Q&A: Queer Rebels on accessibility, representation, and the challenges queer people of color still face

Pub date April 17, 2014
SectionPixel Vision

It’s not that Modern Family and your Gender Studies reading list aren’t doing anything for queer and trans representation — but there are still stories to be told, and ears to be reached.

Since 2008, it has been the mission of Queer Rebels founders Celeste Chan and KB Boyce to bring the art, history, and stories of queer and trans people of color to stages and screens, where it can be shared and celebrated. This weekend, Queer Rebels return with Liberating Legacies, a free, all-ages, multi-ethnic, multi-genre show at the San Francisco Public Library [Sun/20]. As the show date approaches, we caught up with Queer Rebels via email to get an idea of what to expect from Liberating Legacies, and the importance of accessibility to the arts.

San Francisco Bay Guardian What was the planning process for Liberating Legacies? What is different or new about this show compared to other Queer Rebels performances?

Queer Rebels Liberating Legacies celebrates the vibrant visions of queer/trans artists of color today. It is multi-ethnic, offering a sampling of all our different programs — from experimental film to SPIRIT: Queer Asian, Arab, and Pacific Islander Artivism, to our popular Queer Harlem Renaissance show. We’re so thrilled that Liberating Legacies is free, all ages, and multi-ethnic. We’ve wanted to do this for a while.

SFBG What is the importance of making a show like Liberating Legacies free and all ages?

QR We’re so excited to partner with the SF Public Library to provide access through this great venue. Our mission is to showcase queer and trans artists of color, connect generations, and honor our histories with art for the future. In keeping with our mission, we really want to reach youth and elders, and anyone barred access to art due to economic stress. Art has long been a tool for resistance in communities of color. It is the passing on of histories, and cultural reclamation. We do this to energize our community through the arts, to create our own culture, and to inspire hope. Art can create the world anew.

SFBG What are the current issues of accessibility in terms of art and representation of QTPOC communities? It’s a popular opinion that media and popular entertainment have become more progressive and inclusive, but what’s still missing?

QR It is true, we’re in a different place than we were 10, 20, or 30 years ago, when queer/trans of color representation was a real rarity. Now we have role models like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, but we still have RuPaul’s DragRace using slurs like “she-male,” and disrespecting trans women. Queer/trans youth of color face racial violence and homophobia. Approximately 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, LGBT people of color face multiple barriers or forms of oppression, and LGBT elders of color face isolation. So we still have a lot of work to do. We want art that speaks to these realities, created by our communities. There needs to be space for all of us. Beyond positive representation, we need to see queer and trans people of color in all of our complexities and diverse histories!

SFBG What can we look forward to seeing at Liberating Legacies? What would you tell someone who has never been to a QR show to expect from your performances?

QR We’re bringing diverse arty interpretations to Liberating Legacies. From “tropical Sci-Fi” to transgressive torch singers; Afrocentric literary duets to pop music manifestos; experimental film, world class Blues — and beyond! We’ve got something for everyone, and it is free, vibrant, and alive — very much of this moment! We pay homage to our ancestors and march boldly into the future. Artist MA Brooks once told us, “you two embody your mission statement.” It really resonates now. We are a multi-generational, Queer Black and Asian artist and activist couple. Queer Rebels is our lovechild: beautiful and rebellious, aesthetic and experimental, born from our experiences as people of color in punk and DIY scenes, and created with riotously gay love and joy.
Liberating Legacies
Sun/20, 2pm, free
San Francisco Public Library, Koret Auditorium
100 Larkin, SF
 (415) 581-3500