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March 1, 2016

Center for Identity and Inclusion Hosts Discussion on Queer + Asian Experience

On Monday evening, approximately 50 students gathered at the Center for Identity and Inclusion for a discussion held by Queer and Asian, a new student group focused on the experience of being Asian or Asian American and queer at UChicago.

The discussion was intended to help the organization better understand how to meet the needs of the queer Asian community on campus.

Third-year Frank Chiang and second-years Sisi Liu and Avery Yuan, the founders of Queer and Asian, hope to create a community for queer Asian students.

“For Frank and I, when we first started college, we tried to check out different queer RSOs, and we realized there is just such a small amount of Asians involved. We want to create that space here,” Yuan said.

Some attendees spoke about the lack of media representation of queer Asian people, which can make it difficult for people to accept themselves as both queer and Asian. Others discussed the role of colonialism in shaping cultural views of queerness and the lack of information about queer identities in some Asian and Asian-American communities.

“There’s this interest in intersectionality. It’s not just a queer Asian issue; it’s a queer person of color issue…. What does it mean to sit at that unique intersection of identities, and what are the unique challenges you face?” Chiang said.

Attendees also discussed the experiences of transgender and gender-nonconforming Asian people and gender roles in Asian cultures.

“Growing up, there was a lot of frustration from my parents about ‘Why are you less feminine or more masculine about certain things?’ I think a lot of that is rooted in culture, and it really affected how I viewed my sexuality and my gender,” Liu said.

The organization is hoping to develop a more Pan-Asian focus, ensuring that it is a welcoming environment for Asian students of all ethnicities and identities.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can engage different sections of the Asian population on campus. So far, it’s been very much an organic process—we just speak to people who we know. Because [the organizers] happen to all be Chinese or Chinese American, that’s been the makeup of our organization so far,” Chiang said.

Many of the events’ attendees are not fully out, and Queer and Asian hopes to provide a supportive environment for students in the coming-out process.

“We’re trying to build visibility. We believe that the more Asian people who are out and proud of their identities, the more people who will feel comfortable coming out,” Chiang said.

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