In Honor of Asian Pacific Islander Month in May and LGBTQ month in June, Xeng Moua interviewed her friend and a LGBTQ advocate: Pada Lo. Here is her story of coming out and supporting those who are different like her and creating a community of tolerance and acceptance:
My name is Pada Lo and I was born in Toulouse, France. I identify as a Hmong American Queer Woman.
It wasn’t really a matter of finding out I was different but an understanding that every choice that I made, such as always questioning what I couldn’t do as a traditional Hmong daughter or not wanting to conform to gender roles my parents wanted to instill in me, led me to realization that I just wasn’t wired the same as what society wanted me to be as a female. It wasn’t until the ending of junior high that I finally accepted this part of myself and ran with it.
I came out the summer before starting high school. One by one, as I told each sibling, they all pretty much had the same reaction and reply. “Finally, we were waiting for you to come out. We’re here for you.” They surprised me with their responses. I knew we were close but just hearing them say they had my back, that was all I needed. That was when I truly let myself free and came out to the world. I figured, if I had the support of the folks who loved me most, I didn’t care what anyone else thought.
The toughest part about coming out was disappointing my mom. For a period of time, we both stopped talking because she couldn’t accept that her daughter never wanted to be married with a husband and kid. She refused to acknowledge me as her daughter. My siblings took the initiative to mend the bond between my mom and I by educating my mom about gender roles and LGBTQ support. Now my mom and I have a great relationship.
I joined Shades of Yellow, a Hmong LGBTQ Organization in MN. Unfortunately, Shades of Yellow closed in 2017.
Organizations that I would recommend in WI for Hmong/SEA folks would be Freedom Inc in Madison and Hmong American Women’s Association in Milwaukee.
I am the Southeast Asian LGBTQ Advocate at the Hmong American Women’s Association. I truly enjoy my job. Just being able to educate and bring awareness about issues in the LGBTQ community and help folks navigate through the different layers of identity that we have is very rewarding.
I run the Breaking Barriers Building Bridges group at the Hmong American Women’s Association. We are a SEA LGBTQ program that supports and advocates for SEA queers and allies through organizing for social justice and creating voices by providing tools for self-empowerment. B4 is a safe space where SEA queers and allies can come together and discuss current events and concerns relating to injustice in the queer community.
I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to do the work that I am doing. It is empowering and builds me to want to be a better individual. One of toughest part doing this job is disrupting the patriarchal mindset in our community and questioning their work in gender equity.
You are not alone. We are here for you. Sometimes you may feel like you don’t have any place to go. Scream and cry if you must, but don’t ever give up. Just know, there are folks out there fighting for you. Don’t ever let anyone dictate what you can and can’t do. If you believe in it, work hard and push forward. Trust yourself, love yourself.