Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Asians
In response to the dominant impression that gay people are white people, Orientations aims to set the record straight on homosexual identity. Men and women of different Asian backgrounds speak frankly, humorously, and often poignantly about their lives as members of a minority within a minority. They speak about coming out, homophobia, racism, cultural identity, sex, and the ways that being gay and Asian have shaped who they are.
The tape features interviews with fourteen lesbians and gay men with diverse backgrounds, lifestyles experiences and outlooks. The themes proceed from first gay realizations, coming out into the gay/lesbian community, an understanding of racism in the lesbian/gay/feminist communities, coping with racism in the sexual arena, relationships, cultural self-assertion through art. After a short segment on lesbian and gay pride day 1984, the tape looks at the subjects in relationship to their 'ethnic' communities, workplaces, unions, solidarity groups. The final section looks at the importance of working together and specifically at the work of Lesbians of Colour and Gay Asians Toronto.
“Richard’s first tape features interviews with fourteen Asian lesbians and gay men who discuss their experiences of coming out, racism, activism and cultural expression. It begins with a modern dancer in a white mask bound by ropes, a clichéd but emancipating image that underscores the reality of the subjects’ societal invisibility. One man recollects how his gayness unfolded in a boarding school in Malaysia. Another discusses his relationship with the white S+M community. A Japanese Canadian lesbian asks: how do you perform your gayness when you prefer punk rock to Holly Near? They speak in tones that hopscotch the emotional spectrum, at times militant, at others joyful and philosophical. Raw, and by economic necessity roughly-hewn, this groundbreaking video gave a media profile and voice to a community which had never before had one. (The electronic music, gelled hairstyles and asymmetrical ripped T-shirts lend a sense of the times.) Orientations challenges the white gay community to reconsider their perceptions of Asian passivity, traditionalism and inserts homosexuality into an Asian context, disrupting the idea that to be gay is unmentionable, or worse, “Western.” The video ends with the dancer taking off his mask and ropes and waving a banner with a pink triangle. But despite the symbolic gesture of resolution, one gathers the sense that things remain unfinished. Viewed in hindsight, one wonders if and how the resources and role models have changed for Asian people coming out. Many of the preoccupations and reflexes of that times still seem pertinent. On another note, the tape includes footage of Pride Day 1984, which serves as a reminder of its pre-corporate activist origins.” (Kyo Maclear)
“Fung made Orientations as a pioneer project to counter the complete absence of video or film documentary on gay and lesbian Asians. As such, he describes it as an “educational tool,” and its straightforward style foregrounds the sensitive, articulate people whose interviews make up the bulk of the video. Fung admirably avoids whitewashing his subjects and presents them with contradictions intact to avoid stereotyping the minority he wishes to liberate. Orientations fits into the now conventional “minority positive image” structure, individual interviews which move chronologically from childhood recollections to a moment of crisis (here, coming out) are intercut and culminate in a sequence of collective action. Often, this is a celebratory demonstration, in this case, Gay and Lesbian Pride Day in Toronto. Working within this structure, Fung’s care and thoughtful handling makes his video a sound forerunner project for its subjects.” (Cinema Canada, 1985)