LGBTQ+ Asian American Leaders Spotlight

This Pride month, Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Los Angeles wants to highlight queer and trans Asian American leaders who have inspired us and so many others. As we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, it is also crucial that we take the time to acknowledge artists, activists, and change makers who have brought us to where we are and continue to fight for justice. Asian Americans in queer and trans spaces have done incredible work addressing the issues faced at the intersection of identities, building community and empowering some of the most vulnerable in our communities. We are proud to celebrate the achievements, joy, and love of LGBTQ+ Asian Americans this month and year round.

Kay Ulanday Barrett

Barrett in a grey suit coat, holding a microphone in one hand and gesturing with the other in front of a rainbow gay pride and blue, pink, and white transgender pride flag. The text reads: Kay Ulanday Barrett, Poet, performer, and educator. Barrett is a disabled pin@y-amerikan trans activist who does community based movement building. Their most recent book More Than Organs is “a love letter to Brown, Queer, and Trans futures” and a recipient of the 2021 Stonewall Book Honor Award.
Barrett in a grey suit coat, holding a microphone in one hand and gesturing with the other in front of a rainbow gay pride and blue, pink, and white transgender pride flag. The text reads: Kay Ulanday Barrett, Poet, performer, and educator. Barrett is a disabled pin@y-amerikan trans activist who does community based movement building. Their most recent book More Than Organs is “a love letter to Brown, Queer, and Trans futures” and a recipient of the 2021 Stonewall Book Honor Award.

Poet, performer, and educator, Kay Ulanday Barrett, is a disabled pin@y-amerikan trans activist who speaks out about disability justice, racism, and transphobia through community-based movement building. Their work has brought them across the globe, from Musee Pour Rire in Montreal to the White House, presenting keynotes, facilitating social justice workshops, and speaking on panels. As a poet, Barrett is a fellow of The Home School, Drunken Boat, and Lambda Literary Review, and has been awarded 18 Million Rising Filipino American History Month Hero, Chicago’s LGBTQ 30 under 30 awards, Finalist for The Gwendolyn Brooks Open-Mic Award, and Windy City Times Pride Literary Poetry Prize. Their most recent book More Than Organs is “a love letter to Brown, Queer, and Trans futures” and a recipent of the 2021 Stonewall Book Honor Award by the American Library Association.

Yin Q

Yin Q, with closely shaved hair and two earrings on one ear, leaning against a wall looking at the camera. The text reads: Yin Q, Sex Worker Rights activist, Educator, Dominatrix. As a core organizer of Red Canary Song, a New York City based organization that advocates for Asian and migrant sex workers, Q has worked to provide direct aid to sex workers who’s businesses have shut down due to COVID-19 or racism.
Yin Q, with closely shaved hair and two earrings on one ear, leaning against a wall looking at the camera. The text reads: Yin Q, Sex Worker Rights activist, Educator, Dominatrix. As a core organizer of Red Canary Song, a New York City based organization that advocates for Asian and migrant sex workers, Q has worked to provide direct aid to sex workers who’s businesses have shut down due to COVID-19 or racism.

Yin Q is an educator and an advocate for Asian and migrant sex workers, serving as co-director of Red Canary Song (RCS). The Queens based organization has been building power with sex workers since 2018, and notably spoke out against the racist and gendered violence of the 2021 massage parlor Atlanta shootings. Throughout the pandemic, they have worked with RCS to provide direct aid to sex workers whosebusinesses have shut down due to COVID-19 or racism. As an educator, Q has produced multiple media pieces that highlight the experiences of Asian sex workers, from their 2017 web series Mercy Mistress, to Fly in Power, a short about Yang Song who died during a 2017 police raid. They have received a grant from NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music, and Theatre to develop the latter into a longer documentary.

Alok Vaid Menon

Vaid-Menon in a purple gown posed lounging across a purple couch, in intricate yet stylish makeup and a styled bun on top of their head. The top left hand corner has the Advancing Justice LA logo. The text reads: Alok Vaid-Menon, Writer, Performer, Designer. Alok Vaid-Menon is a gender non-conforming writer, performer, designer, and public speaker who’s work seeks to push beyond the gender binary. They have published two books: Femme in Public (2017) and Beyond the Gender Binary (2020).
Vaid-Menon in a purple gown posed lounging across a purple couch, in intricate yet stylish makeup and a styled bun on top of their head. The top left hand corner has the Advancing Justice LA logo. The text reads: Alok Vaid-Menon, Writer, Performer, Designer. Alok Vaid-Menon is a gender non-conforming writer, performer, designer, and public speaker who’s work seeks to push beyond the gender binary. They have published two books: Femme in Public (2017) and Beyond the Gender Binary (2020).

