Dear Straight People 「10 Struggles Of Gay Asian Men」

Posted on August 28, 2015 commentaires
Dear Gay People,

If you are gay and Asian, then you’ll probably be able to identify with the following 10 struggles of every gay Asian male.

1. Your parents are always pressuring you to get a girlfriend

2. But if your parents know that you’re gay, they just pretend that they don’t

3. If your relatives know that you’re gay, they no longer ask you about your personal life

4. Every white boy always assumes that you’re a bottom

5. The white boys sometimes get you mixed up with the other Asians that he is hitting on

6. If you live in a white country, you kind of get used to all the racism on Grindr arising from all the profiles that state ‘No Asians’

7. You feel guilty for getting red packets every single year... Or maybe not

8.White boys won’t like you if you get too buff

9. You are probably going to end up staying with your parents for life

10. You don’t have much gay Asian role models to look up to

Author: Dear Straight People/Date: August 28, 2015/Source:

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Hahna Yoon 「Interview: Marshall Bang comes out with a bang!」

Posted on August 27, 2015 commentaires

In 2012, Korean-American from L.A and aspiring musician, Marshall Bang got a call from 「MBC Star Audition – The Next Big Thing 3」 to get a flight within the next 24 hours for the opportunity of a lifetime. He talks to us about coming out to his mega church pastor mother, his first pride parade and trying to make it as a singer while holding on to his identity. Before I start with the questions, he tells me a friend who’s “out” but not “out out”.

What’s the difference?

She’s not out with her parents but when she’s abroad, she’s out to everyone and everyone knows.

Wait, are you like that?

No, I’m out out now. Fuck it. I’m out! My brother was telling me, “we were having a discussion about homosexuality and church and I was wondering if its okay I told them you were gay”. And I said yes. And he’s like “great, because I already did!” (Laughs.)

Have you been dating?

People are going to be like “yeah, right” but I’m still a virgin. (You can put this in there.) But I really am! My dating life is non-existent BUT I’m looking and open to dating... Any takers? Because I don’t wanna be 30 and never have dated... Unless I join a celibate monastery. Which I’m sure would be something my parents would be delighted about. (Laughs).

Are you out with your parents?

Well, I came out to my brothers first (in 2012) and they reassured me because they said they would love me no matter what. I wanted to be clear with my mother (who I knew would tell my father) that I was going to put myself out in the dating pool. This was a little more difficult, especially because I’m not that great in Korean. I said “Umma, I like boys. (엄마... 나... 남자... 좋아해...) Even when I was younger, I always liked boys.” I thought that they got it until we were skyping one time and we got into an argument talking about getting a Korean wife and having two kids.

How’s it going now?

I visited recently and actually my mom brought it up because of my tattoos. She said “the tattoos on your calves! Everyone can see them! You keep telling me you’re gay, gay, gay... It must be the tattoos!” I started talking about my experience and how I tried to pray the gay away... And my mom was really quiet, she seemed to be listening. She was like “I knew you were different. I didn’t know what that was at the time and it was the 80s, and that stuff wasn’t even in the realm of my existence.” She didn’t necessarily say it’s okay or no, it’s not okay. [Marshall explains the conversation is on-going.]

It must have been really hard for you. What was that process like?

I had my own seven year journey I had to go through. I had to tell somebody and I had read so many different things on the subject and how it related to my faith and at that point, I came to an understanding that God would love me no matter what.

Are you a Christian still?

I am a Jesus follower and it was really hard for me to find a church here. But I go to Seoul International Baptist Church and everyone was so welcoming even though we had tattoos and dyed hair. It was really refreshing after being so disillusioned and disappointed by other places.

What part do you think Seoul has played in solidifying your identity?

I think the fact that I couldn’t be out completely gave me even more of the fuel to eventually come out. There were times while I was on the show and I wanted to say it, but I didn’t want my parents to die, you know? There was always a part of me that wanted to tear everything off and shout “I’m gay!”

You just attended your first pride. How was that?

There are so many points within the past year that have helped me. Marriage equality in the US is definitely one of them. The movie 「Imitation Game」. This year’s pride was in-fucking-credible. I literally did not expect so many people to come out. Granted everyone saw the crazy people and once you passed through the scary protests, you were just enveloped in love and the color and beauty of everyone. And I’m just so thankful that it happened despite all the roadblocks.

Are you ever afraid for what it’ll do for your career?

My former manager told me it was pretty much social suicide to officially come out. He told me to be successful first and come out later. He wanted me to be this buff-macho dude who would be a fantasy for men and women. But it all seemed so inauthentic. I know it’s so cliché, but I’m just going to do me.

Here’s Marshall Bang with Lydia Paek in their cover of Ariana Grande’s 「Love Me Harder」.

Lydia Paek & Marshall Bang 「Love Me Harder」 (cover) - posted on July 31, 2015.

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HyunA 현아 feat. Ilhoon 정일훈 「Because I'm The Best (Roll Deep)」

Posted on August 21, 2015 commentaires

HyunA feat. Ilhoon 「Because I'm The Best (Roll Deep)」【잘나가서 그래】- from『A+』released on August 21, 2015.

Retour de HyunA en solo, et c’est très très sexy. C’est simple, elle n’a presque plus de vêtement, mais ça lui va si bien. D’ailleurs, on applaudit Ilhoon de donner de son corps pour maintenir le niveau de sexiness. Le clip fourmille de références stylistiques, la plus flagrante étant Miley Cyrus avec tirage de langue, oui, mais beaucoup plus mignon !

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Rohan Tandon 「The Gaysian: Benjamin Law’s life as a double minority」


Author of『Gaysia』, Benjamin Law, whose memoirs are being converted into a TV show, talks to Rohan Tandon about the process of coming out, his trysts with queer cultures and the rights of minorities.

Benjamin Law, author of books『The Family Law』and『Gaysia』, the latter a hilarious, poignant and intuitive journalistic exploration of the unique queer cultures found across Asian countries, sits with us over a Skype session having finished working on the TV adaptation of his memoir『The Family Law』. Identifying himself under the double minority of being gay and Asian, “Gaysian,” in Australia, Law discusses contemporary minority and queer issues.

