Ana Marie Cox 「Mark Takano Thinks Gay Men Can Learn From Jane Austen」

Posted on June 29, 2016 commentaires

You are the first openly gay person of color in Congress; that seems especially relevant right now.

“First openly gay person of color” is a long moniker. I give people permission to use the word “Gaysian.”

What did you think of the Republican response after the Pulse shooting in Orlando?
They were ignoring the fact that L.G.B.T. people were the target of the hate, because a hate crime nullifies the reality they want to manufacture, which is to make what happened in Orlando all about the weakness of President Obama in dealing with global terrorism. Instead of trying to form a bipartisan offensive against the ideology of ISIS, Republicans, in a perverse way, are empowering them.

How did it resonate with you personally?

I’m 6-foot-1. I’ve never really felt intimidated, but in most places in this country, I would still be uncomfortable kissing somebody in public. That’s still a dangerous act for a gay person to do. Then Donald Trump comes in with this collective guilt assigned to Muslims for what one Muslim did – both of my parents and all of my grandparents were interned during World War II. I know what it means to be the presumed face of the enemy.

You’ve said you mostly felt sad for your colleagues who oppose the goals of the L.G.B.T. movement. Have you been able to keep that generosity of spirit?

I don’t excuse them for their lack of courage. I do find it reprehensible that they are sincere about their intransigence and willfully stand by this very backward stance, but I don’t hate them. I pity them as morally immature.

Do you think that representation and diversity in Congress has had an impact on individual members of Congress?

The day of the first Maloney-­amendment vote on anti-L.G.B.T. discrimination, I was on the Democratic side of the chamber, but I thought, We have to be visible. So I ran over to the Republican side. Representative Kyrsten Sinema whispered in my ear: “Try to catch glances with some of them. Make them understand what they’re doing.”

What is it like to work with people who think that you don’t deserve the same rights as they do?

No one has spit in my face. By virtue of my being there, I am equal to them. They’ve got to deal with me. Even Louie Gohmert will be very civil and pleasant in the elevator.

All that said, you seem to be having fun in Congress, which isn’t something that I’ve seen in a lot of other members.

It’s kind of politically incorrect to say, “Oh, I love Congress.” But I love the institution of Congress. I fell in love with it as a 13-year-old watching the Nixon impeachment hearings in my immigrant grandfather’s living room. I was just awe-struck by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and I watched them gavel to gavel. That was the birth of my ambition.

You were a high-school English teacher for 24 years, and you have notoriously marked up your colleagues’ writings with red pen.

I’m very judicious with my red pen. The last time I did it was with Marco Rubio’s op-ed essay on net neutrality, and I just couldn’t resist. I have perfect grammar.

You do?

I do! It’s like, People, the object of the preposition takes the accusative form! But the point of the red pen is to be clever in the way that we could criticize someone’s arguments. Senator Lisa Murkowski got mad at me once – she said that was the kind of thing that makes people mad about Congress, this hyper­partisanship. But she was holding up a bill that was affecting 11 million people.

What work of literature has stuck with you?

I liked to teach『Pride and Prejudice』. I always wondered if Charlotte was a lesbian, so gay marriage was sort of what piqued my interest in Jane Austen. I look at so many young gays, and I think: You know what? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Before you rush into anything, read Jane Austen. A good man is really hard to find, you know?

Interview has been condensed and edited.

A version of this article appears in print on July 3, 2016, on Page MM50 of the『Sunday Magazine』with the headline: 「Mark Takano Thinks Gay Men Can Learn From Jane Austen」.

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TAEYEON 태연 「Why」

Posted on June 28, 2016 commentaires

TAEYEON 「Why」 - released on June 28, 2016.

On attend encore son tube imparable (surtout que TIFFANY a sorti de bons morceaux qu'on aime bien, alors qu'on ne l'aime pas elle !), mais TAEYEON enchaîne les ballades plus ou moins réussies, alors why TAEYEON ? WHY? WHYYY??! Pourtant 「Why」 paraissait s'annoncer sous les meilleurs auspices avec ses teasers aux accents de 「Lean On」 (Major Lazer), mais avec ses couplets qui plombent un refrain efficace, la chanson au complet laisse une impression mitigée. Meilleure partie : à partir de 2:50 !

Les teasers pleins de promesses :

TAEYEON 「Why」 (Music Video Teaser 1) - posted on June 25, 2016.

TAEYEON 「Why」 (Music Video Teaser 2) - posted on June 26, 2016.

“Maybe next time suckers hi hi!”

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Craig Takeuchi 「Local launches website to help gay Asian men address racism and dating」

Posted on June 23, 2016 commentaires
Edward Ho

No Asians.

While at one time, such signs did exist in our city – in restaurants, movie theatres, and apartment buildings – they would be protested if anyone saw them on our streets today.

However, such sentiments continue to exist online – such as on gay dating profiles.

Just as many discriminatory attitudes are more freely expressed on the internet, within LGBT communities, preferences against Asian men are sometimes expressed more easily online than many may be willing to do so face to face.

In response, a local resident has decided to do something to help out his fellow gay Asian men.

While previous campaigns, such as Sexual Racism Sux, have been aimed at changing the behaviour of others, Edward Ho launched his website,, this month to help gay Asian men learn from the stories of others. (GAM stands for gay Asian male, and the website name is a play on The Dating Game.)

“This website is about an opportunity for gay Asian men who have experience dating to share something that's going to touch, move or inspire another gay Asian man who is struggling with... his dating life,” he told the Georgia Straight at a downtown café. “This is really about community building and self-empowerment.”

After taking a professional and personal development course about inspiring change within communities, Ho chose to work on a project to address issues within the local gay Asian male community.

Ho describes as a social resource website with stories about how some gay Asian men “not just cope but actually became really successful in dating.”

It's not a dating site, and Ho does operate a separate website that is exactly that:

When Ho (who is of Chinese descent and is Malaysian-born but Vancouver-raised) came out over 20 years ago, he found the local LGBT community to be a confusing and unwelcoming place.

“You kind of quickly realize once you start to date, just what type of community the gay community is overall. There's a lot of discrimination online; you go into bars, you're treated differently; and learning how to navigate that as a brand new gay newbie, coming out can be a little bit of challenge.”

He said he's heard numerous similar stories, and found that others have either developed coping strategies, given up and decided to remain alone, or simply continued to struggle.

In contrast, he added that he has also encountered others who haven't experience any issues at all.

“That is awesome,” he said. “That's the story that the community also needs to hear because maybe it's not universal.”

However, he also said that he does find racial discrimination in dating and socializing can be difficult to identify or pinpoint if it's done indirectly.

“It's hard to call it racism because it's so covert that you feel like you're just being excluded, like you're just not being invited to things,” he said.

He said he hopes someone else “who wants to explore this topic for themselves” will take over the website, as Ho has been in a longterm relationship for 20 years (and is raising a son with his partner).

Anyone interested in contributing their story to the website can visit the website for more information.

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at or on Facebook.

