One of the biggest topic in the upcoming election is same-sex marriage. Some of our presidential candidates are firmly against it saying a marriage is a union between a man and woman. This whole issue is more complex than we think because it entails religious beliefs, social norms, and even political ideology. At least this is the perception and the case in American society and community. However, in a Laos community it has been my experience that it is very different. Are Laotians more accepting of gays than Americans? Why or Why not? Is it part of our culture to be more accepting of our differences?
While growing up in a Laotian community I have never encounter any negative experiences with the gays in the community. My first interaction with a gay person was when I was about five when my family and I was in the refugee camp in Thailand. There was a group of young men who did not have any family at the camp and so my parents sort of adopted them as part of our group. One young man, named Sam was gay(gaa tau) and he became very close to my family and I. He was in a sense a nanny to my brothers and sisters and I. He would watch over us and take care of us when my parents needed him to. I remember him taking us to the market to buy candy and sweet dessert. Of course, at that time I did not know he was gay, I just thought he was very feminine. The only thing we cared about was that he was funny and made us laugh. It was not until years later after we were in America that I asked my mom what happened to him and if he made it to America. My mom said a couple of years ago he was living in California and actually won a beauty pageant. Since then she has lost track of him.
My mother is surprisingly open about this issue of same-sex marriage and gays in the community. I remember going through her photos and came upon a picture of a couple. The couple was that of two woman. One of the woman looked kind of masculine so I asked my mother if that really was a woman and she laughed and said yes. Both people were my mom’s friend and she said they were a couple. When I asked my mom if she saw anything wrong with that and she said no because they wanted to be with each other so who cares. She said if they want to live together so what, it is their choice. She said some men was sad that her friend was gay because they saw it as a waste because she was such a beautiful woman and they couldn’t understand why she would want to be with a woman. Other than that people left them alone.
When I was a teenager, I knew of another woman who had kids and was married,but after her marriage ended she moved in with another Laos lady. At first, nobody thought anything of it because they were friends. After a while rumors started circulating that they were lovers. It was interesting to note that they were not shunned in the community. It makes me wonder though if it was two men living together if that would have been a different story.
It has been my experience that at least in the Laotian community, gays and lesbians are not shunned or ridicule. They are treated as regular people. Are Laotians more accepting of gays and lesbians than Americans?