Q. So you’ve become sort of like the poster boy for the gay community. When you started off, did you expect something like that?

A. You mean sort of become like the go-to boy for gay rights? Well, I mostly write about two things – about myself and the people that interest me, and a lot of people who interest me happen to be queer. And when I write about myself, I can’t not write about being gay, you know; I’ve got a boyfriend, I am gay. It’s just the way straight people write about being married. Perhaps because there are fewer people writing about being queer that they sort of seek me out as a poster boy, but it’s not something I necessarily sought for myself.

Q. Now I’m curious about『The Family Law』, writing a memoir as a first book; that’s a pretty bold thing to do. I mean, no one knows you, yet you’re telling people, “Hey, I’m Mr No One from Nowhere but I’m still gonna talk all about myself and you’re going to read it,” and people did read it, and loved it.

A. Well, honestly I think it’s the total and complete narcissism that comes with being 20-something. I’m in my early 30s now, and looking back I think it is a little ballsy as you described, but another part of it is a slightly deluded sense of self-worth. Besides, I’ve always thought my family is very interesting. My parents migrated from Hong Kong and China in the ’70s, a period when there were few people like them. And so, in my work I also wanted to deal with larger issues of being gay and a Chinese minority in a predominantly white part of Australia. And I’ve always thought my mom is hilarious; she’s always saying the weirdest things and getting into graphic descriptions of her kids’ births with total strangers. And growing up, there was this thing she said, like, if we had an itchy bum, she wanted to know if we had worms or not so she would ask us whether it was our “cheek” or our “hole” that was itchy, and that sort of made it to the script for the TV adaptation based on『The Family Law』(slated for a 2016 release) and so we have all actors marching around saying “cheek or hole/ cheek or hole,” so yeah, it’s pretty funny.

Q. In『Gaysia』, you’ve described pretty intense conversations with queer people in, say, China, where there’s not much of a gay community and it’s pretty much on the hush-hush, so how’d you go about getting them to trust you enough to confide in you?

A. Well, half the people I met in my travels were people I’d already contacted online beforehand, so if people were open about their sexuality even within certain forums, I’d be introduced to them by someone they know, so I’m already vouched for.

Q. What was your weirdest experience in India... other than with the food?

A. No, no, the gastric experience was just because it was my first time, and in fact, in retrospect, it’s pretty funny. I’ve been to India since then as well and I just feel that one can adjust very quickly. I suppose meeting Baba Ramdev was a very interesting experience. He’s someone so iconic in India, his face is everywhere you go, it was like meeting a celebrity you know, and he had all the fanfare of celebrity around him – his minders, his publicists, he had infrastructure. And you know, with his yoga class, it’s my first 24 hours in Haridwar, I’m freezing and here’s this guy who comes out doing weird things with his body. And then tells me in an interview that he can cure homosexuality, but when I get into such situations, I just think that it makes for good material, so I’m happy.

Q. Can you tell us a little about how you came out, and not just to family but in general. I know some people who’ve done that through mass texts, I myself just got real nonchalant about it and hoped that news would spread around and I’d be saved the trouble of having to “come out.” So what was it like for you?

A. It’s funny; I think you’re touching on the fact that coming out is a pretty exhausting process, and it’s never just over; you constantly have to explain yourself over and over again. Just the other day, I took a taxi cab in Sydney and the taxi driver went on about the gays and lesbians of Sydney and how he suspects that the public transport works are secretly all a lesbian conspiracy and I just went, “Whoa, what’s wrong with being lesbian? I’m gay myself.” With some people, it’s exhausting to play the teacher, but I was like, if you’re happy to go off about gays and lesbians, I’m happy to make your taxi ride as awkward as possible. So to answer your question, it’s not just one moment but you constantly have to make people reassess their assumptions about you.

Q. In art, do you think that a minority or marginalised community, not necessarily the queer community, just any minority community, has this pressure to always be a representative for their community?

A. Yeah, I definitely think that if you’re a writer or a performer from a minority group, there is this burden to be the best role model possible. But people are complicated; they’re not just virtuous, and they’re not just evil. Most of us are both at any given time. So for me, when people say that you’re a role model for this or that community, it’s important to realise that that is just a part of a much larger conversation, and I’m just one person. I don’t represent my community, I don’t represent Chinese people, I just represent myself. It’s funny – very good Chinese-Australian communities have questioned my work before, saying I’m not a very great role model, and my answer is I didn’t ask to be. If there’s some controversy with a heterosexual character, you don’t hear people saying that he’s such a bad role model for straight people. That’s because there’s enough diversity there so that it doesn’t have to be. So I think the only way to remedy that is to make sure that there’s diversity in representations of the queer community or any other minority community as well.

Q. There also exists the “post-modern gay,” who is perfectly open about the fact that he’s into dudes, but still tries desperately hard to defy stereotypes and be all masculine. Why do you think this is so, that people might be out about being gay but still deny certain characters that might traditionally be associated with that label?

A. For me, personally, I understand that dangerous dynamic wherein you grow up and you see all these images of gay people that you don’t identify with; for example, when I used to see the Sydney gay and lesbian Mardi Gras on television and everyone’s in drag and floats, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s not me!” As a child, when you see people be so negative about that stuff, you just want to remove yourself from it, which is horrible because it’s a kind of internalised homophobia. And so people police themselves far too much and are like, “I’m real masc, and I’m not like them!” Which is sad because it’s not up to you to defy stereotypes, its up to other people to go beyond stereotypes and see that someone might be a drag queen but he’s also a really interesting family member who also reads a lot of interesting books with a fascinating background in computer science or something. If someone can only look at you and see a one-dimensional person that’s their problem, not yours. Be whoever you want to be and if someone else can look at you only in terms of those stereotypes, then f**k ’em.

