Queering Asian America

Queer identity within the Asian American community is complex one; not only do they have to examine their identities in relation to race, but also within the realm of sexuality.  Although not as widely publicized as their white counterpart, the queer Asian community is one of considerable size and number.  Many queer Asian Americans choose to explore their dual identities through creative outlets, such as film and performance art.  These creative outlets enable queer Asian Americans to explore self-identity and their role within the larger Asian community.  In class, we viewed numerous video clips, many dealing with queer subject matter.  Several stood out more prominently than others, and these were PIRATED! and love bang!.  These two captured my attention the most, and although at first I did not understand some aspects of these videos, they made the most lasting impressions on my mind.

Prior to screening PIRATED!, I had a slight knowledge of what to expect from reading Mimi Thi Nguyen’s article.  From what I had read in the article, I was expecting to see a large amount of male nudity and gay porn.  But to my surprise, the scenes depicting male-on-male fellatio were not the blatant pornography I had envisioned.  Although the scenes were indeed graphic and left nothing to the imagination, the pictures were distorted and the colors were solarized, which gave them a surreal quality and feel.  Through PIRATED!, director Nguyen tries to connect two aspects of himself through the pirate motif: the young Vietnamese boy and the gay Asian American male.  

Besides the PIRATED! clip, the other video that captured my attention was love bang!, a music video created by Viet Le.  In this music video, it depicts two transgendered, star-crossed lovers from different universes.  The song’s lyrics incorporate three languages, English, Vietnamese and Khmer; it not only crosses boundaries of gender and sexuality, but also that of race and ethnicity. Viewing this video and seeing the elaborate outfits and makeup reminded me of the first time I was exposed to LBGT Asian Americans.  This week in class was not the first time I’ve been exposed to LBGT Asian Americans, though it has been the most graphic.  When I was a freshman in college, I had a gay Asian American male as my best friend.   One weekend he was invited to return to San Francisco and perform at a Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (or GAPA) banquet, so the both of us went up to San Francisco for this event.  At this event were some of the most important members of the gay Asian American community, and they were all there to support GAPA’s cause.  Besides my friend, a group of transgendered Asian women, called the Rice Rockettes, were also asked to perform.  All of us were seated at the same table, and although the Rice Rockettes were eccentric in their outfits and makeup (similar to that in the music video love bang!), they were inviting and accepting.  By being exposed to LBGT Asian Americans early in my college experience, I learned to be accepting and open to all types of people and their preferences. 

Evelyn Pei — #83257157


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