Craig Takeuchi

The urban beastie otherwise known as Craig Takeuchi is a UBC BA (art history/film studies) and MFA (Creative Writing program, with a screenplay thesis) graduate who has had his fiction and non-fiction work published in numerous local and national publications. He's covered a wide range of topics in film, ranging from Hollywood and Bollywood to Canadian content, as well as travel, food, the arts, and LGBT issues. He has also overseen the Straight's annual Summer in the City and Best of Vancouver issues. Also behind the scenes, he has contributed ideas for articles in numerous other sections and has also helped to address diversity issues in editorial coverage by the Straight.

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「My First Gay Bar」

Posted on June 22, 2016 commentaires
Morceaux choisis de l'article 「‘My First Gay Bar’: Rachel Maddow, Andy Cohen and Others Share Their Coming-Out Stories」 paru sur le site du『New York Times』.

For generations of gays and lesbians, especially those for whom walking into the sometime secret and darkened doorway of one was often the first step in the coming-out process, gay bars have long held a significant place in their personal histories.

That was never more apparent than in the days following the mass shootings at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 patrons lost their lives, and which prompted many to recall the nights they had spent in similar settings, and the sense of community they found there.

“I can’t tell you how many bars and clubs I’ve been to over the years,” the CNN newsman Anderson Cooper told『The New York Times』last week. “Every gay man in America remembers the first time they went to a gay bar and how they felt.”

“I don’t want to sound like I’m speaking for the gay community,” said Mr. Cooper, who publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation in 2012. “But it certainly resonates very deeply for me.”

Below, some other prominent gays and lesbians recall what gay bars meant to them as they began to embrace their sexuality, some eagerly and some nervously.


Humberto Leon

Humberto Leon
Co-founder, Opening Ceremony, and co-creative director, Kenzo

Wonder B–r was one of my favorite New York haunts. I remember, it was on a really random night, and it was pretty quiet – maybe 10 people in the bar. Of the 10 people, in the back, was Madonna and her little crew, just going out on a Tuesday night. My friend girl Robin used to D.J. there, so we would go, and this time it was me and my six friends – trying to play it cool as much as we could.


Joseph Altuzarra by Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin

Joseph Altuzarra
Creative director, Altuzarra

The first gay club I went to was Le Queen in Paris when I was in high school. It still exists – it’s on the Champs-Élysées – but it was an institution at the time. I was probably 16, and I remember being very stressed-out about going. I was really new to that sort of scene. I remember it being very dark and no one talking to me. I think I stayed about an hour, an hour and a half – not dancing, not drinking, though I’m sure I was bopping around in my dark corner. I think at the time, I thought I was going to find a boyfriend if I went out, or become friends with people, which clearly doesn’t happen in a dance-y, techno club in Paris. But it felt very exhilarating. It was my first time interacting with other gay people, even though I wasn’t really interacting with them – at least I was in their presence. That was a very powerful thing.


Alexander Wang by Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin

Alexander Wang
Fashion designer

The first gay club I went to was probably when I was 16. It was called City Nights in San Francisco. I remember I would have to get a fake ID as it was an 18-and-over club. But all my friends were older at that point because I lived by myself in S.F. and made friends from just going out. Night life was my escape from the day to day. I would go every Thursday: hip-hop night. I was very lucky to have the community I grew up in be so supportive.


Interviews by Jacob Bernstein, John Koblin, Steven Kurutz, Katherine Rosman, Matthew Schneier and Michael Schulman. They have been edited for space and clarity.

Continue following our fashion and lifestyle coverage on Facebook (Styles and Modern Love), Twitter (Styles, Fashion and Weddings) and Instagram.

A version of this article appears in print on June 23, 2016, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: 「My First Gay Bar」.

Authors: Jacob Bernstein, John Koblin, Steven Kurutz, Katherine Rosman, Matthew Schneier & Michael Schulman/Date: June 22, 2016/Source:

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Emily Manning 「In ‘spa night’, traditional korean values meet gay cruising culture」

Posted on June 20, 2016 commentaires
Still from 「Spa Night」

What happens when a Korean spa – a family-oriented cultural center – becomes a site for queer cruising? And what happens when you’re a young, closeted Korean-American working there? 「Spa Night」, a new coming of age film which screens tonight at BAM, probes these powerful collisions of space, community, and self.

Public bathhouses have existed since the sixth century, and have been formative locations in forging queer identities for nearly as long. The ancient Greek tradition has been alive in New York City since the Everard Spa Turkish Bathhouse opened on 28th Street in 1888. Writers Truman Capote and Gore Vidal were among its more notable patrons. Spa cruising culture has waned since the height of the AIDS epidemic (when mayor Ed Koch raided and condemned many public health spaces, Everard included). But our fair city’s Missed Connections page contains more than enough dispatches – from both the 124-year-old Russian Turkish Baths on East 10th Street and just about every Equinox – to prove that spa steam rooms are still rather steamy. On the other side of the country in Los Angeles, spa culture is similarly active. Yet many of its bathhouses are neither Russian nor Turkish, but Korean – frequented mostly by families and located in Koreatown, the city’s most densely populated ethnic enclave. So when a friend recounted a particularly hot hookup he’d had at a K-town spa, queer Korean-American filmmaker Andrew Ahn wasn’t quite sure how to feel.

“Korean spas are a super cultural, family thing for me, so to hear that they were being used for gay hookups sounded kind of sacrilegious, but also kind of sexy,” Ahn explains. “As I’ve grown up, it’s been easy for me to separate those two sides of who I am. But suddenly, it’s all in one place – and you kind of have to deal with it.” This complex coexistence of identities inspired Ahn’s first feature-length narrative film, 「Spa Night」.

Ahn’s coming of age drama follows David Cho, a first generation Korean-American who works at his parents’ restaurant in Koreatown and is silently struggling to accept his homosexuality. When the Chos can no longer afford the restaurant’s lease, they must find new jobs in order to help make ends-meet, and David is encouraged to forge his own path. A well-meaning (and well-off) church friend, Mrs. Baek, offers a waitressing job to David’s mother, Soyoung, and encourages David to apply for college – setting up appointments with an SAT prep organization to raise his abysmal scores, and arranging for him to shadow her son, Eddie, at USC. Though the trip to USC doesn’t do much for David’s college prospects, the late night visit he pays to a 24-hour all-male spa – where he notices a help wanted sign – proves transformative; he secretly takes the job and begins to explore his nascent sexuality.

Eventually, David’s time at the spa forces him to reckon with the complex, contrasting facets of his identity as a queer Korean-American, tortured not by the fear of his parents’ punishment, but reminded at each turn of their love and sacrifice. The family’s collective struggle paints a rich portrait of contemporary life within an immigrant community: Ahn weaves together churches, restaurants, spas, and golf clubs (all of them real Koreatown locations) and emphasizes how each institution plays a key role in identity formation. Where many films have pursued coming of age themes through struggles with sexuality, 「Spa Night」 complicates the experience through many more rich prisms: religion, class, ethnicity, immigration.

Ahead of 「Spa Night」’s New York premiere tonight at BAMcinemaFest, we caught up with Ahn and Seo to learn more about a story rarely shown on screen.

Location is such an important aspect of this film. Let’s talk about its development.