Q. You and your beau have been together for over a decade. Where are you guys in your relationship now?

A. Well, all our heterosexual friends are having babies at the moment, and when your friends start having babies, you’re not partying as much as you once did because you don’t really want to; you’ve had a lot of it already. And I’ve never been a party guy anyway. Ben’s that kind of guy who really craves lying in bed Friday nights and reading because the week’s been so intense and so out of control. And I get these natural highs from other things, like when I go overseas with my boyfriend or get really good expensive Japanese whiskey or hang out with my friends who are out of control anyway and it feels like you’re on drugs when you’re around their babies because they’re just screaming and screaming and screaming. That’s sort of where we’re at right now.

Author: Rohan Tandon/Date: August 21, 2015/Source:

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Huili Meng & Caroline Cottet 「Interview – Popo Fan」

Posted on August 20, 2015 commentaires

This interview is part of a series on gender and sexuality in China. Read more here.

Born in 1985, Popo Fan is queer filmmaker, writer and activist. He is an alumnus of the Beijing Film Academy and the author of 「Happy Together: A Complete Record of a Hundred Queer Films」 (Beifang Wenyi Press, 2007). His documentary works include: New Beijing, New Marriage (2009), 「Mama Rainbow」 (2012) and 「The VaChina Monologues」 (2013). He has participated in film festivals across the globe, such as Taipei, Copenhagen, Los Angeles and Mumbai. In 2012 he received the Prism Prize of the 22nd Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. He is presently a committee member of the Beijing Queer Film Festival and a board member of the Beijing LGBT Center.

Where do you see the most exciting research and debates happening in your field?

Recently, an American friend asked me a similar question: what changes have taken place in the LGBT community in China in recent years? As an insider, it’s hard to see the changes and differences; similarly to a man who looks at himself in a mirror every day and who wouldn’t pick up on the small evolutions. But if we go back ten years, we can see that the LGBT society has changed a lot right across China. As a queer film director, I’ve noticed a tightening of government policy, which is even going backward in some ways. For example the increasingly strict control of the Internet means that a lot of LGBT news and information is now banned, so communication in the LGBT society has really been affected.

For me, the biggest change has been a new understanding of the relationship between art and politics. Until I went to university, I thought that politics were very distant from my own life, because both my family education and art education insisted that politics should be kept separate, otherwise it can cause trouble. But my experience in the last two years of university taught me that politics is everywhere. In 2005, the 2nd Beijing Queer Film Festival was held at Beijing University. I went to watch the films as an ordinary member of the audience, but the government cracked down on the festival during the opening ceremony. I was affected by this issue and felt pity and anger. It was then that I decided to do something for the community. Later, I joined the committee of the Beijing Queer Film Festival as a volunteer. As people began to recognise my working skills and ability, I became more involved in the activities and projects of the LGBT community. Now, looking back, I’m surprised at how closely connected politics were to my films and activities. Actually, as a Chinese person I can’t ignore politics, it’s impossible to escape.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

Film has always been an important part of my life, although I didn’t think of studying or making films before my college entrance examination. I chose it as my major because my mathematics was so poor! Someone told me that, as an arts’ major, you don’t need to sit in a single mathematics exam. However, I wasn’t good at singing, dancing or painting, so I chose to study dramatic literature of film as my major. I thought I’d probably made the wrong decision when I listened to all my classmates talking about masters of cinema and film theory. The campus atmosphere was difficult, but discovering Queer Film was the turning point for me. At that time, I had a classmate who was particularly homophobic, but he later changed his point of view after watching some queer films with me. I also think this genre has a special meaning for me, and I became more and more engaged in it. I also used my knowledge of queer films in my homework and discussions in the classroom. Later, I used this knowledge to write 「Happy Together: Complete Record of a Hundred Queer Films」, my first book. That was the early stage of my involvement in queer filmmaking.

The Beijing Film Academy advocated an elite education, as far away from politics as possible. Yet with some influential teachers it was different, they looked at things in a different way. For example Zi’en Cui, who for some complex political reasons was never allowed to give us a lesson, taught me more than anyone else through friendship. Today we’re still very good friends. Xianmin Zhang was another. He specialised in independent film and gave me some helpful and meaningful advice. After graduating, with the exception of the two of them, I have generally lost contact with teachers and classmates.

How would you describe and characterise the history of Chinese LGBT film production and your position in it?

The history and development of Chinese queer film has been a gradual process from ambiguous to clear, I would identify three steps. The first is before the 1990s when directors used ambiguous ways to deal with plots about same sex couples. One example is 「Two Stage Sisters」 directed by the famous Jin Xie, where the two female characters have a very blurred relationship that hints at lesbianism. Kaige Chen’s well-known work, 「The Great Military Parade」, also alludes to some same-sex passion but without any clear representation of it. The second step occurred around 1996, which is known as the first year of queer film in China. In this year the famous young director Yuan Zhang made the seminal 「Behind the Forbidden City」 a film about gays and their lives. Although at this time, very few queer films were made or shown publicly. The third step starts with the new millennium when more and more queer films were made and released using new film production technology. From 2001 to 2005, some documentaries about drag queens were released. Why drag queens? I think there are two main reasons: one is that very few gays or lesbians are ‘coming out’, another one is that drag queens worry less about showing their faces in documentaries because they always have exaggerated makeup on stage. But the subject matter was still limited and narrow until 2006-2010, when a stronger creative period produced a wider range of films and videos about gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual blowout types, and also in different forms including feature films, documentaries, MVs and animation.

A second significant observation here is that the development of queer film was a process for homosexual participation as a method of comrades’ self-empowerment. Before 2005, most queer films were made by heterosexual male directors who had an interest in LGBT themes. Because they, from the patriarchal logic point of view, were the group that had access to social capital – power, fame, money. But in 2005, that changed when director Zi’en Cui made a queer film after coming out himself. After 2006 an increasing number of queer directors produced works for their own community. Then after 2010, the movement of self-empowerment in the community moved forward again to a new stage with more community non-professionals getting involved with film and video production. This movement was facilitated by new technology and supported by advocates from the LGBT’s non-government organisations such as NGO’s workshops for film-making skills, Queer Digital Storytelling Workshop, and the Queer University Documentary Training Camp. It’s a democratisation and decentralized movement of queer film.

