Rena Brannan Gaysians cover interview: “We are special, we are the bouquet”

Gabriel Mokake / Gay Times

In collaboration with Gaysians, meet ten trailblazing figureheads paving the way for queer Asian representation in the mainstream.

“We have a problem with visibility in our community, which makes it harder for us to accept and celebrate ourselves. What better way to challenge this than by putting ten beautiful, successful, out Asian LGBTQ powerhouses on the cover,” writes Gaysian’s CEO Reeta Loi for the November 2018 issue of Gay Times. 

“This cover marks an important moment in the life of each individual and their lifelong dedication to their work whilst being visible, queer and Asian having been recognised – thank you Gay Times. But also, it’s a historic moment for us as a community. A community that is still so young in its forming that perhaps this is what brought out the playfulness that spread across the room at the shoot itself. Looking at each person and seeing a reflection of yourself, of your inner journey and a connection that transcends lifetimes.”

Gaysians cover features Lord Waheed Alli, Rena Brannan, Gok Wan, Luke Pagarani, Dr Ranj Singh, Asifa Lahore, Jonathan Phang, Suki Sandhu, Krishna Omkar and Reeta Loi.

Here, we speak to playwright, poet and activist, Rena Brannan.

How did your local community and family react during your coming out?
It was the 80s, it was hard and bleak and lonely but at the same time it was raw with an intense awakening like a bird finding its wings. My brother saved me and I had a group of friends – misfits – my family in the making – that loved me.

What do you think could be done to help promote the acceptance of LGBTQ people in the Asian community?
There must be a constant conversation – the changing of laws – the acceptance from the greater majority. It is those factors historically that have brought about change. I recognise it in my own family – how the conversation turns significant – when these events happen and change occurs.

What was the journey to finding your identity today like?
I watched a lot of films. I saw a lot of straightness, and that was not me – so there I was – looking for myself and I created it – a hothead cluster fuck of sexuality and defiance. Dresses and tuxedos. I still have those venomous fangs from, oh well, let me nibble your ear and you can find out what I’m talking about.

Do you believe there’s enough queer Asian role models celebrated today?
I see a queer Asian revolution happening and I think more and more role models will put their head above the parapet.

How does your intersection allow you to thrive?
It helps me to see all aspects of life it helps me to evolve and look at how things proceed. This evolution is the key to queer Asians. We meet, we exchange, we laugh, and we cry. We are special, we are the bouquet, and this point of view makes me succeed.

Related: Read Gaysians CEO’s letter for Gay Times: “It’s a historic moment for us as a community”


Photography Gabriel Mokake
Words William J Connolly
Fashion Paul Scott Coombs
Grooming Shamirah Sairally
Hair Tyron Sweeney
Production Assistant Solomon Warner
Location Rosewood Hotel London


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