Queering the Diaspora: A Content List for the LGBTQ+ Asian Experience


List of LGBTQ+ Asian diasporic content
A list of LGBTQ+ Asian diasporic content

For many LGBTQ+ Asian Americans, Pride Month is a time not only to celebrate the richness and joy of queerness, but to stand up and resist the erasure and whitewashing of community narratives. While sexual orientation and gender identity are foundational in how we move throughout the world, they are inextricable from our ethnic and cultural identities — and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In 2023, as queer existence is repeatedly threatened and suppressed, pride is a statement. In this community, we must be proud, not only of the sum of our parts — our queerness, our Asianness, or any other identities we may hold — but of the whole: the unapologetic embodiment of all our identities simultaneously.

That pride has become all the more important following the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a major blow to LGBTQ+ protections. Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC firmly supports and affirms the diversity of experience of LGBTQ+ AAPI individuals, and advocates for the civil and human rights of all LGBTQ+ AAPI members in our community.

This Pride Month, we asked our LGBTQ+ AAPI community members about the queer media that speak to their experiences as queer and Asian individuals. Here is a collection of film, literature, television, and music across the diaspora that sees us as wholly queer and Asian, and that we see ourselves in.


  1. Chutney Popcorn (1999)
Chutney Popcorn (2000) Trailer Re-Upload

“First and foremost, the best thing about this movie is its unabashed commitment to being a comedy. For the early 2000s, a South Asian lesbian in a committed interracial relationship is an incredible step, but the film is not bogged down by its queerness. Main character Reena’s sexuality just exists as part of the narrative; it is not concerned with familial acceptance. A refreshing hidden gem.”

2. Fire (1996)

“A beautiful and moving outing that stays with you. It was one of the first depictions of South Asian lesbians I had ever seen in my life. It pulls you in from the get-go, and you find yourself rooting for the two women Sita and Radha to find a way out of their stifling situation and to each other.”

3. Fire Island (2022)

“A modern gay re-telling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, this movie is just a whole lot of debauchery and fun. I’m glad to see depictions of queer joy, especially queer Asian joy, and Fire Island is at its best when it doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

4. Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

5. Happy Together (1997)

Happy Together (1997) Official Trailer

6. Interstate the Musical (2020)

“This was the first piece of theater I saw that was about LGBTQ+ Asian Americans and specifically centered a trans character as one of the main roles! Super cool, great music, and the creators are also part of the community and actively sought out queer and trans actors for the part.”

7. Joyland (2022)

Joyland is a devastating reckoning with how gender norms and queer identity shape the lives of the members of a patriarchal Pakistani household. Haider and his wife Mumtaz’s lives are unraveled when he lands a job as a backup dancer at an erotic theater, becoming increasingly infatuated with the lead dancer Biba, a strong-willed transgender woman. At its core, Joyland tackles sexual and gender fluidity in a repressive Pakistani society through its breathtakingly gorgeous visuals and a story so discomforting, it will stick with you long after.”

8. Like Grains of Sand (1995)

9. Saving Face (2004)

“This is the first queer film I’ve ever seen about a romance between two East Asian women, and probably the first time I felt wholly represented. Loved it for the simplicity and the feel-goodness.”

10. Sheer Qorma (2021)

Sheer Qorma (2021) Official Trailer

10. Wedding Banquet (1993)

“Wai-Tung, a happily coupled gay Taiwanese immigrant, lives in Manhattan with his long-term boyfriend — completely unbeknownst to his older Taiwanese parents, who are pressuring him to find a woman to marry before they pass away. When his parents visit, he pretends to be engaged to Wei-wei, a Chinese immigrant seeking a green card marriage. Shenanigans ensue.”

11. Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

“Felt so well done between the two leads and how they were coming to terms with their sexualities and everything going on around them. Just really loved their relationship with one another. Heartbreaking but in a touching way.”


  1. Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Black Water Sister is about a girl who moves back to Malaysia with her family and starts hearing the voice of her dead grandma, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. With the spirit of her grandmother and the deity in her body, Jess becomes a vessel for the Black Water Sister as they fight a rich businessman who wronged the deity. Jess just happens to be lesbian, and scattered throughout the book are her Facetimes with her Singaporean girlfriend, who gives Jess the ultimatum of coming out to her parents or ending the relationship. Really interesting.”

2. Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar

Cobalt Blue was originally written in Marathi and translated some years later into English. This origin story is part of the charm, as even in translation the story does not lose its small town tight-knit family feel. Cobalt Blue describes the earth-shattering feeling of heartbreak in all its glory and asks the question: How well do you know those that sleep under your roof? The simplicity of the writing ensures that the melancholy will linger long after you finish the page. And if you’re really wanting more you can find the film adaptation on Netflix.”

3. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

4. Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

5. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

“A heartwarming queer romance between two young girls, this book really had it all! Adiba Jaigirdar’s second novel does not shy away from showing main characters Hani and Ishu in their fullness as queer, Muslim girls struggling with their families, their faith, their friends, and an awkward budding fake-dating ruse to boot! Reading this, especially keeping in mind the characters’ ages, was an affirming experience.”

6. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

7. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

8. Ma and Me by Putsata Reang

“Heartbreaking and beautiful.”

9. The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Magic Fish is a YA graphic novel that illustrates the complex tensions that can exist between family and identity. The story follows the life of Tiến, a second generation Vietnamese American teenager who helps his mother learn English by reading fairy tales, though struggles with telling his family about his sexuality. I enjoyed the symbolic and juvenile presence that this story provides, and its juxtaposition to the more vulnerable and intimate experiences of Tiến. The charmingly illustrated journey highlights the complicated nature of family relationships, and highlights how storytelling, especially within families, can bring us all together.”

10. Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu

11. Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin

Notes of a Crocodile is a quintessential piece of queer Taiwanese literature. We follow Lazi, a miserable and underachieving student at the most prestigious university in Taiwan, who spends her days chasing and neglecting Shui Ling, the woman and object of her fixation. Her story is interrupted intermittently by that of a crocodile hiding beneath a human suit, paranoid of being discovered by the humans who are hunting for the crocodiles hidden amongst them — an allegory for the queer experience. It’s a witty and pained telling of queerness in the 90s. The name “Lazi” has since been used colloquially in Taiwan to refer to a lesbian.”

12. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous takes the form of a letter, written by a Vietnamese son to his mother who cannot read. It openly explores the tender and brutal intersections of sexuality, race, and masculinity, all the while exemplifying the unmistakable love between a single mother and her son. This novel leaves a lasting impact due to its poetic and intentional writing that beautifully illustrates the vulnerable journey of main character Little Dog, and ultimately emphasizes the empowerment of being able to tell one’s own story.”

13. Roses, in the Mouth of A Lion by Bushra Rehman

“Roses in the Mouth of a Lion tells the story of a young Pakistani-American girl coming of age in 1980s Corona, a neighborhood in Queens, NY. This novel follows Razia Mirza from childhood to adolescence, through tumultuous friendships, familial relationships, and budding romance. Although bound to her community — which is staunchly religious and insular — Razia is slowly exposed to life outside Corona. Here, she finds herself in an internal struggle, realizing the difficulties and dangers of being a queer Pakistani Muslim teenager in her community. In Roses, Rehman speaks to a significant conflict many queer youth face: having to choose between identity or culture; while also highlighting the importance and beauty of a life lived through determination and self acceptance.”

14. Tell Me How To Be by Neel Patel

“A brutal exploration of the boxes we place ourselves in, and how they affect our most intimate relationships. Akash and his widowed mother Renu are stuck in an endless cycle of longing, each for their mysterious “you” — the love of their life, the one that got away. Neel Patel’s novel is a meditation on how their past traumas color their understanding of love, how much they deserve it, and of each other.”

15. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

“Heartbreaking, and still the most beautiful book I have read in a long time. Vivek transcends death. The love his friends and family feel for him is deep and true. Akwaeke Emezi has subverted everything tawdry about the crime fiction genre and delivered a poignant and touching tribute to what it means to know someone, to keep their innermost secrets, to love them.”


1. Sort Of (2021)

Sort of (2021) Official Trailer

“[That] it is a human experience to evolve” is the crux of Sort Of, according to its co-creator Bilal Baig. For a show that is about a non-binary trans child of Pakistani immigrants, the show is not concerned with Sabi’s journey to find themselves. Here, Sabi already knows who they are. Rather it is about their journey to community, to trusting that their authentic self has a place and value in their relationships. Quirky, dead-pan and drop dead funny.”

2. Ackley Bridge (2017)

“I have never loved a school-time comedy this much. All the dramatic appeal of a British Degrassi, the show follows several students attending a new integrated college in Ackley Bridge with the expressed mission of bringing together white and Asian students in the community. The show is about main character Nasreen Paracha and her identity as a lesbian Muslim, yes, but it is also about so much more: her friends, her family, her changing community of Ackley Bridge. I delighted with each new character, and deeply appreciated following their individual stories.”

3. Class (2023)

4. GAP (2022)

“Feels like a gift! Everyone working on the show was completely aligned on showing a love story between two women and doing it right (rather than breadcrumbing one kiss scene or one love confession scene for the entire relationship). Light-hearted but also made space to address homophobia and generational differences in Thailand.”

5. Nevertheless (2021)

“The side romance between two girls is really good. It’s a friends to lovers trope (and they’re way more interesting than the main couple)!”

6. We Are Lady Parts (2021)

Lady Parts (2021) Official Trailer

7. Why Are You Like This (2021)


1. 159cm by Tenny (aka Tank)

Tenny - 159cm (Music Video Re-Upload)

“Although the music video has a very stereotypical closeted gay storyline, I love that it’s with lesbians that actually kiss (as opposed to platonic queerness) and run away together. It’s the first tasteful queer Korean representation I’ve ever seen.”

2. Asha’s Awakening by Raveena

“An ancient Punjabi princess travels through space and learns about love, loss and personal growth in Raveena’s second full outing. A playful lush production that celebrates all the beautiful things about queerness.”

3. The Edge by Leo Kalyan

4. Forest in the City by UMI

UMI - wish that i could (Official Music Video)

5. I Don’t Wanna Know by Vardaan Arora

6. Jubilee by Japanese Breakfast

7. PANORAMA by Hayley Kiyoko

8. SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

“This debut album is unapologetic, grungy, ostentatious, and an utter whirlwind. SAWAYAMA draws from hyperpop to create a total sonic experience, complete with songs recounting turbulent teenage years with overprotective parents, criticizing insensitive white tourists in Japan, losing touch with old friends, and the queer experience of choosing your own family. It feels queer in-and-out, from the drag-inspired makeup on the album cover to the explosive sound in each song.”


As we celebrate our experiences, we also want to take a moment to uplift queer-led organizations that strive constantly to uplift and ameliorate the queer Asian experience.

If you are in crisis, you are not alone. Call:

  • LGBT National Help Center (Hotline with peer-counseling and local resources): 1–888–843–4564
  • DeQH (Hotline for South Asian/Desi LGBTQ individuals, family, and friends): 1–908–367–3374
  • Trans Lifeline (Hotline for trans people staffed by trans people): 1–877–565–8860

This article was edited by Louise Liu and Pri Gulati.

Louise Liu is the Anti-Hate Communications Coordinator at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.

Pri Gulati is the Digital Communications Coordinator at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at advancingjustice-aajc.org.



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