The last trend is the diversification of communication modes. Queer films were banned from public cinemas, the only opportunity for screenings were in small salons, pubs or coffee shops. But now the internet has become the main platform for queer film diffusion. Also the internet has had a big impact on queer film production, for example some new network television series are specifically made to be shown online.

One of your most popular documentaries, 「Mama Rainbow」, follows six mothers from different cities as they forge relationships with their gay and lesbian children; the parents in the film are very optimistic and supportive. How does this compare with the real situation for LGBT youth, and why did you choose to portray the mothers in this particular way?

Indeed, the parents in my films are too positive and accepting, this doesn’t reflect the real situation in China. But for me, my documentary is just one of the narratives. There is no single narrative to provide the whole story/ reality. I never said these parents are representing all of China’s queer parents, just some parents I met. If they were against the idea of being queer parents, they would refuse to be interviewed. It’s one of the important issues we faced during the filmmaking period, also why did we choose these six parents for my story?

For me, it’s a common question often asked by Western people, because the image of these queer parents is different from the way they imagine it to be in China. This question comes from a post-colonial vision of China. I would say why can’t Chinese queer parents be like this? In this way my documentary breaks the stereotype of the way Chinese families are seen or imagined from a Western point of view.

One time, after a screening of 「Mama Rainbow」 in America, a member of the audience told me he liked the documentary very much and thought it was an important film worth showing to more Americans. He thought it would let people know how positive and supporting Chinese queer parents are and persuade American queer parents to accept their own queer children. Sometime I think maybe it’s the reason why this documentary is so popular in America; it seems to break the American impression of China as a ‘backward’ country. However, at the same time I fell into another trap, because American audiences tend to use it as an example to show that their own society should be doing better than China.

When I’m interacting with the audience, I’m very careful discussing the narratives in the film, I try to emphasise on the fact that it’s just a story about some of families I met and it doesn’t represent all of China’s families. Also the purpose of the documentary is to launch a topic, and build a public discourse space.

In addition to being a director, you are also on the board of the Beijing LGBT Centre. From your observations, what is the most significant change that has occurred in the LGBT society in China recently?

In my experience, there is an important sense of a gradual awakening of identity. In the very beginning, when I joined some queer events and projects, I just thought I should work for the group for myself and others. But later I started thinking about why (queer) identity is so important. Does identity have to be single, immutable and frozen? Once, we screened a transgender film at a film festival. A member of the audience who identifies as gay found me after the viewing and said, “Transgender films aren’t good for the gay’s social image, we’re normal and decent people. We shouldn’t let others think we want to transform our sex or cross-dress.” It’s hard for me to understand why some gays refuse to accept the idea of transgender. Why should gay discourse exclude or belittle the transgender issue, creating a separate community? So I told him ‘Do you know that the way other people think about homosexuality is similar to the attitude that you are having towards the transgender group?”

In 2010, I developed this idea and made the documentary about transgender and drag queens, called 「Be a Woman」. They are very sociable and friendly group, some of their activities are more interesting than their gay counterparts. I also have some lala friends (the common nickname of lesbian in China), and my gay friends also joke about them. One asked me ‘You’re so close to lala, so you’re one of them, right?’ These encounters made me examine another aspect of identity politics: can we really think beyond the limitations of our own identity? During the production of the film, I slowly realised we do a lot of things that are not related just to our own identities; not all gays will participate in the gay rights movement, and participants in this movement are not all gays. For example, of the seven people on the organising committee of the Beijing Queer Film Festival, three are heterosexual. We’re working together from the same common starting point: we are against inequality, and we are working for a greater freedom. It’s also the reason and motivation for me to stay in the LGBT society and to participate in so many activities.

I learned to use the western term ‘community’ from the activities I was involved with over these years, but I didn’t really understand it until the Beijing LGBT Center was established. At the start, I just thought it was a place for gay people to have fun, but later I realised it’s also a social sphere where we are very dependent on its spirit and psychology, a community with social interaction and inherent relevance.

Today I don’t worry about the different factions of the LGBT society; groups need their own space in any community. In my experience, the community needs to work towards the same target, but also make space for different elements. Because there can be no single space that is suitable for all people, no movement can engage everybody in the same way. Actually the consistency is very scary, like the political lesson we learned in childhood, there’s no such thing as individualism all must ‘be united as one’, and that’s impossible for 13 billion Chinese. There is no ‘Chinese dream’ for everybody. The members of the Chinese LGBT group can’t share the same values and targets, if we could it would be great. But it’s also great for groups to follow their own goals in their own ways; it’s very important for the whole community. Furthermore, the ‘internal division’ is useful for avoiding personal heroism in a society that has made everyone follow the same leader. It’s another type of hegemony.

The theories in gender and sexuality studies have predominantly been written by scholars in the European and American academic institutes. They very often claim universalism to a certain degree. Having toured around the world and spoken at various events like the Cologne Pride event in Germany, could you say anything about the differences in the LGBT cultures globally?

That is a very interesting question for sure. I feel that LGBT societies are becoming more and more similar in the different countries I’ve visited, for example many different countries’ LGBT societies are focusing on same sex marriage rights, including China. I wonder if the reason for this connected movement is the influence of Western and global culture, or a need to follow someone’s lead in the Chinese LGBT society.

Recently, there was a discussion about China’s queer movement on Facebook, with people leaving their comments under a video that was posted. A doctor and teacher of a well know American university said even after just watching five minutes of the video that he was filled with anger about China’s queer movement which was following the Western counterpart’s footsteps too closely. I replied to his words from my side, “How often do you come to China? How close are you to our LGBT society? If you were close enough to us you would know that we are different from Western LGBT groups, and your basic judgment is wrong. What is the West, is Europe the same as America? Do you think China only has one voice?” I disagree with this binary opposition. “And the developments of society and culture are very subtle. It’s hard to say how much interactivity there might be. For example, all civilizations have cooking skills. Who influences who? Or has each developed technologies for their own needs and ways.” For example, how do you treat a laddish lesbian who is wearing trousers and a tie? Is she imitating a man’s clothing style, or is this a creative performance of her sexuality?

