Uncovering Our Stories: Sandy

I’m 16 years old. I am Laotian and Vietnamese, and I’m bisexual. I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods – shootings every week, police sirens every night. I grew up with really strict parents who raised me by how they were raised in Laos.

I started to realize I was queer when I was in middle school. Being a child of parents who were Southeast Asian and really traditional was hard. In our culture, same-sex relationships weren’t the normal thing. My parents and I would walk by someone they knew who was queer and my parents would tell me to never be like them. If I came out to my parents, they would definitely make me feel like a disappointment to them, probably do something along the lines of disowning me. I’d rather not tell them at all. I have already been forced to separate from one parent.

My parents were both born in Laos and they met each other there. They came to America to build a better life. My parents were in the U.S. for over 15 years; there were never any problems.

Four years ago, when I was in seventh grade and first starting to question my sexuality, my dad was suddenly taken away from my family and me. He got sent away and was placed in ICE holding for four to five months. We were only allowed to see him once or twice a month, and when we did see him, we were separated by a clear window and could only talk to him through a telephone hooked through the wall.

After a several months, he got deported to Laos. When my parents came to America, they came on a Visitation Right and were only supposed to stay for 6 months. They would have deported my mom as well, but they decided not to because she had kids here, my sister and me.

My dad has spent the last couple years in Laos. He has no job, and his only income is money my mom sends him, maybe a few hundred dollars. My mom becomes depressed and suffers from bad heart problems. She is overworked and very stressed because of all the responsibilities she had to take on after my dad was deported. Ever since this happened our family has fallen into poverty.

As for me, I still struggle every day. My dad was taken from me when I was really young. I didn’t know what to do about it. It was devastating to me because it meant my dad wasn’t going to watch me grow up. He missed my middle school graduation, he’s going to miss me driving for the first time, he’s going to miss me graduating from high school and maybe even college. He’s missing all the things a father needs to see.

I feel every day how much my parents mean to me. I really don’t want to feel like I disappointed them or hurt our relationships even more by coming out. I have to do everything I can to make it easier for my mom and help keep our family together.

I have to be another adult figure in the house. I remember one time I had to pay the bills online and got yelled at because I didn’t do it right. My family can’t handle the stress of working out tensions around sexual orientation, myself included. I have to balance school, work and everything in between, and I’m only sixteen. If my dad were still here, everything would be different.

I am a youth leader in SeaQuel, which works on raising awareness of queer Southeast Asians and their struggles. I’m involved because I wouldn’t want anyone else going through what I have to go through. I want to make a change. If the US had a path to citizenship, my dad would still be here for me. That’s why I support immigration reform.