Andrew Ahn: It was interesting because the script started out just in the spa. It was, like, 30 pages of all spa before I realized it was feeling too claustrophobic. So much of what I was interested in was exploring someone’s Korean identity and gay identity, so I expanded the film so that Koreatown itself becomes a big part of it. Now, more and more people are hanging out in Koreatown – checking out the spas and visiting the restaurants. But what’s a little sad about this upswing in K-town tourism is that it still feels like tourism; people stop by and go home. There’s a higher profile, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Koreatown is really being understood. In 「Spa Night」, you get to settle and live in the space. And I definitely wanted it to touch on other communities within communities, like Koreatown’s large Hispanic population. Joe speaks Spanish fluently, so it was great to be able to do some of these scenes which felt super K-town to me.

You filmed everything on location, too.

AA: We had to be really resourceful. Some of the spas were very curious about what we were filming, and when we told them, they were kind of iffy about it or rejected us. There’s only one golf range and it’s so iconically Koreatown, but we couldn’t shoot there because it was so expensive, so we shot it all from the parking garage underneath the driving range. But it was also a lot of fun; we got to eat great food because we were scouting at so many restaurants. Joe has such an infectious and bubbly personality, it really helped to pass the time on set.

It’s funny you say that. David is such a serious character!

Joe Seo: Yeah, David is a little bit more… reserved than me.

How did you connect with him?

JS: It was all Andrew. Of all the different directors I’ve worked with, Andrew is very specific. He knows the character well, so he was really exacting in what kind of emotions needed to be felt at the time. There’s a lot of pain and suffering we all go through, and he knew how to bring it out.

AA: I think we have common experiences and language to draw upon; being both Korean-American and the children of immigrants, we could understand each other in a way that’s really fruitful for the film.

You can feel that emotion in the film’s non-verbal; the weight of David’s struggle was really palpable. I’d have exploded.

AA: What I realized as I was developing the script is that the drama and the tension that David’s character feels is made worse if his parents really love him and believe in him. If they were assholes, it’d be much easier. He wants to have a relationship with his parents, he wants to love them. I think a lot about queer kids and what can make coming out really difficult isn’t the fear that their parents are gonna be assholes, it’s the other side of that: that they’re gonna take away the love. It’s that fear. That’s what I wanted to emphasize in the film, because it felt more authentic than many depictions of Asian-Americans in the media as tiger parents. It made David’s coming of age more difficult.

What have some of the responses been like?

AA: People react to it differently at different festivals. In the US, there are lots of questions about identity, coming of age, intersectionality. But when I screened it in Korea at the Jeonju International Film Festival, a lot of the questions were about immigration, Korean people living in a different place. So for me, it’s fun that the film can speak about different things to different audiences.

What do you hope people take from it?

AA: My biggest hope is that people understand that we balance so many different kinds of identities, whether it’s queer, religious, cultural, gender expression. There are many things we all balance and that can be a struggle, but we’re all trying to live a life where we feel whole. And the idea that people are these different parts, these intersections, isn’t always talked about, especially in this community.

More information on and tickets to 「Spa Night」 at BAMcinemaFest here.

Sundance Film Festival 「Meet the Artist '16: Andrew Ahn」 - posted on January 12, 2016.

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Rana Tahir 「Lao filmmaker fundraising for cross-cultural LGBTQ short」

Posted on June 18, 2016 commentaires

Sinakhone Keodara 「Where Our Worlds Meet Indiegogo Campaign」 - posted on June 07,2015.

Los Angeles (June 18, 2016) — Lao American filmmaker Sinakhone Keodara is starting a campaign to fund his latest project, 「Where Our Worlds Meet」, a short film about a gay Asian man coming to terms with his lover’s death and draws from Lao and Latino culture. The film is based on a screenplay that was a finalist at the Austin Film Festival’s Teleplay & Screenplay Competition.

Keodara is the founder and CEO of Lao Films & Television, Inc. He is an award-winning producer, writer who most recently was associate producer of the LGBTQ comedy 「I Love You Both」 in 2015, which won the 2016 Cinequest Film Festival New Vision Award. He studied at the Santa Monica College Film Program and is a 2014 NBC Universal Talent Lab fellow.

Rana Tahir recently interviewed Keodara for her Words Across Borders blog. She connected with Keodara to talk about his Indiegogo campaign to take WOWM to the next level – filming a short film – and to get his thoughts on LGBTQ and Asian representation in the media, and his own writing.

What inspired you to write 「Where Our Worlds Meet」 (WOWM)?

This story is inspired by a personal tragedy where I wasn’t allowed to visit the love-of-my-life in the ICU when he died from AIDS-related complications in the hospital in Atlanta, Ga. in 2005. His family shut me out so I never had closure. I didn’t know what to do with the grief. I wrote some feelings down on paper as short of a goodbye love letter that became the impetus for a screenplay for this film. In 2007, I sat down to try to write a screenplay because I felt that our story needed to be told but I had to put it away because it was too painful. It wasn’t until 2013 when I took a directing class and I wanted to pitch this story as my thesis film that I completed the script.

A lot of writers struggle with making art out of such personal and painful moments, did you have any reservations or obstacles in sharing this story? How did you overcome them, or did you?

For the rest of my life, I’ll never know what it was like to be by my partner’s side, holding his hand, whispering into his ears telling him I love him during his transition to the next realm. Writing this script has been a gut-wrenching and emotionally exhausting experience. Each draft of the script was akin to peeling a layer of the onion, revealing an unrelenting, if hidden, painful scar and deep wound which hadn’t heal, although time has covered up the scabs. I still cry one of those deep, ugly, painful cries every time I read through the script. In 2013, I launched a failed Kickstarter campaign so my hope was crushed and I had to focus on survival and took my first industry job and put off this project but it kept coming up so I’m back to it. I decided to revamp the story and not make it completely biographical and dramatized a lot of the scenes but kept the essence of what happened and gave myself creative freedom to create a script that is cinematic and dramatic that fosters a lot of Lao culture. In some ways, in rewriting the script, I gave myself a happy ending in my movie that I wasn’t afforded in real life. I had some reservations about the privacy of his family so I changed the race of my partner from white to Hispanic. I also decided to do a scene that dealt with the violence committed against gay men by straight Latino men because I wanted to shine light on homophobia within the Latino community. I had some reservations about that because I’m an outsider to the Latino community. However, after some reflection, I am an artist, it’s my job to push the envelope and so it goes.

How did you get into the industry? Did you always want to write and direct movies?

I came to Hollywood in 2006 to pursue my dream of becoming an actor and I started doing background work with Central Casting for a couple of years and tried the actor’s life but found that there is a lack of roles for Asian actors and I gave up acting to find a “real” job. When I took the leap of faith and jumped on that greyhound bus with two suitcases and my dreams, I had no inkling that I wanted to be a writer or director or any position behind the camera. I came to Hollywood to be a star (like everyone else…lol) and wanted to be in front of the camera. While on set I was introduced to Joseph Campbell’s book『The Power of Myth』and one thing lead to another and I decided to pick up a copy of Julia Cameron’s『The Artist Way』book and took the workshop of the same name with venerable teacher Kelly Morgan and I discovered my hidden talent of writing. Writing was the last thing on my mind because I avoided English classes to save my life. English is a hard language to master especially grammar and being that English is my second language I just never imagined I wanted to be a writer cause I struggled in High School and College in English and Literature classes.

