20 Asian-American Queer Women You Need To Know

These amazing Asian American queer women have changed our world.

May is a month-long celebration of Americans who are of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage, many of whom have enriched and greatly influenced LGBTQ+ culture. Here are 20+ of the AAPI queer and trans women who continue to change our world for the better.

Lyris Hung


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Lyris Hung, a queer musician, who has been touring and recording with the Indigo Girls this year, began her violin studies when she was just 3 years old. At 17, she started a double-degree program between the Juilliard School and Columbia University.

Since then, Lyris has grown an impressive musical career: She has been heard on Bryan Adams’ MTV Unplugged, performed live with U2’s Bono and Quincy Jones at the 1999 NetAid concert and in 2003 as part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and toured Europe and America with RCA recording artist Ke.

Bai Ling


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Bai Ling, a bisexual Chinese-American actress, came out so casually many reporters assumed she didn’t understand the question. She later told the Examiner’s bisexual expert columnist Mike Szymanski that at first “when I was in the United States I didn’t always have an interpreter in interviews and I didn’t speak English so well. There was some confusion. My name is pronounced ‘Bi,’ so when I was asked, ‘Are you bi?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am Bai.’ ‘Do you like men? ‘Of course!’ ‘Do you like women?’ ‘Why yes!’ And later I found out what that means and I said, ‘Sure, I am bi!’ But I think the interpreters and the reporters thought that I didn’t know what I was saying because I was so open about it. They were uncomfortable about it.” Ling has appeared in the films The Crow, Nixon, Red Corner, Crank: High Voltage, Dumplings, Wild Wild West, Anna and the King, Southland Tales, and Maximum Impact, as well as TV shows Entourage and Lost.

Hayley Kiyoko


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Hayley Kiyoko is a pop sensation, dancer, and actress. Oh, and lesbian Jesus. Hayley has been performing since childhood. Well before Mindy Kaling brought her voice to a bisexual, South Asian Velma, Kiyoko was cast in the live action Cartoon Network film Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins as the biracial baby gay Velma of our dreams. She also starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Lemonade Mouth, which was like if all the kids The Breakfast Club formed a band, and it’s anybody’s guess why Lemonade Mouth didn’t sweep the 2012 Oscars. While Kiyoko’s early work may not have gotten the recognition it so clearly deserved, a single from her second EP did launch her into superstardom. Since its release in 2015, “Girls Like Girls” has proven itself to be a popular and beloved addition to the lesbian musical canon. Since coming out via pop song- as so many of us wish we could have done- Hayley has continued to explore and express her queerness through music and LGBTQ advocacy work. She and her girlfriend, former Bachelor contestant Becca Tilley, have been together since 2018.

Kitty Tsui

Kitty Tsui is a Cantonese-American author, poet, actor, and bodybuilder.  She is the author of Words of a Woman Who Breathes Fire, which made her the first known Cantonese-American lesbian to publish a book. In addition to writing and bodybuilding, Tsui is also involved in performance art, the leather subculture, and activism for the Asian-American and LGBTQ communities. Tsui has performed on stage with the Asian American Theater Company, as well as being a founding member of Unbound Feet, the Chinese American feminist writing and performing collective. Tsui’s “Jack of all trades, master of many” lifestyle has not gone unnoticed. Her many awards and accolades run the gamut from a 1986 gold medal for bodybuilding at the Vancouver Gay Games for bodybuilding to  Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community’s Phoenix Award to being named one of the 50 most influential gay and lesbian writers by the Lambda Book Report.

Amy Sueyoshi

Amy Sueyoshi is Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Discriminating Sex: White Leisure and the Making of American “Oriental,” and Queer Compulsions: Race, Nation, and Sexuality in the Intimate Life of Yone Noguchi. She is also a founding co-curator of the GLBT History Museum.

Margaret Cho


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Margaret Cho has likely made you laugh your ass off at some point: She is a comedian, actress, LGBT activist, and musician. She is known for her raunchy stand-up and social commentary. Cho began her stand up career at the age of 14, and had already performed over 300 shows by the time she was approached to star in her own sitcom. Very loosely based on her own experience as a Korean-American, All-American Girl was groundbreaking for being one of the first sitcoms about an Asian-American family, and although short lived and ultimately a traumatic experience for Cho as both the star and an EP, she has continued to have commercial success in the decades following the shows one season run. She has headlined multiple stand up tours- including the True Colors tour with Cindy Lauper, which benefited the Human Rights Campaign- and continued to work in comedy, film, television, and the occasional burlesque show.

