By Pavoua Thao

I originally wanted to submit a blog about my love for photography, but when my sister walked into the room, my hands and heart started typing away about her. I don’t think she realizes how brave she is. Being a 24-year-old lesbian, who’s constantly struggling to be accepted by her American culture as well as her traditional Hmong culture, at least her struggles have nothing to do with not accepting herself. She is the happiest gay person I know.

When she’s outside of the house, she comes face-to-face with mainstream America. There are the radical anti-gays who get themselves into other people’s business when they have no right to, not to mention the restrictions of  Proposition 8. She can’t show affection or dare to dream of a future without being judged.

Her struggles have to do more with society and how it’s pushing her back. At home, she is an “old maid” Hmong girl who has to deal with her homosexuality with our Mormon mother. My mother constantly pushes her Mormon beliefs on her and my grandparents want her to marry a nice boy and have children already. My sister was actually forced into an arranged engagement at the age of 15, but she fought her way out of it.  The Hmong culture has barely mentioned any homosexuals until recently. Prior to that, as far as everyone knows, there were no homosexuals.

My sister is no different than anyone else. She has hair, two eyes, a nose and a mouth like everyone else. She’s incredibly smart, active, and loves cooking and cute things. She has the kindest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. She will never judge you and is a person of endless second chances. She’s a contributing member of society who pays her taxes. No different than any other person walking down the street. In the words of my loving sister, “ No one should ever have the right to tell you who to love.”