I fell into directing almost by accident. Back in 2008, post-Prop 8, I was one of many LGBT activists fighting to win back our rights that was stripped from us by the voters of California. A group of us LGBT activists organized an event called the Revolution and I decided to tape a 「Take A Vow」 video of attendees making a vow of commitment to win back our rights and I found that I really enjoyed being behind the camera and was moved to tears by these strangers who were pouring their hearts out on camera. I was hooked on being a midwife to the magic that happens between the camera and its subject and I had a little voice in my head telling me that I was good at connecting with people and that I should go to school to become a film a director. I was reluctant because I didn’t think that I had it in me to be a film director. It just seems like such an overwhelming task. But then during a Day of Decision rally that LGBT activists put together as a vigil to send a message to the Supreme Court of California in May of 2009, I heard Cheryl Lee Ralph up on stage singing a song at the rally that imparted the wisdom of the power of the pen, it was my call to adventure. It was one of those moments when things clicked and I felt my Higher Power was communicating to me so I resolved that in order for me to have any kind of opportunities in Tinsel Town as a gay Asian actor, I would have to create it for myself. So that’s how my long and winding journey into becoming a filmmaker began. I have Cheryl Lee Ralph to thank for it. She is such a fierce and powerful spirit, and she oozes charisma and inner beauty, besides the fact that she’s physically beautiful.

Lately campaigns like #whitewashedOUT have highlighted the lack of PoC, specifically Asian, representation in media. Clearly there are a lot of stories to tell, why do you think the representation is still so small?

I’m so glad you brought that up. It is deep rooted in systemic racism and a culture of white supremacy. I give Ming-na Wen and Constance Wu and Margaret Cho a lot of credit for jumpstarting this revolution by starting the conversation on whitewashing that led to the #whitewashedOUT movement. Ming-na Wen and Constance Wu will always go down in my book as the heroines of this movement because they stood up for all of us risking their careers. It is groundbreaking and there has been a shift of consciousness. There is no going back. And to quote British actress Gemma Chan, “the dreambeat is getting louder.” Hollywood will be shamed into changing and the studios will have to take actions to change the status quo. To be frank, I’d always been frustrated with Asian actors and why popular directors like Ang Lee, Justin Lin et al have not used their platform and been more vocal on this issue so to see Asian women leading this revolution is something that is both powerful and overwhelming because those ladies are fierce warriors. We can never thank them enough! I’m a Ming-na Wen and Constance Wu fan for life. I will do anything for those ladies. In fact, a sci-fi script that I’ve writeen titled 「Frog Eats Moon」 have them in mind for the two leads. But first things first. LOL. I gotta get this movie made. To get back to your question, I believe this all goes back to propaganda and a culture where the only images of beauty, of heroes and of historical figures that are great have been forced fed to us to be white people. It’s in the textbooks that we studied, the novels that we read, magazines that we perused, movies that we watched, music that we listened to and the scientists and geniuses that have been recorded or afforded face time in our educational videos and documentaries have mainly been white people. It’s subconscious. We’re taught that white people are superior to everybody else and that is a lie. We are all great in our own right. Greatness exists in every race and creed. We are all divine spiritual beings having a human experience. How I see race is like this, each race is like a flower decorating this beautiful garden called earth. We compliment each other. No races is better or worst than the others. Period.

WOWM is definitely a-typical in regards to Asian representation in the media. Do you think there is an additional hurdle for LGBTQ Asians? What is it? And why?

Thank you for this question. There definitely is additional hurdle for being LGBTQ of Asian descent. It’s both sexual orientation and race. We face sort of a double-whammy of hurdles. We experience discrimination from within our community of origin (for being gay) and within the LGBTQ community for being Asian so there is this crisis of self-esteem for my Gaysian brothers and sisters. We don’t feel good about who we are as gay people because we’re being discriminated against by our gay brothers and sisters for being Asian and we can’t feel good about our Asianess because our family of origin rejects us for being gay and sees us as some kind of disease-ridden rodents and as something bad for our gayness. My family have come full circle from thinking that I am gay because of bad karma from a past life (it’s a Buddhist thing) to now accepting me fully. I bring all my ex-boyfriends home for the Holidays. I wouldn’t have it any other way and they’ve learned to deal with it. All my nieces and nephews have called all my exes uncle. But, when I was newly out, this is about 21 years ago, my family don’t have any information on gay issues so when I go home so it becomes uncomfortable around the dinner table. There is still a lack of education in SE Asian communities on gay issues and the major LGBT organizations don’t dedicate resources to translate literature into Southeast Asian languages, especially not Lao. Not to my knowledge at least and I called around and couldn’t find any. As recently as last year, I had a dear Lao friend contact me on Facebook frantic about her nephew and his struggles of coming out and how his parents are not knowing how to deal with their son being gay. We searched high and low and finally found one PFLAG pamphlet in the Lao language about gay people that is incoherent that no one knew about our uses. In order words, if you’re gay and SE Asian, or, specifically, if you’re gay and Lao, good luck with your coming out process. You’re fucked because you’re left to fend for yourself and deal with your coming out on your own. Seriously, like, when was the last time you saw the gay press cover an Asian gay man or woman coming out? They’ve all been about white social media stars, white actors and a few token black celebrities here and there. But, I’ve not yet seen one gay media coverage of an Asian person’s coming out story because to the white LGBT press, our stories don’t matter because we don’t matter to them. They don’t see us. We’re even more invisible in the LGBT community as Asians. It’s worst than the straight world. There is a lot of work to be done on that front. The LGBTQ media don’t cover LGBTQ of color, especially Asians, unless we’re someone already famous like George Takei, Alec Mapa or BD Wong so it’s harder for emerging Asian LGBTQ artists to even get press on our creative endeavors let alone representation in the media. Prime example was an HBO show 「Looking」 about a group of gay white men in SF and how they managed to not cast a gay Asian man in that series. They had blacks and Latino leads and a token straight Asian nerd but no Gaysians are to be found and there was a big uproar and a boycott from the community because we’re talking about SF and a 3rd of the population is Asian. The show eventually got canceled. Gay white men are taught by the same media that emasculates Asian men, dehumanizes Asian people in general and just makes us the butt of jokes. I’ve been trying on several of my projects to get coverage of my project by the gay press but none was given. In my first feature film that I helped produced (I LOVE YOU BOTH, 2016) we got press from Australia, New Zealand and the UK but none from the US. It was laughable actually. But, I take heart in seeing more gay Asian filmmakers making their art and distributing it online. In my line of work, what I’m trying to bring attention to is how lonely it is to be an LGBTQ of Asian descent. How we have to deal with our own coming out on our own because our families of origin reject us for being gay and when we turn to the white LGBTQ community whom we thought would be embrace us for being gay, but some reject us because we’re Asian.

While Asian representation is still struggling, do you think that LGBTQ representation has taken strides recently? Why/why not?