Alongside being a skilled comedian, Cho is a vocal LGBTQ advocate and incredibly involved in the community. Cho has talked about her queerness extensively in her stand up. During one performance on season 11 of Dancing with the Stars, Cho danced in a rainbow dress to both celebrate gay pride and bring attention to the rise in LGBTQ youth suicide. On television, she also recently had a role as herself on The L Word: Generation Q, and will be lending her voice to bring the character “Turtle” to life in the upcoming animated series adaptation of the Frog and Toad book series. She also starred in the 2022 film Fire Island, Joel Kim Booster’s Queer, Asian-American retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

Helen Zia


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Helen Zia is a Chinese-American journalist who uses her platform to shed light on Asian American and LGBTQ rights.  Zia came to writing after dropping out of medical school and working a string of odd jobs thereafter.  Zia’s massive body of work has been foundational for the Asian American movement. Zia’s two books, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People and Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution have been lauded for their accounts of the experience of Asian diaspora and the Asian American experiences. Asian American Dreams was even a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. It was Zia’s journalistic investigation of date rape at the University of Michigan sparked demonstrations on campus, and led to an overhaul of the university’s policies. Zia fought tirelessly for marriage equality, going so far as to appear as a witness in the 2010 federal marriage equality case decided by the Supreme Court. In June 2008, Helen and her partner, Lia Shigemura, were one of the first gay couples to be married in California.

Geena Rocero


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Geena Rocero is a Filipino-born American model, activist, and speaker who is the founder of Gender Proud, a media company that tells the stories of the trans community to raise awareness and fight for equality. She has been modeling for over 20 years, with her main focus being on swim suit modeling and beauty editorials for many years. It wasn’t until March 31, 2014- International Day of Trans Visibility- that Rocero came out as trans during her TED talk in Vancouver. In 2019, Geena was featured as the Playboy Playmate of the Month for August, becoming the first trans AAPI person to pose for the magazine. Then, in 2020, she was the first trans woman to be featured as one Playboy’s Playmate of the Year. Her accompanying article in the 2020 issue was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Rocero recently made her directorial debut with a 2021 docuseries, “Caretakers,” about Filipino-Americans and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jenny Shimizu


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Jenny Lynn Shimizu is a model and actress. And yes, she dated Angelina Jolie. Angelina said of her relationship with Jenny in a 1997 interview, “I fell in love with her the first second I saw her,” and honestly? Same. Shimizu’s whole career started because of that love at first sight kind of je ne sais quoi. Well, maybe not “je ne sais quoi,” which literally translates to “I don’t know what.” We all know what: it’s being a hot butch. It was while working as a mechanic, Jenny was approached to model for Calvin Klein fragrance and fashion.  Shimizu would later be the first Asian-American model to walk the runway for Prada, and would land a series of film and television appearances, including in The Itty Bitty Titty Committee and on America’s Next Top Model. While no longer actively modeling or acting, Jenny can still be found being a hot butch on instagram with her wife, Michelle Harper, and their dog, Beto.

Midori Francis

Midori Francis is an actor who began her career in theatre. She has since has moved to the screen, and received a Daytime Emmy nomination for her role as Lily in the Netflix series Dash & Lily. Francis has used her growing fame to help bring attention to the rise in racism towards Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as highlighting the importance of representation in media. And what a huge win it was when Midori was cast as queer surgical intern Dr. Mika Yasuda, one of the new residents in the current season of Grey’s Anatomy. Francis also recently had a starring role in the horror film Unseen, which was directed by another queer Japanese-American, Yoko Okumura.

Lilly Singh


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Lilly Saini Singh is an actress, comedian, talk show host, vlogger, YouTuber, and internet personality. Since beginning to make YouTube videos in 2010, Singh has amassed over 14.5 million subscribers to her YouTube channel. By 2017, she was the 10th highest paid YouTuber according to Forbes. Now, Lilly has become: #1 on the New York Times best seller’s list for her book How to be a Bawse: a Guide to Conquering Life, a filmmaker with the documentary about her world tour A Trip to Unicorn Island, and as the host of A Little Late with Lilly Singh the first late-night host of Indian descent on an American broadcast network. Talk about a multihyphenate!

Cecilia Ching


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Cecilia Chung is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives and Evaluation of Transgender Law Center. A transgender woman living openly with HIV, she advocates for HIV/AIDS awareness and care, LGBT equality, and social justice. Cecilia has been a vocal advocate for transgender women and people living with HIV. She immigrated from Hong Kong to San Francisco in 1984.

She was the first transgender woman and first Asian to be elected to lead the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Celebration and the first transgender woman and first person living openly with HIV to Chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

Andy Marra

Andy Marra is executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, an organization that connects the transgender community to pro-bono legal services for trans rights cases. Marra has been recognized by the White House and the City of New York for her involvement in LGBTQ rights.

