It has been a year since the release of a momental film in the Hmong community of Minnesota, Taboo by the team of Cam Yang and Steven N. Yang.
Not many people may know, and it is probably more credit than I deserve, but this was a film inspired by my taboo story, along with a variety of other taboo narratives in our community.
For the love, vision, and real stories behind this film, I wanted to commemorate the first anniversary since its release by honoring all the people who have been apart of the leap of faith I once took.
Honoring people because; taboo does not only consist of the two involved, but the many people around them.
‘Leap of faith’ because; I truly believe taboo is the greatest test to see who truly loves us unconditionally. Who will still be there when society can no longer read you as a valid member. And whether or not, you truly love yourself, to build the world you believe in, even if the world does not want you.
To the team, who made this film and movement possible; the ones who found something special in my and many others’ stories, thank you. Sitting there in the night of the premiere, with tears rolling uncontrollably; I could only feel the stares, the questions as to why this girl is so overemotional, and why is she still crying when it’s over. Because with every line of this film, I was reliving the past 6 years of my life. I was reliving what once was, and what no longer is. I was reliving what was as beautiful as the film, and what was so much darker. You lifted what I buried deep in my heart, and shared it with the world. I want you to know, I truly felt less alone. Still alone in my own unique pain, but together in knowing others had a unique pain too.
I know that the wholeness and reality of this experience, still has either been yet to be accurately accomplished, or perhaps not possible.
But this film marked a time in my history that not only changed life forever, but allowed me to now share a history with so many others, before, with, and after me.
This filmed marked that someone out there sees us, hears us, and feels us. This film marked a safe place for us, to see one another. That we were not alone, we have never been, and we don’t have to be.
To the friends who relentlessly defended us, thank you. You showed me what true friendship felt like; the silliness when you couldn’t keep your lies straight because you were covering up for us, for validating us while keeping our secret with us, for all somehow having the same secret language, and knowing who in the halls knew, and who didn’t. For knowing when and where to say what and not say what. For speaking up for us and challenging others when we were not there. For carrying our voices when we, ourselves, were not yet brave enough to do so. Thank you for letting me feel normal, in a relationship that was deemed more abnormal than the worst criminal could be.
To the family of my partner, who gave me a chance, who saw me for me, who loved me not for the last name I had but for the heart I carried. Thank you for letting me make history, for making the impossible possible, for loving me even when normal daughter-in-laws of different last names sometimes have never achieved love. Thank you for allowing me to be so lucky and being able to one day tell someone that it is possible.
To my parents whose hearts dropped; whose decades of investment into their first baby became worthless in the name of being a taboo Hmong daughter, who’ve cried countless nights, days, hours, and minutes, questioning every possible wrong move you’ve made in raising me; who now sigh in relief of a chapter that you prayed would end, but who made the brave decision that your daughter was more important than a face and a name, who tried their best to put a smile on their face to greet the person I chose even well after he scarred me, who defended me from the tongues who waited to taint my name even though my actions itself gave leeway for them to do so: thank you. Words and movies could never show how my heart broke every day, wanting to end my life for being born such a daughter as I am; for not being able to be an ounce of what I truly believed you deserved for the amazing parents you both have always been, for the life you have provided me, for the achieving person I could be because of you. For the disbelief in seeing how much you could never stop giving even when the only thing I gave was pain. Thank you. For being mine in this lifetime. For doing your best to make sense of things. For shifting your world to fit mine. For loving so deeply even from broken hearts. Thank you. May I be something worth loving in this lifetime to you.
To my baby brother, who grew up on his own, watching his guidance get lost in her own world, for choosing someone you’d never want her to be with, for always silently accepting and forgiving whatever decision I make, and for always being happy for whatever I choose. Thank you. For being the role model I couldn’t be. Thank you for believing in yourself and in your own truth. Thank you for being the courage I had to learn from you.
And to the dearest one of all, to my big baby sister who went through it all; who carried both worlds on the weight of her shoulders, the reminder of having to come out as nothing less than perfect to compensate for the loss that I now was, for the expected greatness I was no longer eligible for. The greatest thank you to you. For the pain that has probably never healed, the one you had no choice but to go through, the one that people are careful of speaking around you, the one that you healed on your own, while being the healer of the family and friends around us, for the sole decision that I made. You are the bravest soul that I have ever seen. The way you walked those halls well knowing that eyes were plaguing you as the little sister of the taboo girl. The way you wrote papers and challenged your peers on their way of thinking on a groundless judgement with no factual logic, even when I could not say why I believed in what I chose. The way you made my story yours, the way you never made me feel alone, the way you stepped up to something you were never ready for, but would conquer it anyway. For the love you had of me, the belief you had in me, and for the very despair and disappointment when you realized it was not the last name, but the person that you no longer wanted to see me be with. And for the betrayal I pierced when I chose that same harmful person, after all the love you tried to heal me with.
I’m truly so sorry and thank you will never be enough to gift you and all the people who walked this journey with me, even when we didn’t know the answers or weren’t sure of the ending, but we believed anyway, and we tried. We tried hard, and we fought.
And through this all, I hope that if you or someone you know is taboo, I hope I could share with you the possible silver lining in taboo. That it is not always death or a dead-end.
Love is real.
Family is real.
Friendship is real.
And community is real.
That no matter how it ends, it is a test of truth and love. Truth of the world you want to live in. And Love of the people around you, of the ones you have not met, of your partner, and most of all, yourself.
Happy one anniversary Taboo. Thank you to all the stories in here and out there. Know you are always valid, and always never alone.