Community is everything to LA-based performance artist and activist Daphne Von Rey. After leaving the conservative Southern California suburb of Orange County 10 years ago for nearby Los Angeles, Von Rey found a welcoming queer community that helped her find comfort in her own skin, eventually leading Von Rey to pay that support forward by helping to put together an all-inclusive strip night at the Hollywood club Cheetah’s called “Jolene,” which created a safe space for trans women, female-identifying and non-binary dancers, to come together to perform.
“As a SWer [sex worker] and an Asian trans woman, constantly seeing the violence towards the Asian elders and obituaries of trans women is so heavy,” Von Rey tells us via email. “With Covid and the pandemic hitting, we all lost our sense and any semblance of community. Now with opening everything back up, I wanted to not only solidify but plant the seed for community to ease back in, because, with everything I’ve done, I’ve only been able to do because of community care as both a SWer and trans woman.”
Following the horrific 2021 Atlanta spa shootings and the rise of Asian hate crimes across America, a strong sense of community is needed now more than ever, which is why Von Rey and other performers and activists from the West Coast nightlife scene are coming together virtually this weekend for a special community-building and fundraising event to be live-streamed this Sunday, April 18th.
“The hate crime in Atlanta struck so deeply, not only because of the racist targeting but also for the targeting of assumed SWers,” Von Rey tells us. “It’s very known to anyone in the Asian diaspora that if you’re anything out of the norm, are any identity that can possibly bring shame to the family, the judgment runs so deeply.”
Dubbed Journey to the West, this Sunday’s virtual event will raise money for Red Canary Song — a grassroots collective of Asian & Migrant sex workers that assist migrant workers and provides mutual aid via a labor rights framework — and will see Von Rey joined by six west coast trans, queer, and API groups including Send Noodz, QNA.LA, Sacred Wounds, XOXO, Asia SF, and Other Womxn.
“Everyone in this show is Queer identified in one form or another, and many of us are also SWers,” writes Von Rey, “By us all organizing, I hope that this can be a reminder for others in the Asian community to look at their own implicit bias, the colorist, the queerphobia, and start to see the intersectionality of how we are all connected. If it can start here in this side of the country, then hopefully we will see this continue across the country.”
Red Canary Song is a New York-based organization that started in 2017 following the death of a Flushing massage worker named Yang Song who was killed during a police raid of the establishment she was employed at. It is, to date, the only grassroots Chinese massage parlor worker coalition in the U.S., which itself is home to 9,000 workplaces similar to the one that employed Song. These are workers that have no political representation or access to labor rights or collective organizing.
Von Rey closes by saying, “We need to look out for the most vulnerable in our Asian diaspora; the migrant workers, elders, SWers, and Queer identified individuals. Which is why we designated Red Canary Song to be the grassroots organization we would like to support as they have been doing the work advocating for the Asian migrant and SWers. In order to come together as a community, we have to unlearn the colonized mindset we have been engrained with, unlearn these implicit biases of race, gender, sexuality, and colorism. And then from there we can truly see the human within each other and come together closer as a community.”
Be sure to grab tickets here for Journey to the West: A benefit for Red Canary Song on Sunday, April 18th beginning at 5 pm-8 pm PST.