Highlighting Queer Asian American Activists
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
Written by Jo Navales
Graphic by Catherine Liu
Intersectional identities play an important part in shaping how we experience systems of oppression and discrimination. For the queer Asian and Asian American community, this means considering the different ways in which our identities are interconnected and working together to reach social justice. While we continue to advocate for ourselves, take a moment to recognize some of many queer Asian activists who spend their time fighting for progress in our communities.
Eugene Lee Yang
Best known for his presence on the YouTube channel The Try Guys, Eugene Lee Yang is a Korean American content-creator, producer, and director whose work began to gain traction while working for the company Buzzfeed and continued to rise in popularity when he left to co-create the current channel he shares. On The Try Guys, Yang came out in a video titled “I’m Gay” through a choreographed dance performance representative of his journey exploring and accepting his sexuality. Yang’s coming out piece served as a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, raising over 130,000 dollars aimed at supporting mental health for LGBTQIA+ youth.
As a gender-nonconforming Punjabi and Malayali artist, writer, and public speaker, Alok Vaid-Menon uses their creative platform to shed light on what it means to identify outside of the gender binary and explore related themes of race, trauma, and belonging. As creator of the movement #DeGenderFashion, Vaid-Menon’s advocacy work towards de-gendering the beauty industry has been recognized by The Huffington Post’s Culture Shifters, NBC’s Pride 50, and Business Insider’s Doers.
Recent winner of Miss Nevada USA, Kataluna Enriquez is a Filipina-American pageant competitor who uses her platform to advocate for more inclusivity, diversity, and visibility of all transgender women, especially in the pageantry world. Enriquez promotes the campaign #BEVISIBLE, under which she shares her personal experiences about bullying and discrimination. If Enriquez wins Miss USA 2021, she will be the second openly trans woman to compete in Miss Universe.
Chinese-Jewish artist, author, and director Chella Man uses his work to explore the intersectionality of being queer, trans-masculine, and deaf as well as discuss his personal journey through healing and embracing his identity. Furthermore, Man has greatly contributed to the visible representation of various communities by being the first queer, Jewish-Asian model to sign to IMG and acting as a mute character in DC Universe’s Titans, using sign-language in his acting role to bring visibility to people with disabilities.
Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho is best known for her stand-up stage performances, which often incorporate political and cultural commentary related to her life and current events. Through her comedic work, she is able to convey her experiences about being a bisexual woman while bringing representation to queer people, Asians, and women in comedy. Outside of highlighting topics such as discrimination and bullying in her performances, Cho’s work with advocacy organizations has led her to be recognized by institutions such as the ACLU, GLAAD, and the National Organization for Women.