What forms of care have queer and trans Asian Americans devised in order to survive the violences they face in the contemporary United States? To get tenure at an institution like UW-Madison, where I’ve worked since 2019, professors often have to publish a book based on their research, and the book I’m writing for tenure is an attempt to answer the above question. If the pandemic has taught us anything—and I really hope it has—it’s that without care there is no life. And yet, care is a resource and a responsibility that is often unjustly distributed along lines of race, gender, and so on. My work as a scholar is about writing a more just distribution of care into existence, not just for multiply marginalized Asian Americans, but for everyone.
The classes I teach at UW focus on LGBTQ+ and Asian American performance and politics. One of my favorites is a class called “Feelings: Queer and Asian” where I help students to understand how the emotional lives of queer folks and Asian Americans are all tangled up with white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and other life-diminishing systems. For students who don’t count themselves as members of these communities, I hope the class can offer an accessible entry into the study of oppression and exploitation. For students who do identify with these communities, I hope the “Feelings” class can provide language with which to name the pain, and joy, of queer Asian life. I hope it can help them to see that the way they feel on an everyday basis cannot be thought apart from history and political reality.
Every semester I tell my students that the world we’re living in isn’t worthy of them. But, I insist, it can be made so through the hard work of activism and organizing. I try to practice what I preach, and so, when I can, I march with Freedom, Inc., build with the DSA, and take to Teen Vogue or Twitter to speak out against policing and prisons, to explain why justice for Asian Americans will only be won in opposition to empire and capitalism, in coalition with Black-lead movements for abolition and Indigenous-lead movements for decolonization.
Amidst all of this, my main concern is that my communities, friends, and families get the care they need. That’s what they deserve, and the world isn’t going to give it to them without a fight.
2021 Pride in Color Leadership Features
The Influencer: Ladi London is a brown-skinned, femme trans Milwaukee native who produces videos and other content to effect change and cultivate community.
The Artist: nibiiwakamigkwe is a two-spirit Indigenous artist, activist, and organizer interested in healing and visibility.
The Table Shaker: Yanté Turner is an openly trans and queer Black change agent working as an Inclusion and Equity Coordinator as well as a doula.
The First: Ankita Bharadwaj is a lawyer, advocate, and trail blazer who knows the journey upward is often isolating, but that it is worth it.
The Founder: Rick Banks is co-founder of MKE Black, Inc. which connects Black Milwaukeeans to Black culture, events, and Black-owned businesses.
The Scholar: James McMaster is a queer Asian-American educator, and activist who lives by example in the classroom and out in community.
The Professor: Víctor M. Macías-González is Professor of History and Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UW-La Crosse.