It’s same for the same-sex marriage rights campaign in China. Everybody knows that we have no chance to collect enough signatures to bring about a bill at the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. But the advocacy is working for the LGBT group’s social visibility more than for the rights of same sex marriage.

With globalization we have to watch out for two things: the destruction of the local culture and creating a false sense of division between East and West.

The Chinese government has announced a new policy for NGO groups, especially those that have ties with ‘Western’ countries. Do you foresee any particular impact for LGBT groups and for the works of freelance artists like yourself?

Last year, my documentary 「Mama Rainbow」 (2012) was removed from video-hosting websites and from the Chinese internet. I was told that it had to be deleted as a new government’s requirement. In accordance with the information publicity law, I applied for further information about this action to China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), but I was informed they had never banned the film. I can’t find the right information about this, or sort out the problem. The biggest challenge from the rules and laws of government is that nobody knows where the red line or boundary lies. It’s like being in a game where the players don’t know the rules. If we had access to such information from the government our attitudes wouldn’t be so negative at this moment.

I heard some friends who work in NGO groups discuss the new Foreign NGO Management Law. It’s a serious development for NGOs; their work will become extremely difficult under the new law in its current draft form. There are active groups working with and in Chinese society, seeking to alleviate poverty, eliminate discrimination and conduct other activities that benefit the average citizen.

Two very well-known NGO groups, the Transition Institute and the China Rural Library have been forcibly closed by the government, and this has deeply affected grassroot actions. I can’t even imagine the closure of the Beijing LGBT Centre, which is a place we used to visit every weekend for social activities and communication. For many people, it’s a unique place to help establish their individual identity.

What was the most difficult part of your career?

In my career, there are two big problems I have always had to face. The first one is financial. Even now, I am still suffering from financial pressures. When I graduated from university, I only had five thousand pounds in savings from my part time jobs and from the book royalties. In the beginning, raising funds for my films was difficult. In 2008 I borrowed two thousand pounds from my boyfriend and wasn’t able to pay him back until 2010. During those years, I always had to be very careful with money, even in my daily life. I would buy duck bones with a bit of meat when others could buy the famous Beijing roast duck for its delicious crispy skin. I was lucky, I survived, and through those early lessons I became a good film producer.

Basically, I have tried all kinds of different ways to raise money for films, starting out self- funded, and later relying on private donations. For example I made 「Chinese Closet」 with a friend’s investment in 2009, but I could also apply for funds from NGO groups or foundations that support human rights or LGBT societies. My experience is mirrored by most Chinese independent filmmakers.

The second problem has been film distribution. Until recently queer films could not be publicly released in China. I was always embarrassed when people asked me where they could see my films, especially after they were banned from the Chinese Internet. I couldn’t even say “Please search my work online”!

What is the most important advice you could give to young scholars of international relations, interested in gender and sexuality theories?

For young scholars who are interested in Chinese LGBT groups, either Chinese or foreign, the most important thing is a contact within the LGBT community, by participating in the movement, even just through a small involvement such as translating Chinese articles or helping with event publicity . Also it’s the best way to conduct research, getting close and involved with your subject, understanding the group, keeping up to date with real and important issues and stories from inside.

This interview was conducted by Huili Meng and Caroline Cottet, and translated by Huili Meng.
Huili is a visiting scholar at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Leeds. Caroline is a Commissioning Editor of E-IR.

Author: Huili Meng & Caroline Cottet/Date: August 20, 2015/Source:
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Majick Tadepa 「Op-ed: The Perils of Dating While Asian」

Posted on August 07, 2015 commentaires
This writer and Advocate intern used to revel in the fact that men found him attractive because he's Filipino. Now the attention feels like pandering racism.

I have a secret escape whenever I feel like I’m losing my grip because of the exhausting course load that accompanies being a student at the University of California, Berkeley. I take the BART from Berkeley to San Francisco, ride the MUNI to the Castro District, and walk along the streets of the friendliest gay neighborhood in the U.S. People welcome my arrival with two- or three-second-long stares, sly smiles, and the occasional, “Hello, cutie.” All of a sudden, I turn from a stressed-out college student into an alluring object of fantasy. No matter how many times my mother would tell me otherwise, I’ve never felt so beautiful in my life.

I grab a seat in a bar and order a Stella Artois, even though it’s happy hour on cocktails. After about half an hour, a man, usually older and clean-cut, approaches me. Then the interaction launches into what has become a familiar routine: He asks why I’m sitting on my own, introduces himself, and compliments my facial features he finds pleasing. He gets my attention by giving me tons of attention. I just take everything in; every comment feeds my confidence and ego.

Before the conversation goes beyond the free drink, I have to ask a crucial question: “Do you like Asians?” Sometimes, these suitors take a step back and try to deny it at first. Some just blatantly declare how they adore the smooth skin and luscious dark hair Asian men usually have. Every once in a while, someone changes up the script and tells me, “Not really, I’m only attracted to Filipinos. They look so exotic.”

Of course we do.

To the men of the Castro, I’m pretty only because I’m Filipino. I’m pretty only because I somehow represent or fulfill the criteria for a Filipino. I’m almost always tempted to call out these fetishes, but I also want to keep the drink. So I take the come-ons as a validation, even when it’s clearly an empty gesture of approval.

When I was younger, hearing a guy state his personal “preference” regarding race never really made me think about what that actually says about him as a person. It never bothered me. I just read it as a simple inclination, like how I usually go for guys who are smart and relatively tall, and how I definitely give out bonus points for glasses. I also generally prefer someone who has a job that can pay our Uber fares. My young brain didn’t detect any inklings of racism, nor did it grasp the problematic nature of such racial preferences. So I played along with it. I took advantage of the prejudice toward Asians so I didn’t have to pay the (rice queen) bartender.

My understanding of those who claim they are solely attracted to a particular race is that those individuals have identified a dominant trait that they believe cannot be found in people from different ethnicities. Sure, people can argue that their romantic racial preferences are mostly about physical traits, but that defense falls apart when we consider the reality. In truth, humans are inconsistent, diverse creatures; not all Asians have smooth skin, a tiny frame, or thick jet-black hair. Those who don’t correspond with the stereotype can feel disoriented and deeply rejected.

