“API Hair & Queerness”: A Film by Sally Tran

Sally Tran used to have long hair. Back then, Tran says, people would always remark, “You look so pretty with your long hair” and suspected they viewed them as a “submissive geisha doll.” The pressure to chop it all off came not only from being objectified for their Asianness, but from moving through queer spaces, too. Identifying as queer and gender-queer, Tran says, “The stereotypical queer person has to have short hair or else you won’t be validated as a ‘real queer,’ and that operates on this whiteness, this mainstream whiteness of ‘You have to look a certain way.'” 

Last summer they worked at API Equality, which is based in California, where they first started recording interviews with self-identified queer and trans* API folks. Now “API Hair & Queerness” clocks thirty minutes and features fourteen accounts, including Tran’s. 

Since screening the film at conferences, Tran says they’ve been embraced by viewers who’ve said, “You touched me. You changed my life.” Though they remark, “When I heard people say, ‘Oh my god, now I’m going to cut my hair because of you,’ I hope they don’t get it the wrong way — as in, you have to cut your hair to be queer. That would just defeat the whole purpose of my film.”  

Reflecting on their art and newfound Tumblr fame, Tran says, “I don’t see myself as creative… This is just something that was in my head that I battled with, and I’m just really privileged that I had the resources to make it public.”

Take a half hour to check out “API Hair & Queerness”:

 (No subtitles available as of yet.)

Check out our interview with Tran and Coco Layne, calling out femmephobia, pretty privilege, and white dominance on Tumblr and in queer spaces!

sallySALLY TRAN is a 2nd generation Vietnamese-American gender-queer queer filmmaker from the East Bay Area of California. They received their Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara with a major in Feminist Studies and Asian-American Studies minor. Sally is an activist/artivist who strives to promote qtpoc visibility, specifically queer/trans* Asian visibility throughout Sally’s film and writing. Their last film, “Deconstructing My Depression” was awarded both People’s Choice Award & Jury’s Award at the 2013 Oakland Pride Film Festival. This short film attempts to shed light on mental health issues within qtpoc spaces through showcasing Sally’s personal struggle of battling chronic depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder while being both qpoc and a full-time college student. Sally continues to explore their cultural barriers while coming into terms with their gender-queer queer identity within a problematic and systematic institution through mediums of film.

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3 Responses to “API Hair & Queerness”: A Film by Sally Tran

  1. Liz, she/they pronouns January 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    Hi, so glad I found your project and film. I knew I couldn’t be the only one thinking about Asian, hair, and queerness. I hope that maybe we can skype or google hangout for a bit to talk. I’m in chicago. Thanks, hope to hear from you. I’m Vietnamese adoptee and in lgbtq community.

    • Sally Tran July 5, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

      Hi Liz, I just saw this post. This is Sally. Feel free to email me and we can set up a skye date! stran9010@gmail.com


  1. “Deconstructing My Depression”: A Film by Sally Tran | As[I]Am - May 30, 2014

    […] Tran is a filmmaker based in the Bay Area, where they previously made the film “API Hair & Queerness” (which we interviewed them about a few months ago). “Deconstructing My Depression” is […]