Yes, most definitely. Shonda Rhimes (she’s a Goddess) and Lee Daniels have really pushed the envelope in presenting gay leads in their shows in a non-stereotypical and unapologetic way. Full disclosure, I don’t watch much TV (「Empire」 is the only TV show I watched in the past year and that was because I was Lee Daniel’s assistant for two weeks) but I do read about it in the trades. I have a suspicion that if I consume too much TV it’ll mess with my own creative output.

Of the shows that do feature prominent gay characters, most of them are white. Do those representations help/hurt non-white gay representation (or is it neutral)?

It’s never neutral. Both those identities are an intrinsic part of who we are. We can’t choose our gay side any easier than our ethnic side. But, this is exactly the same issue that we’re dealing with in the overall Hollywood whitewashing of Asian roles issue. When you have TV shows and movies featuring gay people as being only white, it invalidates us people of color gays. It’s the same tired white man standing in for all of humanity again, gay or straight is irrelevant. Last year Roland Emmerich whitewashed his epic gay historical film 「Stonewall」 by casting Jeremy Irvine (a straight white man) to play the lead of a movie about the gay revolution and cast aside ethnic POC transwomen. In that film, Roland made Jeremy threw the first brick when in actually it was a black transwoman who threw the first brick. Roland’s excuse for rewriting LGBTQ history and giving the credit to white people instigating the Stonewall riot (when it was drag queens and transwomen of color who rose up first that night) was because he believed straight white people in Middle America can relate better to a white gay man than a transwoman of color. The community was up in arms and we boycotted that movie which tanked.

At this blog, I try to focus on writing craft. A big hot topic is writing the “other,” often meaning white people writing PoC characters. Do you think that non-PoC writers should be doing that? Do you have any advice on how they should go about it?

This is a little tricky. I do think it comes down to perspective. A non-POC writer could never have the experience, cultural context and perspective of someone who is a POC but I don’t believe in censoring what people write. In my script, I researched the Latino characters to death and workshop what I wrote with my Latino classmates and colleagues just to make sure I got it right. So, my advice for white writers writing PoC characters is to hire cultural consultants, which brings to mind a #whitewashedOUT discussion where several activists suggested that movie studios (and TV studios for that matter) hire POC consultants. And I do think that Hollywood TV studios need to open up their writer’s room to a more diverse group of writers. Diversity is a thing of beauty. We only have to look at what’s around us to see that nature intended diversity all along. And when we erased any group of people from the media, the whole world loses out on the gifts of those people’s experience, strength and wisdom.

Do you count those stories (PoC characters written by non-PoC writers) as part of the solution to the representation problem? Why/why not?

No. That’s an easy way out. It’s a way to keep the status quo. The gatekeepers, the movie studios and the producers and directors want to keep it that way because it serves them. Hollywood is run by white men and they’ve been doing things the usual way for as long as Hollywood has been in business. Like, how do you explain whitewashing of ethnic roles especially against Asians in 2016? I’ve seriously been told in a room full of people at a film festival last year by literary managers and agents that they don’t sign PoC writers because our skills are not up to par (presumably to our white saviors and heroes) and because PoC writers only write niche stories and these lit agents and manager’s conventional wisdom inform them that ethnic stories don’t sell. Yep. They said it in a room full of people. I was livid and let them have it. I reminded them that I was a finalist in a screenwriting competition at that film festival.

What advice would you give another PoC filmmaker trying to make their way through the industry?

I haven’t made it yet so I can’t really give any advice on that front. I’m still trying to make it. This is my first film. Ask me after I get this film made and after I get to direct my three features (two written and the feature version of this film to be written) I have waiting in the wings.
A YouTube link to the film trailer:

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David Rosenberg 「Growing Up Gay and Asian in Memphis」

Posted on June 15, 2016 commentaires
「Signal Fire」, Memphis, Tennessee, 2014.

While studying photography for an MFA at Yale, Tommy Kha began to explore his upbringing and what it was like to grow up gay and Asian in Memphis, Tennessee, where he often felt like an outsider. Although he crafted those images into 「A Real Imitation」, which was recently published by Ain’t-Bad, his intention wasn’t to base the project solely on his ethnicity or sexuality.

“I’d rather make a body of work that is about complexity and not knowing,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty I try to bring into [the book] that works really well with the way I’ve experienced reality.”

Kha’s work, including 「A Real Imitation」 and the intimacy-focused series 「Return to Sender」, tends to be autobiographical. The images in the book – a mix of self-portraits and images of Kha’s friends and family – have as much to do with Kha’s background and feelings of otherness as it does with his experimentation with the idea of what exactly self-portraiture is.

“I started really examining the different languages of self-portraits,” he said. “It almost always has to do with the artist’s identity, and I didn’t want to spell that out. ... I wanted to make something very diaristic, very biographical. ... Some work hand-in-hand, and some don’t; they shouldn’t go together, but they do because of my existence.”

「Home」, Memphis, Tennessee, 2015. 「Us」, Brooklyn, New York, 2012.
「Tuxedo」, Memphis, Tennessee, 2013. 「Midsummer Garland」, Covington, Tennessee, 2012.

In addition to struggling to find his place in Memphis as a gay and Asian man, Kha said a lot of his family didn’t understand his pursuit of an arts career. Kha said this began to change once he was accepted into Yale. Since then, photography has turned into a way that the family finds connection. “Anytime I come home and see them, they always want to make pictures because in a way that translates to them getting to know me,” he said. “It’s the only time we get to interact in a real manner. They don’t mind being photographed, and they know I have to do this; it’s something I have to do but they don’t have to know the reasons why.”

Kha said although he often tried to hide while growing up, being different wasn’t something a lot of people were willing to let him forget.

“Being a minority is one thing but when there’s something so different about you that either has to do with your race or sexuality. ... People find a way to tell you.”

「Iceland」, Thjodvegur 1 (Route 1), Iceland, 2014.
「Rice Island」, Memphis, Tennessee, 2012.
「Titan」, Hernando, Mississippi, 2011. 「Unity」, Memphis, Tennessee, 2013.

David Rosenberg is the editor of『Slate』’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.

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Kero Kero Bonito 「Break」

Posted on June 13, 2016 commentaires

Kero Kero Bonito 「Break」 - released on June 13, 2016.

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TIFFANY 티파니 feat. Simon Dominic 「Heartbreak Hotel」

Posted on June 10, 2016 commentaires

TIFFANY feat. Simon Dominic 「Heartbreak Hotel」 - released on June 10, 2016.

SM STATION’s new track 「Heartbreak Hotel」 (Feat. Simon Dominic), sung by TIFFANY, has been released. Enjoy the music video of the song and look forward to the next STATION track which will be out on 17th of June.

♬ [STATION] TIFFANY 티파니 「Heartbreak Hotel」 (Feat. Simon Dominic) Music Video ℗ S.M. Entertainment

On poste encore du TIFFANY alors qu’on aime pas ! Mais la chanson est aussi bien foutue que Shon Minho, le mannequin avec lequel elle sort dans le clip, et qui la fait cocue alors qu’ils sont en boîte, le salaud, alors elle a trop la rage, mais pas trop longtemps, et se fait offrir des verres par deux gars.

