I was 12. She looked at me with those eyes and I would forget my name. I loved to make her laugh because the sound of her voice was all I needed to feel happy. I didn’t attribute any of that to love and I didn’t think that I loved her until the day she was gone without saying goodbye. The innocence of it all didn’t make me think that I was a lesbian. I was just a kid, playing games, and somebody who made the girls laugh.
My 4’11” Vietnamese American mother is a fearless, stubborn, and proud woman. She arrived in the states with nothing and became a small business owner, mother of two and the biggest badass in Texas. She is an image of who I want to be and who I am becoming. I am not afraid of anything because of her. She accepts me as I am. So when I brought home my first love there didn’t need to be words, she took her by the hand, smiled and sat her down at the table for dinner. I didn’t prepare for the worst because I knew my mom. My inability to say what I want to her is partially because of the language barrier that exists between us. She speaks to me in Viet, I respond in English. My mother and I communicate in a constant state of in-between-the-lines. What we really mean to say can be found within the pause of our sentences and the wrinkles in our eyes.
So I guess my coming out to my mother is rather uneventful. I have been proud of all of my identities for a long time because of her and continue to develop them holistically through a constant state of introspection. I am not ashamed to admit that there are many things I still don’t know about myself to a degree that surprises me sometimes. There is always something to learn, process, relearn or discard. I am okay with change because my ma told me to never be afraid.
My other coming out story is rather different.
I was 21 when I came back from deployment. I buried myself in work and graduated in 3 years with a bachelors in psychology. I felt like I had to “catch up” and that I was competing with time to be successful, have a family, get dogs, and acquire a bunch of unnecessary, materialistic shit. I gave myself an imaginary deadline set by the cis-gender heteronormative, idealistic minds of Americans in the 30’s. I became consumed and moved to Kentucky to create a life that I had been saving up for since 14. I knew that she was wrong for me the whole time but it was easy because we had the same goals, the same idea of what an early retirement would look like and how to get there. I think to some extent she knew I was wrong for her as well. We were in-love with the idea of the “American Dream” and got lost in our journeys. I don’t regret the time we had together because all of it had meaning and it gave me the chance to find myself again.
Someone fine once told me that I should forgive because it sets you free.
So I’m going to forgive her and myself for getting stolen away by a dream we both had. I am redefining my identity again and am much more at peace with myself than I ever have been before. When we broke up my ma told me to be strong and that everything will be okay. I know because I am a proud 5’1” fearless, stubborn, Vietnamese American lesbian woman.
My advice to API LGBTQ youth is love fearlessly and to be okay with change. Your history is apart of you and it’s important to accept it as it is. Move forward and live in the moment instead of letting things consume you.
Yen is…a work in progress forever.