Ask A Queer: Alice Tsui
Today’s queer is Alice Tsui, a 22-year-old self-described jack of all trades in the entertainment industry. She lives in Los Angeles and is primarily an actor, but also a photographer, director, model, and writer. Recently, she starred in the Wong Fu Productions short “Digital Influencer vs. Digital Minimalist.” She cites authenticity, respect, and compassion as her greatest values, dogs as her favorite photography subject, and desserts as her weakness.
If there is a word you don’t understand in this blog post, you can consult the main page of “Ask A Queer” for definitions. Now let’s get into it! The following responses from Alice were only edited for clarity. These words and this experience are all hers.
How do you identify? What are your pronouns?
I identify as a cisgender woman; my pronouns are she/her. I used to identify as bisexual, but now I identify as lesbian.
What do you wish people understood about your identity?
Firstly, I wish people understood that labels are just a communication tool, not an end-all-be-all boundary for our inner selves. I identified as bisexual for most of my queer life; only recently have I started calling myself a lesbian. There's a huge stigma out there that bisexuals are just transitioning to full-on gayness, but that's not necessarily true. Even though I guess I fall under that category, the years of my life where I was bi, I was REALLY bi. I wasn't fighting some inner fear that I was gay, or pushing that aside, or anything like that. I've always been okay with whatever I am sexually. Which brings me to my second point: people should know that sexuality is fluid. In some cases, people are repressed and discover their true selves later in life, but also, a lot of the time, preferences just change. I think nature sets the foundation for who we are when we enter this world, and our influences nurture us to become otherwise. That doesn't mean what we are is a choice -- not at all. But I do believe that our circumstances and environment impact us, definitely.
What can allocishet people do to support your community?
The first thing that comes to mind is to respect our spaces. Please don't come clubbing at queer clubs because you think it's fun to party with the gays. That may sound harsh, but think of it this way: if you're straight and cis and reading this, imagine yourself as part of a community where you don't know if other people are like you when you go out to socialize. Most people go out to sleep with someone, or meet people to date -- but what if every time you went out, you just had no clue if the people you liked even liked people of your gender/identity, and most likely, they didn't? That's where LGBT clubs come in -- it's a space where we can fully be ourselves and not worry too much about being embarrassed about our sexuality if we want to hit on someone. That's our normal. When straight people come in packs and invade that space (because they can, there are no official rules), suddenly the environment changes, and it no longer becomes that haven for us. You have the rest of the world to party, please don't come here with all of your straight friends. That's not to say you can't come to hang out with your queer friends -- if they invite you, awesome, but use your best judgment. And men -- please, for the love of the Babadook, don't bring you and the boys out to lesbian night because it's a house full of women. We're not here for you.
What do you love about being queer?
Oh, man. So much, honestly. It makes life much more complicated, but also there's also a lot to be thankful for. I love the community aspect of it, how when I meet someone who's queer, there's an instant connection and reason to be friends. I love the pride aspect; I don't know how else to explain it, except it's like celebrating after a really tough patch of life -- but for us, that tough patch is constant. There's also just so much love in the LGBTQ+ community. I get so emotional at pride parades, every year; it brings me to tears. Because when I'm there, standing among all these rainbows and happy people and stuff -- I remember that there are people out there who think we're an abomination, that we're wrecking the "proper" state of the world. But look around: we're just people who want to show love, receive love, and give love. I think that's one of the purest things that exists.
How do you stay connected to the LGBTQ+ community?
It's a smaller world than people think. I go to a lot of local LGBTQ+ parties and events, and once you enter the queer community in a city, it just sort of snowballs from there. I meet more and more queer people every day.
What does the LGBTQ+ community need to work on? How can they better support your identity?
This is a tough one, because no matter what happens, there's always going to be some aspect of every community that needs improvement. I'll talk about bisexual visibility first, because that's a big issue I used to deal with. Being bi is interesting because to straight people, you're straight until you start dating someone of the same gender, and to gay people, you're gay until you start dating someone of the opposite gender. I go to a lot of lesbian parties in LA, and I'm SURE there are bisexual girls all around, but none of them ever bring their boyfriends, because I think they'd get chewed up. Especially if their boyfriend was a straight cis man. It's super strange, but I kind of understand it. I think the anger is less towards the bisexual people and more towards their straight partners. Lesbians have been victims of not only homophobia, but also misogyny from cis straight men for a long, long time, so we tend to be defensive about our safe spaces. As anyone would be.
The second thing I'll talk about is femme erasure, which is something I deal with now. I identify as femme, which basically means I carry myself in a mostly feminine manner, and that manifests in the way I dress, move, talk, etc. The funny thing is, in mainstream media and especially pornography, you ONLY see femme lesbians. Straight people seem to think that two hot girls together is what makes lesbianism appealing to the masses. But in real life, I actually experience a lot of erasure as a femme. First off, people pretty much always assume I'm straight if they don't already know me, so girls don't ever approach me in queer spaces, because there ARE straight people who still come to gay bars, and no queer person wants to deal with that awkward moment when you try to hit on someone and find out they're not even into you because of your gender identity. Also, when I try to hit on other girls, it just comes out sounding like a gal-to-gal compliment. It's strange and still something I'm figuring out for myself.
Describe your coming out experience in 5 words or less.
Impulsive. Not expected. Not great.
What are your favorite pieces of LGBTQ+ media?
The show “Orange is the New Black.” A book called “The Bermudez Triangle” by Maureen Johnson. Hayley Kiyoko's "Girls Like Girls" music video, which I've probably watched at least thirty times.
Who are your LGBTQ+ role models?
So many, but off the top of my head: Laverne Cox, Khrystyana Kazakova (she's a body love activist but also queer and just all around the coolest human), and Demi Lovato.
Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ celebrities?
Again, too many to list, but the first ones that come to mind are RuPaul Charles, Alyssa Edwards, Willow Smith, Tyler Oakley, and Samira Wiley.
And finally, are you alright with me referring to you as “queer,” or does the term make you uncomfortable?
Absolutely! I think language evolves with time, and though it used to be a derogatory term, we are reclaiming the word for ourselves. Queers unite!