My name is Día Bùi. I am a queer Vietnamese Buddhist and I live in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York.
On my twenty-sixth birthday, which I share with my father, my family went out to Chili’s for family dinner to celebrate. My mother wanted to celebrate us by having a big, gigantic glass of the Presidente Margarita, where it had a Corona stuck right into it. And by the time we got home, my brother and I wanted to sneak off to have our own moment together. And instead, my mother wanted to join with us.
She said, “Ah, đi đau đây? where you going?” And I could tell that she wanted to sit with us. She wanted to spend time with us. So I obliged and went back in and I sat down with her. My brother ditched me. He left. My mother, who had a Corona in her hand and a lime in it, and encouraged me to have my own.
She said, “Happy Birthday!” Clink. “I can’t believe you’re 26 years old.” Clink. She drinks the Corona. And I’m sitting there wondering what am I doing? Where is this going? And I could tell my mother, through the smile, there was this sense of sadness, because she remembered what it was like when she had me twenty-six years prior. She told me the story when she was in the hospital by herself in Austin, Texas. And she had tears streaming down her face.
She says, “I named you Diana.” So as I worked up the courage to get up to go hold her as she cried tears, she wiped them away. With the best transition I have ever thought – have known of, “You hate the men, huh?”
“I hate the what?”
“You hate the men. Mom knows. Mom knows you like the women. Mom knows you like the women.”
I said, “No, Mom, I don’t hate the men. But I like women.”
“Mom knows you like the women. Mom know for five years now!” Everything sunk inside of me, so I asked the question that I dreaded asking her.
“Do you hate me? Do you want to disown me?” She didn’t answer the question.
She says, “You know, Mom don’t know why there’s so many a gays now.” She says, “You know, Mom went to the gay club.”
“Mom went to the where?”
“Mom went to the gay club with the gay men. Mom went to the gay club. Mom knows. Mom knows.” And I had realized what she was telling me, it was that she was trying to understand me so she went to the gay club with the gay man. That’s what she did in the last five years the she’s known. She was trying to understand me without asking me because she didn’t know how to ask the question.
And then she asked me, “Do you want family?” I said yes.
She says, “Well, you’d have to marry a man.”
I said, “Why would I have to marry a man?”
She says, “Would you want children?”
I said, “Hopefully, yes. Someday.”
And then our conversation hit a wall. We didn’t speak about that night for the next six years. It never came up. She never asked again. But I found myself talking to different friends and kinfolk and chosen family about what had happened that night. And the more response that I got back, the more feedback that I received, I then found myself with more opportunities, more doors open to tell the story. So in the time span of the 6 years, I had realized the power in my story.
I was invited to tell my story at the historic Lincoln Theatre. And I knew that this was a big moment in my life. So when I decided that I wanted my mother to come and had felt comfortable and bold to send the invitation. It was during a rough time with our lives. I had just gotten out of relationship of which I was engaged and I was heartbroken. And my mother, who had been going through hardship, wanted to reconnect with me.
I invited my mother to fly out from Los Angeles to DC. And the audience at the historic Lincoln Theatre where I was set to get on stage and tell my story to what to me felt like thousands and thousands and thousands of people, but – several hundred in the crowd. And I told my story on stage that night and at the end of my story – applause.
I told the crowd, “My mother’s here tonight. She’s sitting right over there.” And pointed to the VIP section. And the spotlight hit her as I did that, and the applause got louder and louder and louder. It filled the room up. And as I went backstage my mother ran back to meet me. She had our eyes and said how proud she was of me.
And I told her, “Did you hear the crowd, mom? That was for you. That was for you. That’s for you and about you.” I had realized that I had made my dreams come true, that all those times in darkness when I had dreamt of something so much more bigger than myself and I had dreamt of love and I’d dreamt of love for myself, I’ve realized that had made my own dreams come true, that I was able to tell my story on stage and speak my truth to my mother’s ears about who I am and who I love myself to be.
To be able to tell my truth to my own mother, who spent many years agonizing, understanding her own daughter, as a refugee immigrant from Vietnam, all the sacrifices she had made for me, and all the times that I was so proud to be a daughter of a mother who’s a refugee and have fought for her life and for my own. And so for me, it felt like not just a dream come true for myself, but a dream come true for my ancestors. And in hopes that another life is saved.