I’m Filipino of Spanish descent. I match most of the perceived stereotypes about Asians in general: I’m slim, I look younger than my actual age, and I’m pretty good at math. But according to the men who buy me drinks at bars and compliment those traits, I’m actually too forthright and mean “for an Asian guy.”

I remember one time when a guy approached and informed me, “I like Asians. You guys are easy to handle.” He was tall and huge. I asked him if his preference had anything to do with his own insecurities – that he needed to dominate small-framed guys. He walked away without even buying me a beer. Rude.

I’ve never really known whether I should take these come-ons as a compliment or not. My so-called beauty only gets validated and recognized if I fit what "rice queens" believe all Asians should be. That perpetuates the problematic presumption that race and ethnicity should be key factors in determining supposedly “objective” standards of beauty.

Summarizing my own dating history, I can acknowledge that I mostly date white men who are at least 25 years old. Whenever I go out with someone of a different race, they usually are closer to my age. I admit that I do find most white men attractive. Their pale skin, brown or reddish hair, and their ability to attain a perfect 5 o’clock shadow just draw me in. Despite this, my preference doesn’t give me the right to reject and refuse to entertain a conversation with another individual of a difference race. The key is to see beauty detached from a checklist of stereotypes.

Because they intersect with the supposedly immutable laws of attraction, racial preferences in dating usually don’t appear as outright racist. But if you start to think you like men of a particular race for reasons beyond their typical physical features and it begins to affect your entire perception of a class of people, it’s time to reevaluate.

Three years ago, I met a guy eight years older than I am. He was white, tall, and wore glasses. He was definitely my type – even though his breath reeked of nicotine. During the course of our brief affair, not once did any discussion about racial preference come up. I believe that that was the only time my race didn’t factor in to how a guy saw me. But when things got a little too serious, he cut it off. I’m still glad I met him, because when he said he found me “very attractive,” it was the most genuine validation I ever received.

What everyone should really be searching for is that moment in the first few minutes of an intriguing conversation where we crumple our “checklist” and allow ourselves to be genuinely attracted to a whole person, rather than just physical or racial characteristics. When this happens, there’s no way to really know whom you’ll end up with. And that’s the beauty of it.

Majick Tadepa is an intern for『The Advocate』. He’s now entering his senior year at the University of California, Berkeley. Send rations, prayers, and encouragement to his Twitter @majickhere.

Author: Majick Tadepa/Date: August 07, 2015/Source:

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Daniel W.K. Lee 「Challenging Gaysian America: An Interview with C. Winter Han」


Following up the excerpt we published yesterday of his new book『Geisha of a Different Kind』, I asked Professor Han about how drag's transformative possibilities with respect to race, gender, and sexuality and the challenges we face as gay Asian Americans.

In your excerpt, you boldly claim, “gay Asian American drag queens will save us all.” How will they do that and what are they saving us from?

A while back, a number of gay Asian men started a magazine called『Noodle』. It was a pretty ambitious undertaking and they provided a really good forum for discussing issues of race and sexuality from a queer Asian perspective. Previous magazines that featured gay Asian men were largely run by gay white men and as scholars like Russell Leong have pointed out, were really meant for a white male readership. Because of this, they had a tendency to objectify Asian men for white male consumption.

The magazine was transformational in a number of ways. But the one issue that I had with it was that it took a route to challenging racial stereotypes by buying into the existing narrative about what constitutes “attractive” in the gay community. Certainly, they weren’t alone in doing something like this. I remember that when I was in college, a group of activists started an Asian Male calendar which wasn’t necessarily targeted towards a gay audience to challenge the stereotypes about Asian men being less masculine and less “sexy” than white men. The problem with these things is that they often try to challenge the stereotypes about Asian men by presenting Asian men who fit the model of “attractiveness” that parallel white men. So, men who are taller, men with a particular type of body, etc. In doing so, the underlying message is that “Asian men are hot too” but only because some of us look like, or have bodies like, white men. In that way, it reinforces the larger narrative that white is, indeed, more attractive. So as well intended as these things are, they nonetheless affirm the white standards of attractiveness.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t Asian men who “fit” that model. The real problem is that physical traits routinely associated with Asian men are considered less attractive, less masculine, etc. For that matter, the problem is that a very narrow definition of “masculine” comes to be considered “attractive.” If we really want to challenge the racist narrative that Asian men are less attractive, less sexually desirable, less masculine, etc. than white men, we can’t use the “master’s tools” to do that. We can’t simply put up Asian men who have “white” features and say, “We’re sexy too!” What we need to do is challenge the very definition of what constitutes “attractiveness.” We need to challenge the larger narrative about masculinity and what is and is not considered “masculine.” And perhaps equally important, we need to challenge the prevailing narrative in the gay community that men who fit a very narrow definition of “masculine” are somehow more sexually desirable than men who don’t. We need to trouble the definition of attractiveness that promotes features and characteristics normally associated with white men as being more attractive than features normally associated with men of color.

Asian drag queens do just that. Instead of trying to buy into a western standard of beauty or attempt to behave “more masculine,” gay Asian drag queens embrace the existing narratives about Asian men and use that to their advantage. So in some ways, they’re not only challenging what counts as attractive, but they’re also saving us, fundamentally from ourselves. They’re abandoning the drive to make Asian men desirable by mimicking white men – because, as I discuss in my book, that will never work – and demanding that we redefine what it means to be attractive and desirable. So as odd as it might sound, they’re saving us from ourselves.

