Do you remember the first time you saw yourself represented on-screen?
Maybe it happened when you were so young, you barely remember it. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet. Or, maybe it’s technically happened – you’ve seen a character or two who shares some or all of your identities – but it still didn’t quite feel like you.
Being excluded from popular stories is an all-too-common plight for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Queer and trans characters have appeared in media for all of history. But, queer- and transphobia (and the production codes they inspired) means they’re most commonly depicted as villains, disproportionately killed off or used as objects to laugh at. Even in those cases, their queer- and/or transness is seldom explicit. And, the ways media fails queer and trans people are only exacerbated when they hold multiple marginalized identities.
This is something comedian Margaret Cho understands all too well – and something she’s helping to change.
Cho began performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco, fundraising for HIV and AIDS relief, in the 1990s. She says much of her early stage persona involved imitating the queer and trans entertainers she looked up to.
“…starting up as a, sort of, queer kid, it was really important and it was a really great culture to be privy to.” – Margaret Cho
— Margaret Cho (@margaretcho) June 1, 2021
Since then, Cho has become a household name in entertainment, carving out space in the public sphere for other queer Asian creatives. But, she says, she hopes future on-screen projects tell queer Asian stories because they deserve to be told – and not as a token for representation:
“I would like to see more stories that are less about identity and more about stories…We need more trans stories; we need more different kinds of experiences that have identity as a background but not as the entirety of it.”
IGNITE had the opportunity to sit down with Cho following her appearance at our Pride-focused Real Talks. During our conversation, she graciously shared more of her perspective on queerness, career and comedy – and how you can continually celebrate Pride.
Take a look at our full discussion below:
Hear from our other Pride Real Talks guest, Bretman Rock!