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 fashion stylist, presenter and author Gok Wan.
What was the journey to finding your identity like?
My sexual and gender identity journey has been relatively simple. By the age of 12 I knew I was attracted to the same sex. I didn’t feel inclined to discuss my sexuality with anybody because I was still working out what being gay meant to me. But by the time I had found the courage, I was surrounded with people who made me feel confident, loved and cared for, which made my coming out as simple as discussing the weather. But I was lucky; my family and friends accepted me for who I was. I’m fully aware that not everyone has such a harmonious experience. It feels as if my gay journey continues – every day I’m understanding what it means to be a gay man, and this is bolstered by the work I do with Stonewall and other organisations, fighting for LGBTQ rights and equality.
Do you believe there’s enough queer Asian role models celebrated today?
The simple answer is no.
Have you ever faced discrimination or homophobia within your industry?
Like all members of the LGBTQ we face discrimination everyday, from mindless verbal thrashings laced in humour, to more political inequalities, but I have never experienced these within the fashion and TV industries – and I do hope I’m not just the lucky one.
Do we currently see fair and accurate representation for the queer Asian community in the UK?
Like all communities there will always be evidence of segregation. I love the queer community but I also recognise it has its faults. For me the gay community is a safe place where I can be myself, but I’m fully aware that not everyone feels this way. I believe integration, of any community, takes patience, thought, time, understanding, education and hard work to bridge worlds. I do believe it’s articles like this which raise debate and gets us thinking about what we can do to improve our world.
What do you think could be done to help promote the acceptance of LGBTQ people in the Asian community?
Education. Awareness. Presence. Social confidence. Courage.
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