Alok Vaid Menon gender non-conforming writer, performer, designer, and public speaker whose work seeks to push beyond the gender binary. Their work is internationally-acclaimed, with two books: Femme in Public (2017) and Beyond the Gender Binary (2020). Alok is also the creator of #DeGenderFashion, an effort to shift the fashion and beauty industries from the gender binary. In addition to writing on many issues that trans and gender non-conforming people face, Alok also is a fashion designer, working with bright colors and self-portrature.

Helen Zia

Zia wearing a red shirt, smiling into the camera in front of a blurred street. The text reads: Helen Zia, Journalist, writer, activist. A key organizer in the Justice for Vincent Chin campaign, Zia brought national attention to the struggles of Asians in America. Her book Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People was a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, and in 2020, she published Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution.
Zia wearing a red shirt, smiling into the camera in front of a blurred street. The text reads: Helen Zia, Journalist, writer, activist. A key organizer in the Justice for Vincent Chin campaign, Zia brought national attention to the struggles of Asians in America. Her book Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People was a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, and in 2020, she published Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution.

As a writer, Helen Zia played an instrumental role in the response to the murder of Vincent Chin, ensuring that federal civil rights charges were brought against the perpetrators. After working as an autoworker, Zia was a journalist in Detroit who became the spokesperson and key organizer in the Justice for Vincent Chin campaign that brought nationwide attention to anti-Asian racism and the struggles of Asians in America. Zia wrote for Ms. Magazine, rejected advertisement that sought to restrict what she wrote, and covered issues concerning lesbians, women in white supremacist groups, and sweatshops. In 2010, Zia was a witness in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case for federal marriage equality, at the Supreme court. Her first book Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People was a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, and recently published Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution in 2020 .

Kitty Tsui

B&W photo Tsui at the gym. The text: Kitty Tsui, activist, organizer, athlete, artist, author. A leader of the San Francisco Asian Pacific Islander lesbian movement in the 70s, Kitty Tsui is a woman of many talents. She was the first out Chinese American lesbian to have a book published, and won several medals in women’s physique at the 1986 and 1990 gay games. In 2016, Tsui received the Phoenix Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community.
B&W photo Tsui at the gym. The text: Kitty Tsui, activist, organizer, athlete, artist, author. A leader of the San Francisco Asian Pacific Islander lesbian movement in the 70s, Kitty Tsui is a woman of many talents. She was the first out Chinese American lesbian to have a book published, and won several medals in women’s physique at the 1986 and 1990 gay games. In 2016, Tsui received the Phoenix Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community.

Kitty Tsui, in addition to being a leader of the San Francisco Asian Pacific Islander lesbian movement in the 70s, is an author, athlete, and artist. She was an editor forAsian lesbian publications, Phoenix Rising and New Phoenix Rising, and was a founding member of Asian Pacific Sisters, a group known for its ethnic potlucks. Tsui’s art ranged from performance to silk screen to literature; she is a founder of the Asian womens’ performance group Unbound Feet, had her poetry featured in over 35 anthologies, and is the first out Chinese lesbian to publish a book, Words of a Woman Who Breathes Fire. Her writing seeks to challenge stereotypes and assert the intersection of Asianness and queerness. As an athlete, she received a bronze medal for the 1986 San Francisco Gay Games and gold for 1990 Vancouver Gay Games, both in women’s physique. In 2016, Tsui received the Phoenix Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community.

Patrick G. Lee

A photo of Lee with shoulder length hair, smiling into the camera. The text reads: Patrick G. Lee, Filmmaker, community organizer. Lee’s Unspoken (2017) featuring queer and trans Asian Americans reading coming out letters to their family, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short at the Austin Asian American Film Festival. He also produced a five-part NBC series titled Searching for Queer Asian Pacific America, highlighting queer Asian histories, communities, and narratives.
A photo of Lee with shoulder length hair, smiling into the camera. The text reads: Patrick G. Lee, Filmmaker, community organizer. Lee’s Unspoken (2017) featuring queer and trans Asian Americans reading coming out letters to their family, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short at the Austin Asian American Film Festival. He also produced a five-part NBC series titled Searching for Queer Asian Pacific America, highlighting queer Asian histories, communities, and narratives.

Patrick G. Lee is queer Korean American filmmaker telling stories about queer Asian history, LGBTQ self-representation, and Asian American coming out stories. His 2017 film, UNSPOKEN, featuring queer and trans Asian Americans reading coming out letters to their family, has won various awards including the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Short at the Austin Asian American Film Festival. As a community builder, Lee helped organize KQTcon in 2018, the first LGBTQ Korean conference in the United States, and also produces a monthly pan-Asian drag show in Brooklyn. That same year, Lee produced a five-part NBC series titled Searching for Queer Asian Pacific America, highlighting queer Asian histories, communities, and narratives.