Miyuki Reports from Australia!
Miyuki Baker, the founder of Asian, Gay and Proud is trekking around the world on The Watson Fellowship to join the movement in creating a worldwide network of queer artists. She’ll be posting updates on We Are the Youth over the next few months. You can check out her blog, heymiyuki.wordpress.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MiyukiBaker.
Lots has happened since I last posted from Peru. After my stay in Cusco (close to Machu Picchu), I spent over 2 days in buses and in transit trying to get to Buenos Aires, Argentina where I plopped myself down for the three remaining weeks I had in South America. People told me I should visit Patagonia, the Iguazu falls and other famous spots in Argentina but you know what, I had had enough moving around in South America that it was okay for me to just stay put for a bit. My first few days in Buenos Aires were quite a surprise to me because not only was the city much larger than the other Latin American cities I had stayed in, but also because (in part, due to its size) the gay community seemed so spread out and at least on the surface, extremely commercial. Argentina was the first country in South America to legalize gay marriage, thus gay tourism in Buenos Aires has really taken off. Everywhere I looked, there were gay maps, gay bars and gay-friendly tourism. It was a bit off-putting actually, since a lot of what I was finding seemed to be unhealthily linked to profit.
When I dug a bit deeper though, I found that just an hour from Buenos Aires, in a smaller city called La Plata, was a strong counterculture lesbian culture and community. I met with the members of a feminist lesbian group called “Malas como las aranas” which means “Bad like the spiders” and they were throwing day long lesbian festivals every Sunday of the month of September! I went to one of them and performed a piece I developed in Ecuador about female masturbation (see my Ecuador zine for more info on the performance) and had a great response.
In the end, I had quite a diverse collection of submissions for my Argentina zine which you can see below:
The night before my trip to Sydney, Australia, I got to the airport early and stayed up all night drinking mate, (a classic Argentine drink), reflecting on the four months I had just experienced in South America and how I was about to return to an English-speaking country with all of the “comforts” I was used to back in the US. I had many difficult moments in South America where things were stolen or when I felt like I had to always be on guard as I was in transit, but I was given many wonderful opportunities to develop my art in really safe and supportive queer communities as well. There is such a wealth of activism happening in each country I visited in South America and I’m counting the months until my next visit.
I’ve been in Australia now for a month and a half and I only have a couple more weeks to go. Given my difficulties finding underground queer communities without any connections in Buenos Aires, I decided to spend three and a half weeks in Newcastle, Australia which is a small city two hours north of Sydney. What I found there was a community of tightly-knit artists and activists (queer or not) who were able to come together in ways that you can only do in regional places. The Den Magazine for instance is a publication about being queer in the countryside and highlights the diversity that can and does thrive outside of the large capital and metropolitan areas.
Currently I’m in Melbourne, which must have the most queer vegan artists per capita in all of the world! What a fantastic city! I’ve really fallen in love with the people, the layout of the city (based on a grid and has really cute alleyways) which is easy to bike around, and the great free resources available to the public. I’ve been busy meeting up with as many people as I can but have also found niche community spaces with the local queer Asian women’s group, Yellow Kitties as well as a new group for Queer People of Color who want to talk about social change and leadership. Next Tuesday I’m flying to Tasmania (just an hour and a half flight from Melbourne) for a week to see what the island life is like in Australia. Apparently there are some great queer groups there as well so I’m really looking forward to that.
I actually wrote a more self-reflective piece about my journey so far on my blog as well if you’re interested in what I’ve learned being on the road: click here
My next country is Singapore and I’ll be really interested to see how the secular but strict government has affected queer art and activism. A friend in Melbourne recently observed that unlike countries where gay pride marches are allowed, Singapore’s “Pink Dot” style pride activism is about making a cluster as opposed to a long line created by a parade. I think that this fundamental difference in the physical manifestation of gay activism is fascinating and I can’t wait to look deeper into it when I’m there.
Next time I write, I’ll be there so be sure to keep your eye out for any updates! In the meantime, check out my regular illustrated travel blog updates at heymiyuki.wordpress.com