Feb 23, 2017

The Gay Hmong of Minnesota

When I was a kid during the Vietnam War, we learned a lot about the languages and cultures of Southeast Asia: Thai, Khmer, Vietnamese, Laotian.  My third grade teacher even taught us some Vietnamese phrases to use when we wrote to our fathers and older brothers:

How are you?  Bạn khỏe không?
Merry Christmas! Giáng sinh vui vẻ
My penis is very big.  Xúc xích của tôi  là rất lớn

Ok, maybe not that last sentence.

But we never learned about the Hmong. an ethic group in southern China, Vietnam, and Laos.  The Hmong languages, with 3.7 million speakers, are n the Hmong-Mien Family, not related to any other languages of the area.  They have seven or eight tones, not just four (as in Mandarin), and consonant configurations never found in Chinese.

Have a nice day: Thov kom koj tau txais koob hmoo tas hnub
How big is your penis?: Qau luaj lub npe hu li cas?

Hmong immigration to the U.S. began just after the Vietnam War, and continued through the 1980s.  Today there are 280,000 Hmong in the United States, concentrated in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.  10% of the population of St. Paul, Minnesota is Hmong, so many that McDonald's aimed a Hmong-language billboard at them.  Unfortunately, the text was garbled and incomprehensible.

You can take Hmong language classes at several colleges in Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Photo © University of Wisconsin).

Hmong students often excel at both academics and athletics.  There have been several Hmong All-Americans in Minnesota.

The most famous Hmong-American actor is probably Bao Vee, who starred in Grand Torino (2006).

Many Hmong are traditional, conservative, homophobic, but there has been some pro-gay progress in Hmong communities.

Shades of Yellow is a Hmong LGBT social and political organization active in Minnesota.

According to the spoof site Zaub Quab, after same-sex marriage became the law of the land, the Hmong 18 Council tried to modify the traditional wedding ceremony for "two gay guys getting married."  Instead of the traditional bride price, they would institute a grooms' price that both would have to pay because...well, because they're both dudes.

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