any, cultural difficulties do you face and how do you think it should be addressed?  As an LGBTQ+ member, I find it challenging trying to explain what LGBTQ+ is to the older generations because they haven’t been exposed to or received enough information about the LGBTQ+ community to fully understand it. It’s not just with the Mien community but the society at large as well. I’m not sure if LGBTQ+ is a new topic for the older Mien generations, or if they just don’t talk about it. As a community, we definitely need to start a dialogue on LGBTQ+ issues and provide culturally responsive trainings and resources to bridge that gap, so we can all better understand and be equipped to address LGBTQ+ issues.  5. What is one event that helped shape your life?  Losing my mother when I was 11-years old was a pivotal point in my life. When you lose someone that provides you love and support, it alters your perception on the world. She was loving and caring, and I have her to thank for instilling those qualities in me.  6. What is an accomplishment you are proud of?  One accomplishment that I’m proud of is being able to dedicate my time to charitable work for different communities including our own Iu Mien community. I’m fortunate to be able to contribute my time to different organizations and fundraise for scholarships for low income students. I’m proud that I’m able to impact some lives.  7. Lastly, we’d like to give you an opportunity to say something, anything you like.  If you know someone who is LGBTQ+, please don’t “out” them. Personally, I feel outing someone is irresponsible, disrespectful and one of the worst things to do to an LGBTQ+ identified person. It’s up to them to choose how, when, where and with whom to share their LGBTQ+ status. Allow them the opportunity to come out and share their story when they’re ready. When they do decide to come out to you, they’ll need your full support during and after the coming out process. Ideally, I would like to see our Iu Mien community establish a support group or program for both LGBTQ+ adults and youths to provide services and a safe haven. I think that’s a vital resource that our community is currently lacking.  I would like to thank my friends and family, LGBTQ+ community and allies for their support. I have been fortunate to know I am accepted for who I am by the people who matter. Thank you to the LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters who came before me that have fought a long, hard battle with society and advocated for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance.  Thank you SIMA for providing a platform for LGBTQ+ Iu Mien to share our story, give us a voice and be visible.  Lastly, I’d like to provide a LGBTQ+ resource list for those who may need it.  Human Rights Campaign; https://hrc.org/Sacramento LGBTQ Community Center; https://saccenter.org/Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex Asexual Resource Center; https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/Gender Health Center; http://www.thegenderhealthcenter.org/San Francisco AIDS Foundation; https://www.sfaf.org/Safe Schools Coalition; http://safeschoolscoalition.org/The Trevor Project; https://www.thetrevorproject.org/#sm.001dq5y8s10xfcrkxoi1px5e3r23sNational Center for Transgender Equality; https://transequality.org/Lambda Legal; https://www.lambdalegal.org/Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund; http://www.transgenderlegal.org/GLAAD; https://www.glaad.org/about 8. This is optional. For those interested, we can include your social media contacts at the bottom of the post.  I can be reached on Instagram at the handle “zieluos”. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.  Thanks, ~Sou 

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