Protest. Celebration. Acceptance. Community. These were the words that came up over and over when I asked people to share what Pride meant to them.
Pride means many things to many people, but no matter how you celebrate it’s always a time to come together and lift up the LGBTQ2+ community. 2019 marks an important anniversary in particular, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a major event which would later ignite the modern gay liberation movement.
For Pride Month at Cold Tea Collective, we want to highlight stories from our LGBTQ2+ Asian community. We asked queer Asians to speak with us and share their unique experiences and stories to shine a light on voices often forgotten in the mainstream.
We have lots to celebrate, namely that Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. And it was moving to see more public figures like Eugene Yang, of Try Guys fame, come out in a beautiful video. But it’s also a time for us to remember and fight for the members in our community who are still trapped in the closet and continue to face systemic oppression and violence (particularly transgender women of colour).
We tried to capture some of that in this series; a full range of both the joy and the struggles our contributors face as queer Asians from across the world. A huge thank you to everyone who shared, opened their hearts, and trusted us with their stories.
For part one (of three!) in our Pride Month feature, we simply asked: what does pride mean to you?
What does pride mean to you?
Ariana Zhang – @arianatzhang
To me, pride is about setting aside time for myself to relish and celebrate who I am, and to remember the people who have fought for the LGBTQ+ community in the past. I feel like with the overwhelming rainbow capitalism of pride in America, it’s easy to kind of lose sight of what pride is really about and who it is for. I celebrate pride by creating and finding spaces for myself in the queer community that make me feel accepted and seen. As a queer Asian woman who sometimes dates men, it’s easy to feel invisible and invalidated, so I feel even more appreciative and grateful for the communities I’ve found that have welcomed me with open arms, without all of the icky gatekeeping.
Martin Hui – @martinhui
Pride is a time to spend time with old friends, meet new ones, and celebrate the joys, rights, and freedoms of being an LGBTQ2+ person in 2019. As an Asian LGBTQ2+ person, this month also reminds me that we have our own unique challenges that have yet to be fully addressed, from the everyday challenges of being LGBTQ2+ in Asian families and communities in North America, to the system, often state-sanctioned homophobia in countries across Asia.
I celebrate pride daily by surrounding myself with queer writers, artists, musicians, politicians, podcasters, whatever role, you name it, I’m there. Every avenue where queer people have once been pushed out, I show up to listen to their stories or simply watch them in their persistence declare that we are capable of asserting ourselves and asking to be counted where it counts.
Pride is important to me as an Asian queer person because I have grown up under the gaze of people who have told me the reality of who I am is an impossibility, and I’m just now arriving at a place where I can cast away that barrier and embrace these two parts of my identity with less hatred than I once did. I have lived mostly in spaces where there weren’t a lot of queer people OR Asian people, for that matter, so I didn’t speak on the little disasters of inner turmoil that I carried around — they seemed too insignificant and niche. Although my mother is Asian and my father is Hispanic/Italian, their worlds are not so different in that they raised me and my siblings with the high expectations and rigid social conventions that often accompany immigrant families. My mother has told my sister that her greatest fear is that I am a lesbian, which is half hilarious and half annihilating. I asked what she would do if either of my siblings came out to her and she has told me, in gentle, but still abrasive words, that she would shut them out of her life. I didn’t think that the lack of representation in media was something I needed, or that voices from the community were ones that I needed to hear, but suddenly I did, and it has been frustrating to realize how much was shelved to make room for a universe that was not my own.
I am so happy for queer people who can proudly live as they are. Still, I know what it is like to feel the weight of your family in your blood and to spend everything of yourself to ensure that you don’t foil the plans of those who so lovingly raised you, although they’ve refused to love ALL of you. To be as we are is a difficult job, and when we are queer and Asian and told to not enter spaces because of these components of ourselves, that job seems near impossible, but Pride gives us a pull forward to do the damn thing when we’ve been pushed out for so long.
Felicity Li – @felicetea.li
For me, pride means taking all of that time and energy I spent as a teenager covering up who I am and using it to be 100% myself. Pride is important to me as an LGBTQ2+ person because I never had that Asian LGBTQ2+ role model, let alone any LGBTQ2+ role models in my life until I discovered the Nancy podcast, so I had no idea that it was okay and amazing to be myself. I hope that through me being confident in myself and expressing my sexuality, I can show LGBTQ2+ youth that it gets better and that who they are is awesome and can be celebrated.
I celebrate pride every day of my life by being open and honest about my transition. This way I can educate people who are curious about it! I feel that it is important to be proud of who you are and to share your experience. Because you never know who might be going through the same thing as you. You might even help save a life!
Ren Flores – @ren.nifer
Pride to me means being proud of who you are and celebrating the best part of yourself for the world to see. It’s important to me as an Asian LGBTQ2 person to celebrate Pride because we’re so underrepresented in queer culture. Often we aren’t portrayed in mainstream media, but we exist just as much as other queer people do. I celebrate pride by walking in the pride parade, volunteering with organizations in Vancouver that cater towards queer men (Health Initiative for Men), and slapping my cute face all over social media for people to see.
