Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective was the first international group organized by and for lesbian and gay Asians. Although short-lived, the collective, which came together at the First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference, empowered its members to organize for lesbian and gay civil rights at the local level and inspired the formation of GLBT Asian groups in later years.

Summary of Event

The Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective, the first group of its kind anywhere in the world, was formed during the First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference, which was held October 12-15, 1979, in Washington, D.C. The collective, made up of lesbian and gay Asian activists from North America, emerged from a gay Asian caucus at the national conference, which had been meeting at Harambee House, a black-owned hotel next to Howard University. The collective, which included Asians from not only the United States but also Canada, was organized to last a short time only. [kw]Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Is Founded (Oct. 12-15, 1979) [kw]Gay Asian Collective Is Founded, Lesbian and (Oct. 12-15, 1979) [kw]Asian Collective Is Founded, Lesbian and Gay (Oct. 12-15, 1979) Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Asian Collective, Lesbian and Gay [c]Organizations and institutions;Oct. 12-15, 1979: Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Is Founded[1340] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;Oct. 12-15, 1979: Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Is Founded[1340] [c]Race and ethnicity;Oct. 12-15, 1979: Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Is Founded[1340] Fung, Richard Loy, Tana Fukaya, Michiyo

An announcement about the group’s formation in Gay Insurgent: A Gay Left Journal Gay Insurgent (periodical) (Summer, 1980) stated the group’s goals succinctly: “There is as yet no agreed upon organizational structure; and no statement of principles to guide our group. But we all agreed that we wanted to end our isolation with the majority white gay movement, and to reach out to other Asian Americans and Asian Canadians.” The announcement provided a contact postal address in Philadelphia, and it suggested that Boston-area readers contact the previously formed group, Boston Asian Gay Men and Lesbians. It also suggested that Canadian readers contact a Third World conference participant who was from Toronto—Richard Fung, who would later be well known as an independent filmmaker documenting the Asian GLBT movement. Fung formed Gay Asians Toronto, the first gay Asian group in Canada, after the conference in Washington, D.C.

A black-and-white photograph (taken on October 13, 1979) in the same issue of Gay Insurgent shows participants of the first meeting of the Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective at the Third World conference. In addition to the four men and six women seen sitting in a circle, there were about one dozen or so more present at the formation of the collective.

One collective member, Chinese American Tana Loy, had been chosen by the collective to represent the group and address the Third World conference during a plenary session. Her speech, “Who’s the Barbarian?” "Who’s the Barbarian?" (Loy)[Whos the Barbarian] suggested that Asians, newly empowered by the conference, should no longer avoid each other’s eyes when meeting in public, but, instead, should “run toward each other.”

About one dozen members of the collective joined the first March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights that Sunday, October 14, preceded by a historical march through D.C.’s predominantly black neighborhood and through Chinatown, the first time Asian lesbians and gays had openly marched through these neighborhoods. The group marched behind a large banner declaring “We’re Asians, Gay & Proud,” while chanting the same slogan. The collective’s marchers, along with the banner, also appear on the cover of the Summer, 1980, issue of Gay Insurgent. At the Washington Monument, Michiyo Fukaya, a lesbian poet of mixed European and Japanese origin from Vermont, addressed some 100,000 celebrants after the march, speaking on “Living in Asian America.” Gay Insurgent also reproduced the speeches by Loy and Fukaya.


The First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference served as a beacon for groups such as the Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective, bringing like-minded individuals together for a weekend of politicking and organizing. The larger conference also shattered the myth that there are no people of color who are also lesbian or gay. The collective was part of a weekend where hundreds of lesbian and gay people of color gathered and marched visibly and proudly to affirm their sexual identities as well as their races and ethnicities. Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective members would keep in touch with each other after the conference for a few years, but the group eventually dissolved as members continued their involvement with local civil rights organizing. Lesbian and Gay Asian Collective Asian Collective, Lesbian and Gay

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fukaya, Michiyo. “Living in Asian America: An Asian American Lesbian’s Address Before the Washington Monument.” Gay Insurgent: A Gay Left Journal no. 6 (Summer, 1980): 16.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lorde, Audre. “I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities.” Freedom Organizing Pamphlet Series 3. Latham, N.Y.: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1985.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loy, Tana. “Who’s the Barbarian? An Asian American Lesbian Speaks Before the Third World Conference.” Gay Insurgent: A Gay Left Journal no. 6 (Summer, 1980): 15.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Moraga, Cherríe L., and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. 3d ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Third Woman Press, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ratti, Rakesh, ed. A Lotus of Another Color: An Unfolding of the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Experience. Boston: Alyson, 1993.

1969: Nuestro Mundo Forms as First Queer Organization in Argentina

1975: Gay American Indians Is Founded

October 12-15, 1979: First March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published

1982-1991: Lesbian Academic and Activist Sues University of California for Discrimination

September, 1983: First National Lesbians of Color Conference Convenes

1987: Asian Pacific Lesbian Network Is Founded

1987: VIVA Is Founded to Promote Latina and Latino Artists

October 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed

1990: United Lesbians of African Heritage Is Founded

December, 1990: Asian Lesbian Network Holds Its First Conference

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November, 1999: First Middle Eastern Gay and Lesbian Organization Is Founded

Categories: History