Badass, Motherfucker, and Meat-Eater: Kit Yan’s Trans of Color Slammin’ Critique and the Archives of Possibilities
In this article, I examine Badass, a spoken word performance by Chinese American female-to-male transgender slam poet Kit Yan. Performed live on stage across the country and disseminated online via YouTube, Yan’s intense, fast-paced articulation of contradictory masculinities in Badass provides a powerful insight into the construction of gender, identity, and community through a trans of color perspective. As a collage of divergent masculine identities—such as rebellious adolescent, consumerist middle-class, racialized, mainstream gay, and punk-rock—Badass highlights the male anxiety around cultivating normative masculinity due to the presence of multiple masculine standards. I argue that Yan’s performance brings to attention the impossibility for male-identified people, in general, and Asian American men, in particular, to simply reclaim maleness in order to be recognized as legitimate citizen-subjects, since there is no such a thing as a singular, authentic masculine ideal in which one can easily draw upon as a measure of identification and belonging.
Most importantly, Badass provides an incisive critique of Asian American nationalist and Asian settler colonialist attempts to recuperate Asian American male subjectivity through gender conformity and sexual disciplining. In examining the history of Asian immigration to the United States mainland and the colonial context of Hawai’i, particularly the moment of transition in the perception of Asian immigrants from “undesirable aliens” to “respectable citizens” facilitated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, I contend that Yan’s work insightfully addresses the violence of “community” in the post-Civil Rights era and intervenes in the very processes of representation.