In what ways, particularly with regards to performance, have Asian American drag queens been able to use existing narratives on queer Asian Americans for subversive purposes

Studies on drag queens have generally fallen into two camps. On the one hand, some scholars have argued that drag performances simply reinforce prevailing gender stereotypes and norms, thereby reinforcing the gender hierarchy. On the other hand, others have argued that drag challenges gender and sexual categories, thereby disrupting the gender binary, which can be seen as a subversive act. But whatever one’s belief is about drag, most people would agree that a “successful” drag performance, by nature, requires drag queens to draw upon existing cultural narratives about gender. Because of this, I’m not sure that drag is, or even has to be, one or the other. But more importantly, I don’t think that a “successful” drag performance draws only upon existing narratives about gender. Rather, it draws upon narratives about race and class as well. When we examine drag queens using an intersectional lens, we begin to see that narratives about race add a complicated layer to what can be considered a subversive act. In order to be “successful,” Asian drag queens draw on existing narratives about gender, presenting themselves in hyper-feminine ways. More importantly, they do so because they are aware of how Asian men are racialized to be more feminine than white men. Some gay Asian men that I spoke with for my book who don’t do drag found this to be problematic because they believed that Asian drag queens simply reinforced those stereotypes. But I think that people who believe that miss the point and fail to see the very racialized context in which drag performances occur. In the gay community, whiteness and masculinity are the currency of desirability. Unfortunately, the racialized narratives about Asian men are that they possess neither.

In『Geisha of a Different Kind』, I demonstrate that gay Asian drag queens consciously make a decision to perform hyper-feminine drag in order to utilize existing racialized beliefs about Asian men that they confront in the gay community. Yet by winning drag pageants where beauty and desirability are the criteria for success, gay Asian drag queens challenge the taken-for-granted assumptions about the beauty and desirability of whiteness and masculinity. In this way, gay Asian drag queens challenge assumptions about what it means to desire someone of a particular race.

Decades after the Stonewall uprising, queer Asian Americans are still struggling for visibility within the LGBT community and in society at-large. Though the tactics used by other racial minority groups are instructive, why have queer Asian Americans largely not been able to “break through” in both contexts?

I think the answer to this question will probably be met with a bit of hostility, for a number of reasons. But I want to give what I think is an honest response. To be frank, there are two broad reasons why this is so. One is socio-historical and has to do with the way that “gay” and “Asian” is thought about in the larger imagination. When we think about who is “gay,” we routinely think about white men. This isn’t an accident. Rather, the way that gay media presents what is “gay” equates gayness with whiteness. In my book, I talk about a number of different ways that gay media have equated gayness with whiteness, but the most telling example is an article that appeared in『Out』magazine titled, 「How to Gab in Gaysian」. In the article, the magazine claimed to give its readers a lesson on how to translate Gaysian into English. Clearly, by implying that the readers of the magazine would need a “English-Gaysian dictionary,” the column presupposes that the readers are white, or at least not Asian.

More importantly, the tactic used by national gay organizations to win acceptance has been largely along the lines of presenting gays and lesbians as being “just like” straight people. A part of that strategy has been to present gay couples as being “just like” straight couples. Certainly, gay couples and straight couples are similar in a number of ways. But the gay media, and to some extent mainstream media, have unfortunately presented gay and lesbian couples as having very gendered relationships similar to those often found among, and stereotypically believed to be characteristic of, straight couples. So to some extent, media has presented gay and lesbian relationships as husband and wife relationships rather than husband and husband or wife and wife relationships. Often, when there is an interracial coupling of a gay white man and a gay Asian man in the media, the Asian man is presented as the wife. So in many ways, gay white men are normalized while gay Asian men are other-ed for the purpose of presenting a very heteronormative gay couple.

On the other hand, as Russell Leong has noted, the model minority myth that constructs all Asian Americans as being hard-working, studious, and family oriented, precludes the idea that Asian Americans can be both gay and Asian. So here too, gay Asian Americans are largely invisible in the way that we think about what it means to be Asian American.

But it’s not just outside forces that make it difficult for gay Asian men to gain visibility. Another big issue that I see among queer Asian American men, not so much women, is that too many of us fail to see each other as potential allies and/or potential sexual partners and see each other as “competition” for the affections of white men. Of course, this is deeply ingrained in us through the constant portrayals of white men as being more desirable sexual partners than men of color by the gay media. So a lot of gay Asian men come to see getting a white man as a measure of our own self-worth. In fact, I’ve met a lot of gay Asian men who actively attempt to distance themselves from other gay Asian men as a way of distancing themselves from the stereotypes of Asian men. So they come to see themselves as exceptions rather than coming to see the images and stereotypes as problematic. Certainly not all of us, but a significant percentage of us see the world that way. In fact, many of us have become apologists for some blatantly racist acts committed by gay white men towards gay men of color. And that makes organizing around race to be difficult.

This problem isn’t by any means unique to gay Asian men. There are numerous accounts by gay black and gay Latino writers about the problematic desire for whiteness among gay men of color. But for gay black and Latino men, there is a much larger and visible socializing along race that has the potential to lead to activism. For example, there are some visible social spaces created and maintained for gay black men and gay Latino men outside of the racially fetishized spaces where the intent is for men of different races to come and meet each other. Yes, there are organizations and clubs where that is still the intent, but for gay black and Latino men, there are alternative spaces. We don’t see this so much among gay Asian men. With Asian men, most of the social spaces that are allegedly for us are actually a platform for white men to meet Asian men. I want to be clear that I don’t think that in and of itself is problematic. But what is problematic is that there are no other alternatives. So if the primary goal of social spaces that are allegedly meant for gay Asian men is to meet white men, it further compounds seeing other Asian men as competition.

The good news is that there are, at least, gay Asian organizations that are trying to address this. When I was in Seattle, there were two groups, Q&A and YAMS that did quite a bit to build connections between gay Asian men. For a lot of the men that we reached, it was the first time that they actively socialized with other gay Asian men and these organizations gave them a safe space to voice their concerns. In many ways, they were phenomenally beneficial in that they gave gay Asian men a social space outside of bars and mainstream gay organizations that largely cater to gay white men. But these things are labor and cost intensive and difficult to maintain. Clearly, we’re all socialized in the same way and desire for whiteness, once developed, is difficult to overcome. But at the very least, we need to start recognizing where that comes from and how that privileges white men at our expense. Once we start doing that, we can begin to challenge it.

by Daniel W.K. Lee | @danielsaudade

Daniel W.K. Lee
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Patrick Smith 「‘Humans’’ Gemma Chan: ‘You’re more likely to see an alien in a Hollywood film than an Asian woman’」

Posted on August 02, 2015 commentaires

In an interview with Patrick Smith, the star of Channel 4's sci-fi drama hits out at the lack of diversity in film and TV

Barely two minutes have passed with Gemma Chan before a middle-aged man, slightly overawed, sidles over to our table to tell her how brilliant she is. The 32-year-old actress is warm, gracious, pleased. “It’s been happening quite a bit recently,” she says. “Well, since 「Humans」.”