Le beau Shon Minho...
... et l'autre-là.

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Cristina Nualart 「Queer Artivisms in Asia: 10 artist highlights」

Posted on June 09, 2016 commentaires
Art Radar highlights a selection of queer art practices from around the Asian region.

From the creative industries to art, still and moving images can have a powerful activist edge. Fictional and documentary accounts of the non-normative are making an impact from South to East Asia.

Tate Modern’s current exhibition on Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar is one example where the sexual orientation of the artist is discussed in the media almost eclipsing the art. Is homosexuality still perceived as so controversial as to be a flag waved just to attract attention? Regardless of what the media finds newsworthy, queer activism has been around for a long time. Voices differ on how culture might compel us to acquire or dissipate ideologies, but if we agree that culture has some play in this, then it can operate as a tool for activism – or artivism.

For various reasons, activism sometimes takes subtle forms, like double-entendres in narratives, but in the visual realm it increasingly seems to be more overt. For example, considering how the works from the 1980s discussed below differ from those from the 1990s, the message seems much clearer and less ambivalent in the latter works.

The following are selected examples of how cultural production in Asia is contributing to dispel myths and stereotypes about gay, lesbian or minority groups.

1. Bhupen Khakar
After Bhupen Khakhar (1934-2003) initiated his career as an artist, his circle of friends, both in India and in countries he visited, such as Britain, knew that he was gay. It was only after his mother passed away in 1980 that he came out publicly, sparking much of the media interest that remains until today. And perhaps quite rightly, since probably the best way to combat heteronormativity is for the public at large to know of celebrities’ homosexuality. According to British figurative painter, art writer and curator Timothy Hyman as well as contemporary and friend of the artist, Bhupen Khakhar was one of the first figures to be publicly known as a homosexual in India.

Khakhar, freed from parental disapproval, acted with intent. In addition to coming out publicly – his personal move to effect change – Khakhar’s artworks from the 1980s onwards made enough references to male nudes and love, to position him as an activist. His paintings combine popular subject matter, everyday people and an unpretentious style in a way that points a finger at social constraints such as elitist class barriers or homophobic attitudes.

Tseng Kwong Chi & Keith Haring

2. Tseng Kwong Chi
Also in the 1980s, Hong Kong photographer Tseng Kwong Chi (1950-1990), then living in New York – where he later died from AIDS related illness – photographed openly out artist Keith Haring and posed with gay icons such as Yves Saint Laurent. Tseng’s extreme discretion about his personal life does not make him a gay activist in the placard-waving sense, but readings of his work today certainly see in it much to be queerful about.

His elegant public persona plays with theatricality in a way that makes him a performance artist as much as a photographer. Tseng’s photographs are his principal body of work, but his social mask (the sunglasses, Mao suits and distant demeanour) highlight issues of personal identity with low-key drama. For him, the time was not ripe to unmask himself, but he looked forward with optimism, as his estate records:

There will be a change for the next decade I’m sure. The seed was planted in ’79, the flowers bloomed in the early Eighties, and now we are waiting for the fruit.

Sunil Gupta at Vadhera Art Gallery, 26th September 2014, Image Courtesy: Ayush Duttae

3. Sunil Gupta
Photographer Sunil Gupta (b. 1953) shares life experiences with both the artists above. Like Bhupen Khakhar, Sunil Gupta also studied accounting before turning to art. And like Tseng Kwong Chi, he also contracted HIV, although the virus for Gupta has not been fatal. Contracting AIDS propelled a more direct form of activism in a man who had been an out gay youngster, fighting against racism and homophobia whilst studying in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. He continues this mission through his artworks, exhibited worldwide for 30 years, intent on raising awareness.

Gupta’s complementary work as a collaborative exhibition-maker has inspired emerging curators such as Vidya Shivadas, who in turn has edited the book『Queer』, a monograph on Sunil Gupta’s work. His photographic series are sometimes straightforward, sometimes staged. Sunil’s exhibition titles give a clear idea of what he tries to show: 「Ecstatic Antibodies, Resisting the AIDS Mythology」, 「Reflections of the Black Experience」 and 「Exiles」, about gay men in New Delhi, are all from the 1980s. The more curiously named series 「Mr. Malhotra’s Party」 (2007) has a title inspired by gay nights in Indian clubs. It is a portrait series of self-identified queer people who stand unapologetically in public areas of Delhi, in plain daylight. This series is therefore a document of individual activism: the portrayed subjects are named, visible, out and undeterred by fear.

4. Debalina Majumder
The real-life characters in Gupta’s 「Mr. Alhotra’s Party」 make it look easy to come out in India. Yet in 2013, a film called 「…And the Unclaimed」 (「… ebang bewarish」) by activist filmmaker Debalina Majumder shows that it can have sad consequences. Her film investigates the double suicide of two lesbian lovers in West Bengal whose bodies were unclaimed by any relative. The couple chose a drastic end to their young lives because of the lack of acceptance of their love by their community and families.

Majumder began researching the case with Sappho For Equality, an organisation that supports the LGBT community in Kolkata, then she took things personally. With much commitment to explore the case thoroughly, she made a film. Her touching final cut cleverly threads together multiple oral accounts from people in the village, with excerpts from the five-page suicide letter left by the young women. The work has screened at film festivals and conferences from Canada to Estonia.

5. Park Chan-wook
For his 2016 film with lesbian protagonists, South Korean director Park Chan-wook chooses fiction. 「The Handmaiden」 is inspired by a novel by Sarah Waters,『The Fingersmith』. The book’s original Victorian England setting is changed in the screenplay to a Japanese-occupied Korea. The film is less focused on raising awareness and changing society than documentary projects, but it dazzles with thrills and eroticism, which may bring lesbian love issues to a wider audience.

6. Sridhar Rangayan
Another recent film is India’s latest documentary on LGBT activism, 「Breaking Free」, which premiered at Mumbai’s 2016 Queer Film Festival. Directed by Sridhar Rangayan, 「Breaking Free」 has won two prizes so far and is continuing to tour, educating the world on India’s fight against the law known as Sec 377. Introduced during colonial rule, Sec 377 criminalises sexual activity including homosexuality and, as the film makes evident, it is misused repeatedly, causing much suffering to the LGBT community. Decades ago, Bhupen Khakhar, and then Sunil Gupta, critiqued the law and reminded their home country of its more liberal pre-colonial attitudes to homosexuality.

7. Truong Tan
There has been a good dose of LGBT activism in Vietnam recently, with the celebration of its 4th Viet Pride. Effective from 2017, the country’s civil code will allow legal gender reassignment for transgender people, a big step in advancing individual rights. Since 2012, Hanoi’s Pride has been accompanied by art and culture events, mainly thanks to Queer Forever, a growing festival initiated by artist Nguyen Quoc Tan. Queer Forever organises exhibitions, concerts and conferences, often in liaison with international cultural centres. Satellite events also pop up. Pop culture enthusiasts may wish to browse Vanguard, an art zine made by the Vietnamese LGBTQ community.

