Abhijeet Rane has been actively creating space in Chicago for South Asian femmes through their LGBTQ party, Bad Beti’s, which debuted in May. Now for its second iteration, the queer drag artist is bringing particular attention to literacy and education as it relates to Asian-Americans.
“We’re focusing on the notions of the ‘language barrier’ and English as a second language,” Rane says, highlighting the fetishization of Asian school girls and femmes versus the lack of resources for their education in real life.
While Bad Beti’s is purposeful, it’s also a party, this time inviting RuPaul’s Drag Race star Ongina to perform at Boystown’s Berlin Nightclub. Local drag queens Aunty Chan and Eva Young will also give shows, celebrating femininity and championing Asian culture.
In the following slides, meet Bad Beti’s official perfomers and hosts, who reflect on their Asian identity and its relationship with education. For more information, click here.
Photography: Falyn Huang
“In India, society tends to worship the goddess, but not respect the girl. There is an extreme difference between the resources provided for young girls as opposed to boys (and even less from trans and non-binary youth), especially when it comes to education. For the most part, Indian girls receive minimal access to education, if any at all, with their expected end goal being marriage and raising a family, even for privileged, upper-class women. I’ve had so many friends who grew up the same way I did, went abroad for higher education, only to come back home after their 4-year undergrad to a family pressure to get married off.”
Sky Cubacub, Rebirth Garments
“I think the sexualization of Asian youth is dangerous and disgusting. Almost every cis man I have dated has turned out to have some sort of Asian fetish, which I usually figured out near the end of the (short) relationship. As an Asian person who is assigned female at birth [and] generally perceived as a ‘girl,’ I want to be taken seriously—I want to be treated like an adult human being. I’m sick of being belittled even when I am the head of a whole company, just because of my perceived age and gender.”
“For me, the language barrier is smaller than the cultural barrier, which is huge. As a child, I was told to be a ‘good Indian boy,’ and to not let western influences change that. I was told to not be ‘extra’ and that art wasn’t worth my time—that I should always be studying math and science so I could become a doctor. I followed those rules for years even though it was never good enough for my parents. Now as an adult, I have learned that art is very important. It is what brings me joy as opposed to my mundane job. My art of drag gives me a creative outlet to express myself in so many ways. It lets me learn and grow in a way that nothing else in my life does.”
“As a first-generation Chinese American on my father’s side, there has always been a language barrier between me and my relatives. I often feel disconnected from a culture that shapes who I am. Over time, I have come to understand that my Americanized interpretation of Chinese culture in itself is special. Though it may be difficult communicating with my grandparents, this is ultimately what they wanted for their family.”
Joonage A Trois
“I went to high school in the suburbs with like one out gay person and Korean school at a church with no known queers. There was no easy outlet for artistic expression, especially concerning drag, so [this] shoot was fun playing with the idea of what your femme school girl would’ve looked like and hanging out with fellow queer, Asian Chicago drag sisters.”
“My mom taught me how to read using Harry Potter books, and I remember making up words to pretend like I knew what I was talking about. I’m so glad I mastered the language because now, I can articulate my anger into words people can understand. I’m a Ravenclaw and I know what I’m talking about.”