You moved to the US almost a decade ago. How has your relationship with New York changed over the years?
I first went to Austin in 2012 before moving to New York in 2015. My relationship with myself has changed so much in the last ten years and New York has played a big role in it. Yet it’s only this recent year that I’m reaching some sort of a balance in my relationship with this city.
I feel completely different from the me who arrived in New York. At the time I hadn’t come out to my parents yet. It was a transitional time, since I just left my school in Texas where I was actually studying education technology for my graduate program: a really big step for any Chinese immigrant to decide to open a creative career path. Coming to New York was my first plunge into a kind of a life that I imagined but that I was also very afraid to live.
I’ve met a lot of inspiring folks who are leading very free lives. It was the first time to me seeing queer people not only living openly but also being really passionate about community building and challenging the current status in the most creative ways. It wasn’t about direct confrontation, but culture building. It’s been just life changing.
In another interview you told about the extremes of portraying queerness, that queer people are either being shown as glamorous party goers or victims or violence. Yet this isn’t only a thing of the mainstream media, it’s among queer people, artists as well. Why can this be?
As attention grabbing as they are, I still think we need these extremes. In the media these days we need billboards just like we need DIY communication. They deliver different messages. These kinds of extreme narratives are like yelling at someone: pay attention to us!
But what I want to contribute more to are those nuanced parts of queerness, the parts that might not be seen so often. We need to normalize queer culture and for that we need more colors, we need to see more versions of ourselves. We need to find more ways for queering our lives, showing queerness outside of a dance floor, outside of relationships. Like, I’m still queer even if I’m not dating and I’m still queer even if I’m not dressing up all fancy. I want to highlight the quiet and tender moments that sometimes we take for granted. But it is in those moments, our lives’ stories keep unfolding.
Normalizing queerness is about turning it into a layer of identity. Why can this be a difficult task for people in and outside of the queer community?
When we name something, we are already limiting it. Yet I feel like our goal isn’t really getting rid of labels, but to constantly expand our definitions of them. I think we all go through phases. At the beginning I felt like I didn’t want any of these labels. Then came the next phase: I wanted to carry these labels proudly and all over, making sure that everyone knows I’m queer. Now I’m finally moving to a phase where I’m fine with however other people relate to these labels and I’m just working on how I define myself. The beautiful thing about queerness is that it refuses to be tied down.