Julian Lao – @julianlao
Pride to me means acceptance. To accept yourself for your quirks, vices, and all that makes you YOU. To be proud of all the flaws that once made you feel less. If it was once that acne scar that was left on your right cheek from a pimple you got the morning of your first date to the birthmark that’s placed on the right of your lower back. Pride is the acceptance of one’s trials and tribulations, but you are coming out resilient – coming out with all these magnificent stories that can’t help but make you giggle, laugh or even cry. Therefore, pride means to me being proud of who you are and what makes you uniquely YOU.
Chang Xu – @Xuyuanify
Love and embrace myself and others for who they are — I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a very supportive system, and I want to be that support system for others who need it! Pride is important to me because it’s a reminder to all of us that no one should feel ashamed of his/her/their sexual orientation, gender, cultural background, and other identities.
For me, Pride means the ability to celebrate all the good and the bad about myself. I have to take pride in my progress, my mistakes, and my life in order to thrive. Pride season is just a yearly month-long reminder that I have come so far in my journey and that I’m lucky to have an amazing family and support system that will help me achieve my goals.
Ri – @klauses_eyeliner
Pride month is the time of the year when I can smile on the inside as I pass a street adorned with rainbows (but I never smile on the outside for fear of my Baba asking why I’m so happy). Pride month is the time of the year when I pull out my rainbow sneakers at my Mama’s house, worn and torn in some places. To me, Pride month means happiness and joy, but it also means secrets and distrust. It means lying to my aunties at dinners.
“Aya! Jie jie do you like anyone yet? Is he cute?” I keep my face still as stone, my lips pressed so tightly they’re white, not wanting to let it slip from my mouth that it’s not only boys I like. But that’s the sad part. The good part is the shower of texts I get from my friends. “Happy Pride!” and an endless flood of rainbows from my best friend Liv. The good part is painting my nails the colors of the pan flag and sharing a wink with a stranger who noticed the colors. The good part is knowing “Hey, my friends are here for me”.
Sol – @koilatte
To me, pride is solidarity; pride is family. The closest to a pride march/parade that I have here in my homeland is The Pink Dot. This year will be my first year attending it on June 29th, along with some friends of mine who are also LGBTQ+. The past few years, I never celebrated pride for I was still figuring out who I was, and I still very much am.
Pride is important to me because it gives me a safe space to be able to talk about my own struggles as a Southeast Asian and a queer. I grew up in a very religious Muslim family, told that same-sex love isn’t right, that anything of LGBTQ+ origins is straight up sinful. You could imagine the horrors I felt when I realized that I felt a tinge of romantic attraction towards one of my close female friends.
Francis Tran – @transtampp
Pride is a celebration of who you are as a person and it is a time to embrace who you are and who you have become. As a gay Asian it becomes a big part of identity and it reminds me how it’s okay to be who you are and be proud of it.
Mikaela Kane – @mmkaela
Pride means acceptance!! Pride is important to me as an Asian because of the harsh stigma in Asian culture. I want the old way of thinking to change as our generation gets older. I like to celebrate by listening to my favourite queer singers and being open about my relationship in my daily life.
As someone who researches Pride parades, I believe Pride means a mixture of relief, resistance, celebration and activism. Knowing that Pride parades are rooted in resisting oppressive institutionalized violence, I believe we have a responsibility to continuously be upholding the rights and safety of those most marginalized. In the meantime, celebrate the fact that our existence is important in a world that may otherwise tell us differently at times.
Lynn Chui – @backhousebird, @lchui5
Pride to me is showcasing love for yourself and the various communities you may be a part of. It is honoring and critiquing traditions, culture, and lineage. Being proud to be a queer Asian individual is important to be able to acknowledge the intersections of my personal identities as well as those of others, particularly those who experience greater marginalization than myself due to a myriad of other factors. I celebrate Pride by sharing the achievements of my friends and other queer and/or marginalized folks, as well as being as authentic as I can be to myself.
Showna Kim – @showna_kim
It is very important, especially in my country, South Korea. I often think, “South Korea leads the world in developing smartphone technology but what about human rights?” Most people around the world do not notice that South Korean government officers and the general public often make dangerous remarks about homosexuals. In fact, the main art scene is organized by the government, so directors, as well as curators in museums and galleries, are not often interested in these kinds of issues, and artists are not encouraged to come out. Or, rather, if they did come out, they would not be able to work in the most established art scene. Regarding education in Korea, it is also very difficult, if not impossible, to address LGBTQ+ issues as well.
Karl Chen – @uwuloo
To me pride is a commemoration first, celebration second.
It is a time to recognize that 50 years ago, trans women of colour at Stonewall were brave enough to fight back. It is important to acknowledge that if it weren’t for the courage of some of THE most marginalized people, we wouldn’t have made the strides that have brought us to this point right now.
With that being said, the celebration aspect is also important. While it shouldn’t be a reason for us to become complacent, celebrating milestones is paramount in any journey. The celebration is important to me because as a person with multiple intersecting marginalized identities, it is an opportunity to take a break to look back, celebrate and honor how far we’ve come, revitalize and rejuvenate, and prepare to keep fighting.
A special shout-out to The Gaysian Project for partnering and collaborating with us on this Pride Month feature.
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