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Written by Tony Bui.

Last Friday was an incredible display of queer Asian joy.

On May 31, Capital Pride held, in a packed room at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage, our Queer Asian Heritage Showcase. This event was the first in the organization’s history to commemorate Ottawa’s queer Asian community.

Held on the last night of Asian Heritage Month, and on the eve of Pride Season, this showcase featured a star cast of local queer Asian drag performers including China Doll, Karen Ligays, and Edith Puthie, and Asian stars from Canada’s Drag Race Stephanie Prince, Melinda Verga, and Ottawa’s own Kiki Coe. Their performances were an incredible display of Asian excellence, artistry, and talent, and each of them showcased the diversity of expression of drag in their own beautiful way.

[Photos by Ming Wu @szemingwu]

We also had an insightful and educational fireside chat with visual artist Don Kwan, the creator behind ‘We Demand, Disco Chandelier’, which was part of the 2022 Capital Pride Public Art Project. Our conversation focused on the intersecting identities between Asian and queer, the history of the queer rights movement in Ottawa, and his work to express his identity and experiences as a gay East Asian person in his art.

As Capital Pride’s Secretary of the Board of Directors, and as a proud queer Asian person, this event was an emotional experience from start to finish. I had the honour and privilege to open the show with some personal remarks, sharing my thoughts on why this event was so special, reflecting on my experience as a queer Asian person, and what it meant to spotlight queer Asian communities here in Ottawa.

Doing this, while wearing my áo dài – a traditional dress of Vietnamese people – added to that special moment. This garment brings me so much Pride and so much queer Asian joy, and I’m so grateful to have shared this moment with a full audience that night.

There are many thanks to give: to the performers and fireside chat guest; to the Capital Pride team for organizing this event; to the National Arts Centre for hosting us; to DJ Grace for running the show’s music; to our ASL interpretation ensuring an accessible event; to our photographer Ming Wu who captured the night’s amazing moments; and to the audience who filled this room and celebrated queer Asian joy. To all of you: thank you.

This will not be the last time we hold this space for our community. I want to recognize the diversity of queer Asian performance, from drag, dance, singing, music, theatre, spoken word, comedy, to other amazing artistry, that reflects the rich tapestry of our peoples. This year’s showcase was just the tip of the iceberg of the diversity of our community. I can’t wait to bring more of it on stage in events and years to come.