Advisory Welcome Statement

WELCOME! Thank you for celebrating with us the launching of our archive website. Invisible Footprints (IF) originated as a series of multi-generational projects that aim to celebrate our past history while creating more opportunities to collectively shape the future of Toronto’s East and Southeast Asian LGBTQ movement.  

The collaboration in life sharing and community art making(Life to Art) reflects the East and Southeast Asian LGBTQ history in the wider queer histories of Toronto. It is told in our own words, with our own images and by our own terms. The vibrancy of Asian queer life is obvious to those who live and have lived it and also for those who are searching for it. Due to repeated marginalization, our size and history are frequently rendered small and invisible within the greater queer Toronto story. The resilience of theAsian queer community in the face of systemic injustices and their internalization, migration, and cultural legacies is both chaotic and beautiful. 

Asian queer life in Toronto has always occupied shapes and circumstances beyond the documented materials. Much of our histories are recorded only in collective memories of shared experiences. Asian queers have found safe spaces through informal gatherings in living rooms, over dim sum, mahjong games, karaoke bars, and grassroots protest marches and staging performances. These moments, along with officious documented milestones constitute the collective making of queer histories in this city. Within our very diverse Asian queer diaspora, there are still gaps in inclusion, representation and documentation. 

IF 0.3 aims for a creative outcome but its participatory process is as important. Intergenerational dialogues being part of our vision, we have created opportunities such as workshops, forums and socials for youth and elders to connect and to engage each other with their stories. We hope such sharing will continue to spark the interest and fuel the passion of more AsianLGBTQ across generations in community building.

Intergenerational projects are much needed but rare. As elders/advisors to IF, some of us thought we have already passed the torch to the younger Asian queers a long time ago. Something ignited in us when we met them and saw the same spark, the fire in their eyes and the poetry in their hearts. They are courageous in pursuing their dreams and refused to be pigeon-holed by labels or be discouraged from creating art that transcends gender and social norms. They are nonconforming and truly inspiring. We are fortunate that IF bought together fearless activists and artists, young and old.  Working collaboratively has been a joy and honor and created invaluable learning experiences and new friendships.  

Prior to the organized effort to collect and also create new projects, the founders of IF could only find two slim file boxes of historical materials related to Asian queers in Toronto that could be accessible by the public. Having official versions of documented  histories serves to legitimize a people’s contributions, struggles, and existence.  

In closing, we salute the visionaries and the heroes who collected important historical and cultural works for two, three and even over four decades, and safe-guarded them with great care in their own basements and closets knowing their true value. This was the journey from basements and closets to Open Space Gallery (OCAD U), Gardiner Museum and Toronto Media Arts Center, and now to the world-wide website. This is our journey to dig even deeper, to fill in the gaps, to expand the circle even wider, and make our history and representation by our own rules. We are very grateful for your support and eagerly invite you to participate in the growing movement. Please tell others and contribute your valuable stories and documents and suggestions. 

Thank you!

Invisible Footprints Advisory Team 2020 
Katherine Chun, Aries Cheung, Alan Li, Nancy Seto, Keith Wong  

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Invisible Footprints Advisory Team

Aries Cheung

Aries Cheung’s practices include visual art, graphic design, illustrations, film, media arts and performing arts. Aries’ works often deal with racial identity, gender and sexuality. He has collaborated with collectives such as Little Pear Garden Collective, Eventual Ashes, Wuming Dance Project and Rice Roll Productions, creating video projections and installations in multi-disciplinary productions. He performed in musical theatre productions, House of Freaks, produced by Rice Roll Productions and was on the advisory committee and mentor team, and a featured artist for Rice Roll Productions’ Invisible Footprints projects, involving LGBT Asian artists and activists. 

Aries has taught art and design at Centennial College in Toronto. He has been a grant jury for the Toronto Arts Council and has received project grants from the Ontario Arts Council. He co-founded media company, TransMedia9 Inc. and film company, Red Canvas Productions, starting making films and videos. Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film Festival presented his short films: Hide and Seek and No Asians, Please! 

Aries has worked as an educator and outreach worker on HIV/AIDS and has created design materials for HIV/AIDS. Aries has helped organize cultural and advocacy events for LGBTQ organizations such as Gay Asians Toronto, Gay Asian AIDS Project and Asian Community AIDS Services. He has helped organize queer Asian video competitions, mentored queer Asian youth on arts projects and has facilitated Asians living with HIV/AIDS on community cultural projects.

Aries has illustrated children’s books and designed book covers and is often commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mint to design Asian-themed collectable coins.

Katherine Chun

Katherine has been involved with IF since the beginning and serves in the role of elder and advisory. Katherine was born in the Year of the Rat and came from a line of Rat women who were and are super clever and adaptable creatures.  Her family is first generation immigrants who came to the US in 1968.  Her elders before her paved the way for her to have great opportunities and choices in life including meaningful education and fulfilling vocations and also they shed blood and tears for gay rights including gay marriage.  Katherine got married with Nancy Seto in 2013 and moved to Toronto and became citizen recently.  For over 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, she worked with diverse immigrants in the field of mental health and substance abuse.  Currently, she is working in the City of Vaughan in a health clinic operated by SickKids in the psychology department and also teaching part time at Seneca College.  

Nancy Seto

Born and raised in Ottawa, a first generation Chinese-Canadian lesbian, was influenced by her Toisanese roots, 80’s music and wild hairstyles of the new wave era. Nancy relocated to Toronto in her late twenties with her then partner and found fulfillment and belonging in a new and wonderful community of Asian lesbians and women of colour. 

Keith Wong

Keith was born in Hong Kong and educated as an accountant in Australia. He moved to Toronto in 1989 to reunite with his partner. He has worked as a political organizer, community advocate, leadership training consultant that address social inequities, homophobia and HIV stigma through the many organizations he cherishes over the years. In addition, he is starting out his life coaching practice specializing in transition and career development. He enjoys photography and distance running.

Alan Tai-Wai Li, M.D.

Alan Li is a medical doctor, educator, researcher, community organizer and advocate based in Toronto, Canada with over 30 years’ experiences working many marginalized populations including immigrants, refugees, people facing challenges with poverty, service access barriers, mental health and addiction issues, LGBTQ and people with HIV/AIDS (PHA). 

A first-generation immigrant originally migrated from Hong Kong, Alan has taken leadership roles in many social justice and equity promoting organizations, including the national president of the Chinese Canadian National Council, and founding president of the Hong Kong 10% Club, the first officially registered LGBT NGO in Hong Kong (1987). As the driving force behind Gay Asians Toronto (GAT) since the 1980’s, Alan was editor-in-chief of the magazine CelebrAsian, and producer of GAT’s annual Gala of the same name.  An avid Cantonese opera singer and performer, Alan co-wrote and performed in one of the earliest LGBT play “The Story of two Boys” in Hong Kong history.  In response to the AIDS epidemic, Alan co-founded the Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), and the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT), a coalition working to improve treatment access for and promote leadership of newcomer and racialized PHAs, where Alan led multiple community-based research studies that led to the development of many innovative health promotion programs and services amongst HIV, sexual minorities, newcomer and racialized communities.

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