Faces of Asian America: Being a Queer Artivist | #APAHM2014

Celeste Chan by Paul Von Bex

Celeste Chan is a queer artivist who has been writing, making films, performing, curating, and collaborating in art-organizing projects for 10+ years.

How do you see yourself as a queer artivist?

In collaboration with my partner KB Boyce, I co-direct Queer Rebels, a queer and trans people of color arts project.

I see myself as part of a creative constellation in the Bay Area. We are making art as activism, as homage, as irreverence, to subvert, to queer, to challenge, as people who were told that our voices didn’t matter. We are non-mainstream.

As a queer artivist, I’m schooled by DIY and immigrant parents from Malaysia and the Bronx, NY. In my film and writing, I’m obsessed with hidden histories, queerness as lens, race and representation, experimental form and aesthetics. One of my newest collaborations is MOON RAY RA, a performative experiment with KB Boyce.

As an artivist, I find balance between focusing on my own work and building up a platform for queer/trans artists of color. With Queer Rebels, there’s urgency in our work. There are so many vital voices that need to be heard.


Founded in late 2008, we are an emerging organization with a mission to: showcase queer/trans artists of color, connect generations, and honor our histories with art for the future. Please check out our roster of artists and upcoming events here: http://www.queerrebels.com

How has being Asian American affected your life as a queer artivist, or vice versa?

My Dad spent time in a relocation camp in Malaysia during WWII, and my Mom had a rough go of it living in the Bronx NY during the McCarthy era. They gave me a lot of freedom where they had experienced confinement. I’m mixed-race (Chinese dad, Jewish mom), and came out queer as a teen. I credit my parents for leading me to a life of activism, creating art from the ground-up, and valuing untold histories. I spent 10 years working for community-based organizations as a social worker. With the privilege I have, I want to break open spaces for all of us, especially queer/trans artists of color who need space to shine.

Being Asian American and queer, I’ve rarely, if ever, seen my experience or my family reflected in the mainstream. We’re invisible. AAPIs are a wildly divergent group squashed into stereotypes. Being a “model minority” is like being in a pressure cooker. You can’t fail, you can’t ask for help, and you won’t get the support or resources you need.

Time for something new. I’m so hungry for an honest reflection of our lives and artistry and activism. Where we have a real platform to create, to imagine, and to build. To share our untold histories.

Celeste and KB Tinker
Celeste and KB

I am just one person wanting to shine the light on many more. SPIRIT: Queer AAPI Artivism is our next Queer Rebels event, coming 5/31-6/1 in San Francisco. Featuring a rainbow of rabble-rousers. 15+ Queer Asian, Arab, and Pacific Islander artists: BELLOWS, Devyn Manibo, Elena Rose, Erin O’Brien, Gein Wong, Heaven Mousalem, Jeepneys, Kirthi, Laura Hyunjhee Kim, Maryam Rostami, MOON RAY RA, Riko Fluchel, Ryka Aoki, myself, and more!

Read full bios here: http://queerrebels.com/?p=2011

 Contact Info/Shameless Plugs?

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve been accepted to the Lambda Literary Retreat this summer. Breaking through the model minority idea, I really need your help to attend. Please donate, support, signal boost.

Thank you!


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