Twenty years earlier, Vietnamese artist Truong Tan was making room for homosexual imagery in a conservative art world. Before moving to Paris in 1997 to develop his career, Truong Tan was able to create some homoerotic artworks and make performances that critiqued social restrictions in Vietnam. Even if national censorship reduced public exposure to his visual activism, there was sufficient attention gained from the controversy to generate a lasting impact amongst artists. Truong Tan helped to widen an understanding of same-sex love, even inspiring heterosexuals who initially said they felt his work didn’t relate to them, to rethink the ways in which norms and barriers affect their daily lives, and to push for more freedoms.

8. Vu Ngoc Dang
Homosexual love is beautifully present in Truong Tan’s paintings of recent years. The budding Vietnamese film industry, meanwhile, had great success with a homosexual love story, that predictably elicited much controversy but was not prevented from being shown in mainstream cinemas nationwide. The film 「Hot Boy Noi Loan」 (「Lost in Paradise」) is a 2011 drama directed by Vu Ngoc Dang. It features a gay couple and other marginal characters, who express love, have fun, suffer rejections and work through life muddling through adversities and absurdities, ultimately giving hope to all that things do get better.

Michael Shaowanasai Yasumasa Morimura

9. Thai artist Michael Shaowanasai, Yasumasa Morimura and Japanese queer
In nearby Thailand, Michael Shaowanasai turned to art in the late 1990s. He created a popular, gleeful body of work, often populated with gender-bending self-representations. Historically, Thailand had a more tolerant attitude to gender fluidity than Vietnam. And seemingly more so than Japan, on the surface, although Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura (b. 1951) had set a precedent for Shaowanasai’s cross-dressing self-portraits. For thirty years Morimura has disguised himself with outfits much more showy than Tseng Kwong Chi’s ‘uniform.’ Morimura transforms himself into characters from well-known artworks, making gender changes quite acceptable because they reference sources from art history’s canon. The queer is thus neatly subsumed by the hegemonic status quo, and much more digestible for mainstream acceptance.

One wonders if Morimura had posed with less clothes on (Shaowanasai has photographed nudes), if he would have experienced censorship. Feminist artist Megumi Igarashi (a.k.a. Rokudenashiko) was arrested in Japan in 2014 for creating artworks shaped like her vagina. Her work sailed the world on social media shares, thanks to the vagina-shaped canoe that she made with a 3D printer. Her activism is trying to demystify female genitalia, in a country that paradoxically holds a penis festival every year. But queer issues go deeper than the appearance of people or their private parts.

Every three years, Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum holds the 「Roppongi Crossing」 art exhibition. The survey of contemporary art from Japan this year had a section titled 「Gender in the Future」, where the works of Hasegawa Ai provide a vision of happy homosexual families, complete with genetically enhanced children. Artist Miyagi Futoshi (b. 1981) travels backwards before looking into the future. He has reflected on the homophobia he feared in his native Okinawa, and has developed his research into works that deal with family history and the personal bonds formed by strangers during wartime, interlacing disparate stories into a smooth but complex weave.

10. Fan Popo
Another thirty-year-old who also takes his research seriously is Fan Popo, a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy. Author of the book『Happy Together: Complete Record of a Hundred Queer Films』(2007, Beifang Wenyi Press), he learns from the best, but chooses director Wong Kar-wai as the source of inspiration for his book title.

Fan Popo’s film production is incessant. 「Chinese Closet」 (2009), 「Mama Rainbow」 (2012) and 「Papa Rainbow」 (2016) are just half of his queer-themed films made to date. These three examples deal with issues of coming out, from the points of view of those outing themselves, and the relatives and friends receiving the news. Down-to-earth, Fan Popo doesn’t think a documentary can speak for a collective, warning that the positive stories in his films are often the exception rather than the rule. He says that film is not life, but he does think that it can change people’s minds.

His opinion is that films incite us to empathise with the struggles of others and help us to abandon prejudices, a wise viewpoint from the person who also directs the Beijing Queer Film Festival. To share his message of hope, Fan Popo made 「Mama Rainbow」 available on streaming sites in China, but is now having to sue because the film was inexplicably taken down. Hollywood film 「Brokeback Mountain」 (directed by Ang Lee) was banned in China until 2005, but Fan Popo was given license to show 「Mama Rainbow」, and he seems determined to continue disseminating his documentaries to raise awareness.

* * *

This mysterious disappearance of a film that had passed the censorship board and shown worldwide is a fitting end to a brief journey on queer culture that has illustrated both proud and assertive attitudes along with discrimination and fear. Research is growing, exhibitions with queer topics are happening more frequently worldwide, and laws are changing. This cursory look at recent visual productions spanning the long arc from India to China leaves out many artists, works and organisations, but shows that Asia is bursting with energy and drive to act against intolerance and invisibility of LGBTQ issues.

Author: Cristina Nualart/Date: June 09, 2016/Source:

Tseng Kwong Chi 曾廣智

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Karen Ocamb 「Pioneer: Arthur Dong」

Posted on June 08, 2016 commentaires
Oscar®-nominated and triple Sundance award-winning filmmaker, Arthur Dong. Photo by Zand Gee.

In the early 1990s, KCET, then the PBS TV station in Los Angeles, featured a public affairs show called 「Life & Times」 with openly gay producers, one of whom was Arthur Dong. While there, the budding filmmaker produced 13 documentaries. He gained national attention in 1994 with his Peabody Award-winning film, 「Coming Out Under Fire」, which was based on gay historian Allan Berube’s classic 1990 book about the discrimination faced by gay and lesbian servicemembers during World War II. Dong’s documentary seemed like a rebuke to President Bill Clinton who had campaigned on a promise to lift the ban against open service, only to compromise with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

The following year, in 1995, Dong produced and directed 「Out Rage ’69」 about the riots at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village that marked a significant turning point in the long road for LGBT equality. Dong’s segment was the first installment of the historic PBS series about the struggle for LGBT civil rights entitled, 「The Question of Equality」.

Dong has since produced and directed scores of documentaries, including the 2002 「Family Fundamentals」, an often heartbreaking look at how conservative Christians and Catholics treat their gay children, and more recently, 「Forbidden City, U.S.A.」 about the stars of the Golden Age of Chinese-American nightclubs in San Francisco between 1936-1970.

But one of Dong’s most important documentaries has become buried by time. In 1997, Dong, a victim of gay bashing in San Francisco in the 1970s, summoned the courage to investigate the minds of eleven inmates convicted of murdering gay men, seven featured in the film. 「Licensed to Kill」 is shocking in its stark depiction of how unquestioned anti-gay religious upbringing permeates homophobic America.

A smiling Jeffrey Swinford, for instance, tells Dong that gay men are a nuisance “that oughta be taken care of.” He assumed law enforcement agreed and was surprised when he was arrested for helping kill a man who he claims came on to him. Swinford is so comfortable with his version of the “gay panic” defense, that he says “I’d really almost forgot about” the murder. Swinford suggests the roots of this societal understanding went back to high school when his science teacher asked him to discuss a subject he didn’t approve of and the future gay killer picked homosexuality with Bible verses to back him up, without correction or comment.

