Mai, 17, St. Paul, MN

I guess you could say my school’s like a regular school, with lots of Hmong people. It’s a charter school with regular education but at the same time they teach us the Hmong language and about our own culture. I don’t know, I suck at explaining it.

I went to my school because my best friend was gonna go. But I went to that school and she never came. So I just got stuck there and my parents won’t let me transfer anymore because it’s a Hmong charter school, and I guess we’re trying to support the school.

I came out at school in eighth grade when I had a crush on this girl and she told everyone, and I was ashamed of it because it was embarrassing. But I had supportive friends that helped me through it. My friends said, “If those other people don’t accept you for who you are, then fuck them, you know. You got us. We love you. Just be who you are.” I was crying. I felt loved and strong. So, that’s when I was more confident about coming out at school. I’m the only out kid at my school, and I’m really loud and proud about it.

And then during sophomore year I got in trouble for bringing a pocket knife to school. I don’t know why I brought it. I guess you could say it’s for protection, but now that I think of it, it’s kind of stupid because I don’t need to protect myself from anything. I was just trying to look cool.

But my parents got called in to talk about my behavior and why I brought it. Then an administrator kicked me out to another room so he could talk to my parents personally about it. I thought that it was just going to be about the pocket knife, about what happened that day, but after they were done talking, in the car my mom asked me, “Do you like girls?” and I asked her “why’d you ask me that?, and she said, “your principal said that you like girls or something.” I was like, “um…” It was really hard for me, because I didn’t want her to know yet. I wasn’t ready to come out to her.

And then I was just sitting there and I was like “ummm…” for a very long time.  And then I said “yeah.” And she was like “Do you just like them as friends, or like, as a girlfriend or boyfriend or something?” and then I was thinking to myself, since it already came out, I might as well confess now because I don’t want to lie to her too. So I just said “I like them more than a friend, so…” We had that talk. She said some mean things to me in my own language, and I was crying like a baby. My dad was in the car too, but he didn’t say a lot. He just kind of nodded to what my mom said.

After that day, things kind of went back to the same, but the only difference was she knew that I was gay. So, it’s been two years now. Recently my mom and I had this really intense talk about how I felt, about what I felt and what she felt. And she said she still loved me, but that she doesn’t accept the fact that I’m gay. So, you know, I’m just still waiting until the day she’ll accept me as who I am.

As told to Diana Scholl
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in St. Paul, MN, 2012.
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