(For June, which is designated LGBTQ Pride Month, Q Voice News features a series of first-person essays under the theme What Pride Means To Me. (Click the link to read other essays) This article is written by queer Khmer activist Hunny Hach. Happy Pride.)
What Pride Means To Me: I’m queer and I’m Khmer
People give me a second look when I tell them I didn’t “officially” come out to my parents until I was 30-something. Honestly, if I hadn’t proposed to my girlfriend, I would’ve never had the courage to come out to my parents.
In the Cambodian community, being LGBTQ+ means something is wrong with you or your parents failed at raising you. As a result, being gay isn’t discussed.
It was bad enough I didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer, and my math skills were never up to Asian par. I didn’t want to be anymore embarrassing.
My parents are refugees who survived the Cambodian genocide by the Khmer Rogue, and they don’t even talk about that because it’s a reminder that something was wrong with our country.
Even now that I am happily married to my wife, Kathie Ny, some relatives still mention how I’m a waste to my parents because I won’t have any children. Marriages in their days were based on procreating, not love.
LGBTQ Cambodian community uses fashion to fight discrimination
How would I explain to my parents that we were having a gay Cambodian wedding for all of Long Beach to see?
I sat our parents down to tell them my girlfriend and I were getting married — to each other. My mom said people are different now and times have changed, and that as long as we are happy, she blessed our union.
That was a lot easier said than done.
Gay Cambodian wedding
In the beginning, my mom wanted a private ceremony because she didn’t think anyone would show up for a “girl and girl” wedding. She feared venues wouldn’t accept us, that Cambodian wedding boutiques wouldn’t rent to us, and that we wouldn’t have any guests.
Well, our wedding on Nov. 11, 2017, ended up larger than we planned and had actually created some much needed ripples in our Long Beach Cambodian community. After posting our wedding pictures on Instagram, a lot of Cambodian Diasporas worldwide sent their congratulations to us for having a gay and traditional Khmer ceremony.
So many people mentioned how they would’ve never imaged a gay wedding for themselves, until they saw ours.
My gay calling had come.
Cambodian community Pride
Coming out to my parents helped me realize I wasn’t the only one who struggled. My mom went through it, too, and she was alone.
There was no one in our Cambodian community she could reach out to for positive insight about the queer community.
I decided to create one for all those people waiting for their coming out moment and to encourage Khmers everywhere to share their story.
Qhmer is a small, grassroots organization. We are actively seeking members and volunteers who are as passionate as we are and ready to change the image of queers in the Cambodian community. Qhmer’s vision is to give everyone the courage, confidence, and support to be who they are.
Queer Khmer visibility
Qhmer advocates for positive queer representation within the Khmer and LGBTQ communities and to raise awareness for LGBTQ equality in Cambodia. We will provide educational workshops, mental health resources, youth and parental counseling, and improve Khmer LGBTQ+ terminology.
Interested in helping Qhmer? Fill out the contact form on our website. You are welcome to attend any of our upcoming events to learn more about us.