All hail Toronto's New Ho Queen
No fats. No femmes. No Asians. Many of us have had the unfortunate moment of seeing these six words written in someone’s online profile when cruising the apps. Sometimes it’s written in not-so-obvious ways, which makes it even trickier to navigate past sneaky racists, homophobes, and general assholes.
While it’s still a gross and persistent issue in our community, many of us just roll our eyes, take a screen grab, and move on. Some of us, however, aren’t having any of it. In comes New Ho Queen – a party, a collective, and a movement meant to give voice, platform, space, and shine to our city’s queer Asian community.
We asked Armand Digdoyo and John Thai, the main brains behind New Ho Queen, to explain what the exciting movement is all about.
Please describe New Ho Queen in three words.
Armand and John: Queer! Asian! Love!
OK, now actually describe New Ho Queen a bit more and tell us why you wanted to start this party.
John: New Ho Queen’s first party is called Asian Love. It’s queer, it’s artistic, and at its core it’s a party celebrating incredible queer Asians (organized by queer Asians) in a space that authentically embraces elements of Asian culture we identify with.
Why does Toronto need an Asian-queer-focused jam like this?
John: It was long overdue. Toronto is full of beautiful, strong, creative, and queer-identifying Asians who agreed that we didn’t have our own space to flourish and be among like-minded queer Asians. New Ho Queen is a positive response to seeing a need in local culture and creating something completely ownable for us and by us.
Armand: We acknowledge that Asian Express has been a successful party for years that is also gay-Asian-male focused, but it’s also located primarily in the same area of the city (Church Street, off Yonge). We wanted to offer something new in the west end and a different point of view on gay/queer Asian culture.
Can you each describe your experiences as gay Asian men in the city in terms of going out/dancing/being queer in general?
John: The great part about being uncategorical is that you get to dip your toe into a huge spectrum of spaces and peek into different scenes. I’ve never felt like I was a perfect fit at really any party or space in Toronto, and as a result, I’ve become somewhat of an expert at blending in and becoming what the space or party wants me to be. Overall I would say that my experience has been varied, but all of it could be distilled down to this idea that my cultural roots weren’t ever particularly relevant. I’ve gotten the whole spectrum, from being tokenized as a “panda bear” to not being quite Asian enough. Toronto is an amazing city with vibrant parties and queer spaces, but New Ho Queen will be the first event where we hope queer Asians can feel completely at ease about their Asianness and be surrounded by people who love, appreciate, and celebrate them without any of the damaging stereotypes, tokenization, or expectations to fit any type of mould.
Armand: I’ve had similar experiences where I didn’t really fit in anywhere. I was definitely one of the only gay Asian males at parties that I would go to, and I have felt discriminated against in some situations, but also fetishized in others. I eventually just radiated toward and surrounded myself with groups of friends and crowds I felt safe in, usually bonding over the music and dancing, which ended up being mixed crowds of everyone from the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Scenes (and parties in general) have definitely diversified over time, and I feel now there’s something for everyone.
Now give us allll the T on this photoshoot. How did these images come about? What inspired them?
John: New Ho Queen is about people as much as it is about a party. Part of what you will find at our events and the creative content that surrounds it are real, talented queer Asians being celebrated. Photographing queer Toronto Asians was an obvious choice, a way of sending an impactful message to our community — we see you and we love you. We are both humbled and living for the images that Raphael Sanchez, Steven Beckly, Bryan Huynh, and May Truong have captured. We see New Ho Queen as more than just a party; it’s a creative collective that organically assembles talented queer Asians to create Asian-centric expression. All of the photographers who were involved in the launch series are part of this collective, and we are so excited to see more collaboration in the future; performers, stylists, designers, visual artists – everyone is welcome!
What can people expect at Toronto’s #1 love party?
John: Expect a space that is unapologetically Asian. We have been putting a lot of thought into how we want the space to look, and we are not holding back. But I would say that the biggest thing to look forward to is actually going to be the amount of Asian love in the room. It will feel like a queer family reunion, and you will meet all of your long-lost queer Asian fam. You will be a delicious bundle of ground pork and shrimp, and the space will be your cozy dumpling wrapper, ready to be steamed!
Armand: Expect some amazing talent, with DJ sets by Jaime Sin, Lulu Wei, and Kim Sum and performances by Ms. Nookie Galore and Sze-Yang Ade-Lam.