Pride Month is a time of the year for the queer community to celebrate its achievements and acknowledge the hardships it has gone through. It’s a time to take pride in your identity, despite sexual and gender norms. Though not always in the spotlight, the Asian-American queer community is vibrant and beautiful. Here are some queer Asian-American icons that deserve a little more love.
1 Alice Wu
Alice Wu is a director and screenwriter. She constantly pushes to represent queer Asian-American experiences in mainstream media. Her first movie “Saving Face” explores the life of a Chinese-American lesbian. It shows the difficulty of navigating familial expectations while embracing your identity. Her most recent film “The Half of It” revolves around Ellie, a queer Chinese-American girl living in a small religious town. The movie explores how isolating and suffocating it can be when you do not fit the societal norm. Through her work, Wu brings sidelined narratives to the forefront.
2 Eugene Lee Yang
People who watched Buzzfeed mid 2010s will remember Yang from “The Try Guys." The series involved lighthearted videos of him and his friends trying different activities (hence the title). As the series progressed Yang pushed to produce more content exploring the queer community. After the Try Guys left Buzzfeed, Yang released a music video called “I’m Gay.” The video depicts his journey with his identity in the face of familial, religious and societal conflicts. (It also features amazing choreography done by Yang himself!) The video has also helped raise over $100,000 for the Trevor Project, a LGBTQ suicide prevention organization.
3 Helen Zia
Helen Zia is an award-winning Chinese-American journalist, author and activist. Her pieces have exposed white supremacist organizations and pushed for women’s rights. Zia has advocated for the Asian-American community through her books. They document the Asian-American experience, as well as her civil rights work, including the Vincent Chin case. Zia and her partner Lia Shigemura were married in 2008, becoming one of the first same-sex couples to legally marry in California. In 2010 she was an expert witness in the U.S. Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry, which reaffirmed the legal right to same-sex marriage in California.
4 BD Wong
BD Wong is a successful out gay actor and has been part of a wide range of projects. His career took off after his starring role in “M. Butterfly,” a Broadway play about the relationship between a French diplomat and a Peking opera singer. The play is one of the early depictions of LGBTQ themes on stage, albeit with some problematic undertones. Wong has been outspoken about Asian and LGBTQ representation in the media and continually supports Asian-focused pieces. Wong also assists many charities like the Ali Forney Center, which helps homeless LGBTQ youth.
5 Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko is a singer and songwriter. Kiyoko is an out lesbian and is dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by her fans. Her music often revolves around her own experiences with her identity. The music video for her breakout song “Girls Like Girls” shows a heart-warming love story between two girls. Artists like Kiyoko normalize LGBTQ relationships and experiences in music. People criticize her music for being too focused on girls (meaning her music is too gay). But as Kiyoko states: "I'm not over-sexualising my music...I make out with women because I love women, not because I'm trying to be sexy. That's not to turn heads - that's my life." Lesbians are often oversexualized by mainstream media, due to lack of queer content creators. Kiyoko’s work allows LGBTQ people to be the ones who tell LGBTQ stories.
6 Margaret Cho
Margret Cho is a stand-up comedian, author and actress. Her stand-up shows often reference her experiences with eating disorders, drugs, Asian-American stereotypes and her bisexuality. Cho’s 2012 standup show “MOTHER” offered a commentary on maternal figures and women in queer culture. Cho is outspoken about her experience in the industry as an Asian woman. She is very frank about the mistreatment she has faced. Cho is also involved with advancing causes dear to her. In 2014 she put on pop-up shows to raise money for the homeless. The content that Margaret Cho creates is raw and a tad uncomfortable, but that’s the point. Cho is able to use her vulnerability to bring awareness to important issues.
Pride is a reminder for the LGBTQ community to love and respect themselves, even those parts that don’t fit societal norms. And we deserve to be proud and loved. So even as the month comes to an end, be sure to follow these icons as they fight for Asian LGBTQ rights and representation year round.