A chilling allegorical study of race, sex, gender roles and mankind’s fears of technological advancement, the series – which concludes Sunday – has been Channel 4’s biggest original drama hit for a decade, with more than four million watching the opening episode.

And Chan, playing a domestic robot (or “synth”) who shows signs of sentience, is its flawless fulcrum, by turns eerie and ethereal. The Telegraph’s critic described her as “wonderfully plausible”.

In person, dressed in rolled-up jeans and Converse and wearing scarcely a scrap of make-up, Chan may not have the synth sheen of her character, Anita, but she is no less beautiful and unblemished, with long, lithe limbs and perfect posture.

There is a mechanical efficiency to the way she answers questions about 「Humans」 – the result, no doubt, of months of practice. Get her talking about her new favourite film, however – Pixar’s 「Inside Out」 – and her brown eyes light up and an effusiveness emerges from beneath the veneer.

It’s only when I mention her boyfriend, the comedian Jack Whitehall, whom she met four years ago on the set of the Channel 4 sitcom 「Fresh Meat」 and now lives with in Notting Hill, that she bristles. “If I answer one question about him,” she says, “it tends to become the headline and then my heart sinks.”

「Humans」 will have changed that. Indeed, you only have to stroll around London to see how much the series has increased her profile: her character’s electric-emerald eyes (achieved through visual effects) are everywhere, staring out from posters plastered across hundreds of double-decker buses.

The drama, which has been commissioned for a second series, has also been a success Stateside, meaning Chan can expect to be flooded with film offers. She has already begun shooting in Italy for 「Stratton」, an action thriller starring Dominic Cooper; 「London Fields」, an adaptation of Martin Amis’s book with Billy Bob Thornton and Cara Delevingne, is in post-production.

“[「Humans」] has definitely had the biggest impact of anything that I’ve done,” says Chan, who has previously had supporting roles in shows including 「Doctor Who」, 「Sherlock」, 「Secret Diary Of A Call Girl」 and the hit indie film 「Submarine」.

Filming 「Humans」 was far from easy, though. As Anita, Chan had to somehow strip away all the nuances of human expression.

“At the beginning I thought my head was going to explode,” she says, “because you’re trying to play the scene and act truthfully in it but within the rules that you’ve set-up for. As a human, you don’t have to be too conscious of your movement. I think it’s tougher playing a robot than a human, and even tougher playing a robot who begins showing traces of being a human.”

As preparation for the part, Chan attended “synth school”, where choreographer Dan O’Neill taught her, along with the other actors playing robots, the graceful and smooth movements needed to portray the cyborgs in the series.

“The director didn’t want anything robotic in a clichéd or a jerky way,” she says. “I was given a lot of homework: I had to practise ironing as a synth, practise washing up as a synth, cooking a meal as a synth. It’s definitely the most prep I’ve had to do for a role.”

Sometimes the obstacles Chan faced while playing Anita were more literal, such as a table or a set of stairs.

“At the wrap party,” she says, “they showed the out-takes and it was like Humans the Sitcom, with a load of clumsy robots bumping into things. In an early scene, I was going down the stairs with a basket of washing and, of course, I wasn’t allowed to look down. I miscounted the number of steps and suddenly just fell out of the shot. The crew p----- themselves laughing.”

The themes of the show – mankind’s hubris and looming obsolescence – follow the familiar contours of countless sci-fi stories dating as far back as Shelley's『Frankenstein』. And yet, right now, they couldn’t be more timely: earlier this year, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, among others, warned that the development of full artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race”, while, in June, the first entirely robot-staffed hotel opened in Japan.

This is partly why 「Humans」 and Alex Garland’s film 「Ex Machina」 have proved so popular with viewers, says Chan. “The technology doesn’t feel like it’s a hundred years away anymore,” she remarks. “It’s practically here.”

Chan is intelligent and naturally curious about the world and could easily have applied these characteristics, as well as her many other talents, to a career outside of acting. As a child growing up near Sevenoaks in Kent, she swam competitively to national level, learnt ballet and played the violin to a high standard. After school, her mother, a Chinese-Scottish pharmacist, and father, an engineer from Hong Kong, encouraged her to enrol at Oxford University to read law – which she was happy to do.

When she graduated, however, she turned down a training contract at leading firm Slaughter and May, opting instead to spend a year working as a model so that she could afford Drama Centre London – much to her parents’ initial dismay.

“They were understandably worried,” she says, “because it’s an uncertain profession.” Indeed, one of the reasons Chan didn’t pursue an acting career previously was because “growing up, I never saw any Asian faces on TV, so it didn’t feel like a viable option”.

Does she think there is still a lack of ethnic diversity on television?

“Yeah, there’s definitely still a lot of room for improvement.”

Has her career been hindered by it?

“I’ve been fortunate in my career,” she says, “but, yes, there have been many times when I have been told my audition has been cancelled because they’re only going to see white people.”

As our conversation veers towards the issue of on-screen gender balance, Chan becomes increasingly vehement. “The statistics are really depressing,” she laments. “I remember reading some that made me think, ‘Oh, you are more likely to see an alien in a Hollywood film than an Asian woman.’”

She thinks 「Humans」 should be congratulated for the way it has tried to promote female representation and diversity – even if almost all of the non-white actors on the show play synths.

Who would be her ideal synth, I wonder?

“I’d want one like Samuel L Jackson,” she says. “If I ever got into any tricky situations, he could just stare people down. Parking ticket? Just set Samuel Synth on them.” She laughs. “That would be amazing.”

The final episode of 「Humans」 is on Channel 4 Sunday Aug 2 at 9pm

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