Angel Lama


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Angel Lama made history in 2020 as the first transgender woman to be a finalist at Miss Universe Nepal. She was began her pageantry journey in 2018 after working with the Blue Diamond Society, an LGBTQ+ rights group, and was crowned Miss Pink Nepal.

Stephanie Hsu


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Stephanie Ann Hsu is an actress known for her roles of Christine Canigula in Be More Chill and Karen the Computer in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical. She was also in a little film called Everything Everywhere All At Once, maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s just the most awarded film ever. It won Best Picture at the Oscars, and was named “Movie of All Time” by Second Generation Immigrant Magazine, a totally real publication. EEAAO was nominated for 11 Oscars total, including Hsu’s for Best Supporting Actress. This made Stephanie Hsu the first queer actor to be nominated for an Oscar for playing a queer role since 1999. Hsu is slated to star in the upcoming film Joy Ride, from Crazy Rich Asians director Adele Kim, as well as reuniting with Everything Everywhere All At Once costar Ke Huy Quan for the Disney+ series adaptation of the graphic novel American Born Chinese.

Sherry Cola


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Sherry Cola is a Chinese American comedian, actress and writer who is best known for her role as Alice Kwan in Freeform’s Good Trouble.

Cola and her family moved to the San Gabriel Valley from Shanghai China when she was four years old. Cola majored in Entertainment and Tourism Studies at California State University Fullerton where her exceptional gift for comedy was brought further to life. She hosted a radio show where students ravenously consumed her funny opinions, commentary and stories. When she graduated, she joined AMP Radio 97.1FM, working on promotions, social media, and board operations. She then launched her own Sunday night show, interviewing celebrities like Noah Cyrus and Fifth Harmony. Cola then appeared on Amazon’s 2017 show “I Love Dick,” thus launching her break in TV. As for film, Cola notably worked on the Untitled Drake Doremus Project in 2019 opposite Shailene Woodley, Jamie Dornan, and Sebastian Stan.

Gia Gunn


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Gia Gunn skyrocketed to Queendom after competing on the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the second season of The Switch Drag Race, and RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars season four. Gunn has been on stage since childhood, originally performing traditional Japanese dance and kabuki theatre. Upon being cast on RPDR All Stars 4, Gunn became the first queen to compete on the show as an already out, transitioning trans woman. Gia Gunn has also walked the runway for MarcoMarco, released a YouTube docuseries about her transition, and was featured on the single (and undeniable ear worm) “Stun” by another RPDR alum, Alaska. Since her last appearance on Drag Race, Gia is now continuing to serve looks and live her best life through a very successful OnlyFans account.

Melissa Li

Melissa Li is a composer, lyricist, performer, and writer. She has won many awards for her talents: She is a recipient of the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Harold Adamson Lyric Award, 2021 Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, a Lincoln Center Theater Writer-in-Residence, a 2019 Musical Theatre Factory Maker, a MacDowell Fellow, a Company One Pao Arts Fellow, and a former Queer|Art|Mentorship Fellow.


Mitski, queen of the sad girls, is a Japanese American singer-songwriter. She self-released her first two albums while studying studio composition at Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music. She has never explicitly stated what her sexuality is, but has hinted at being some flavor of queer.

Youngmi Mayer


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Youngmi Mayer is, among many things, Korean-American, a single mother, a stand up comedian, and a podcast host. Youngmi is the cohost of the Feeling Asian podcast, a podcast where Asians talked about their feelings, and over its three year run featured guests including Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast, drag queen Kim Chi, comedian Bowen Yang, poet and speaker ALOK, and actor Ke Huy Quan. While Feeling Asian is a podcast about Asians and feelings, her other podcast, Hairy Butthole is not really about hairy buttholes- which is either a huge relief or egregious false advertising depending on your perspective. Hairy Butthole is another vehicle for Mayer’s thoughtful and hilarious explorations of Asian identity, growing up poor, biracial identity, feminism, and the complexities of being a queer, divorced single mother. Her humor, wit, and perspective are some of the only reasons to still be on Twitter.

Robin Tran


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Robin Tran is in on the joke. While trans people are often painted as obtuse or unable to take a joke, Tran’s stand up proves that to be unequivocally false. What comes through most clearly in all of her work, is that Tran has a deep love and appreciation of stand up as an art form. Her bit about telling her Vietnamese mother that she’s trans is able to take the excruciating experience of trying to come out to someone through a language barrier and turn it into an excellently crafted piece of comedy. Her battle with Joe Eurell, a comedian with cerebral palsy, is a masterclass in roasting. Since beginning to do stand up comedy in 2015, Robin has released a 1 hour special, appeared on That’s My Time with David Letterman, and garnered over 175,000 followers on TikTok, and does not show any signs of slowing down.

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