Jay Johnson was also raised under strict religious anti-gay guidance, which lead to intense self-loathing as the child experienced homosexual desires. “I was disgusted with what I was doing,” he tells Dong about cruising for sex in parks. “I thought to myself: `If I shut these places down, my temptation to do that would be less.” He killed two men and wounded another before being caught.

「Licensed to Kill」 won Best Documentary Director Award and Filmmakers Trophy Award at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, and secured for Dong an Emmy nomination for Best Director, New & Documentary. “I did this film because I refuse to be a victim,” Dong told the『Los Angeles Times』.

Author: Karen Ocamb/Date: June 08, 2016/Source:

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Dominique Sisley 「What the hell is a ‘Sad Asian Girl’?」

Get to know the art collective addressing the everyday reality of being an Asian woman in a western society

There’s been no shortage of trailblazing art start-ups in recent months. Thanks to visually-led social platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, collectives are now able to tear up the ‘pale, male, stale’ rule book of the industry and rewrite it; with race activists like the Art Hoes and fourth-wave feminists like Art Baby creating their own kind of creative revolution.

For RISD students Olivia Park and Esther Fan, though, there is still one glaring group being left out. Frustrated by the tired stereotyping and ignorant assumptions made about their Asian heritage, the graphic design duo decided to join forces and change the narrative. The result is the ‘Sad Asian Girls Club’ – a new kind of collective dedicated to Asian women feeling divided by their life in western “white-male dominant” societies. “Sad Asian girls are a group of asian individuals with common struggles and frustrations,” they declare in their manifesto. “(We aim to) encourage other asian women to speak up within their environments, and stop the culture of silence and passivity.”

The club first made waves in December last year, after Park and Fan posted a short film on YouTube shining a light on these experiences. Titled 「Have You Eaten?」, it poked fun at the pushy dominance of a typical east Asian parent, and quickly racked up 55,000 views. “The video came from the desire to reveal a collection of real-life conversations that usually never came out of our personal familial settings,” they explain over email. “After the release of the video, we realized how much of our audience resonated with us and had similar experiences and perspectives. It was encouraging that there were so many other Asians who could relate to our experiences.”

Now, the self-funded and self-managed group are opening up the conversation wider, and focusing on even more contentious issues; from body image and colourism to queer exclusion and the ‘model minority myth’. We caught up with them both to find out more.

SAD ASIAN GIRLS CLUB 「MANIFESTO」 - posted on April 03, 2016.

Tell me about the Sad Asian Girls Club. Why did you start it up, and what’s your overall goal?

SAGC: At this time, the objective of SAGC is mainly to make work that addresses various issues that Asians living in Western societies experience; having grown up with one set of standards given by Asian culture, while also living with the set of standards given by white-male dominant environments. So far we have only made work on our personal relationships with our East Asian mothers, various stereotypes of Asians perpetuated by non-Asians, and the model minority myth. Subjects we aim to tackle next include colorism, queerness in the Asian community, intersectionality and more.

Why use the word ‘Sad’?

SAGC: To be sad is a taboo in society but we give agency to the term “sad” by making progressive work rather than drowning in our tears. As mentioned in our “Manifesto” video (see below), the “sadness” refers to the confusion and frustration that many Asians in Western societies experience, as we are often unable to fully identity as either “fully” Asian or “fully” American, Canadian, Australian, British, etc.

What, in your experience, are some of the most frustrating stereotypes Asian Americans have to deal with?

SAGC: Aside from the various stereotypes that come with the fetishization of Asian women, perhaps the most common and most frustrating stereotype that applies to all Asians is the model minority myth, which suggests that Asians are more successful and studious than other minorities and thus can not experience discrimination. It creates not only an unrealistic standard for Asians but also pits us against each other. Additionally, this myth is usually applied to only East Asians, simply because we are seen as the standard type of “Asian” by non-Asians. The Asian archetype is rarely inclusive of South, Southeast, Central, or Western Asians, who as a result are often made invisible.

Your new project looks at the ‘Asian nerd’ myth that’s often perpetuated in schools. How do you hope to debunk it?

SAGC: The next project 「MODEL MINORITY」 will be a video series which will be released on YouTube and other social media (watch the first episode here). The videos allow those who participated to describe the model minority myth for themselves as well as their experiences with it. Most of them begin to talk about their frustrations with the stereotypes that come with the myth and the unrealistic expectations forced upon them by not only their own family but by a white society as well. Our project aims to firstly define the model minority myth and all of its implications, then explain why it is not obtainable and not to be expected of us, and finally list some ways that we may stop the perpetuating of the model minority myth and some things that people can do.

What are some of the most interesting things you’ve learnt from doing the project?

SAGC: It was very encouraging to see how willing our volunteers were to open up and give details of their life experiences; we learned of various ways that their own Asian parents have tried to push unrealistic standards upon them as well as how they came to unlearn these internalized ideals over time. It was also interesting to hear a variety of opinions on why the myth exists and the different detriments that come with it.

You’re graphic designers, and you worked mostly with visual arts. How can these tools be powerful?

SAGC: Ideally, we are able to clearly communicate any subject we need to cover in a way that can be easily and successfully consumed by today’s internet-dependent audience; as young people ourselves, it is easy for us to communicate with other like-minded Asian individuals on such a widely used platform. We tend to keep technical graphic aspects simple and straightforward. The main colours of the current SAGC identity are red and black and our main typeface is Helvetica. The formal decisions, however, may change in the future, as we are still continuing to grow and develop SAGC’s identity.

In terms of diversity and inclusivity, do you think America is moving forward?

SAGC: America is definitely progressing in terms of the population with racial “diversity.” Interracial marriage is more encouraged than ever, the number of minority kids enrolled in schools are growing, and supposedly by 2043 the white race will become the new minority. But with that being said, the nation needs to think about how to be more accommodating to this shift in diversity. How can we progress with racial inclusivity and how will we balance issues of race at a social, political, institutional, economic, and cultural level? We should drop the ideal of the “melting pot” – it is severely outdated and also dismisses the reality that all these wonderful backgrounds, cultures, races, and stories will always be different and unique. It’s a matter of creating a safe and inclusive democracy for the people of this country, rather than forcing assimilation. All people have the right to want and deserve opportunity while keeping their unique identities, and America needs to learn to be accommodating and considerate to these people.

How do you hope to expand on your projects in the future? What’s the ultimate goal?

SAGC: It’s been five months since SAGC started and we’re still a duo of graphic designers making one project at a time. We are considering ways in which we could solidify a stronger community of Asians (either on the web or worldwide, or both) because it is very rare to see Asians stand in solidarity on social issues. The lack of awareness and push for change comes from a lack of resource, community, and encouragement, especially in predominantly white institutions. We have begun to reach out to our own community around RISD as well as consider collaborations with other artists or groups, as well as what different directions we may go in the future. As of yet, our final long term goal has not been clearly defined, and it is likely to keep changing over time. We plan to continue SAGC to the furthest extent we can take it, wherever that is along the process.

Learn more about the Sad Asian Girls Club here, or watch the first episode of their Model Minority Myth series here.

Follow Dominique Sisley on Twitter here @dominiquesisley

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