June 4th: Activist and Biologist June Chan

For June 4th, the fourth day of Pride Month, we are going to celebrate and learn about June Chan. June is an activist and biologist.

Chan was born in Lower Manhattan on June 6th, 1956. She was an activist from a young age. Her mother, a refugee from China, worked in New York’s Chinatown along with June’s father. Both of her parents had experienced racism from tourists that came through.

Chan was also bright from a young age, especially with a passion for science. She went to the Bronx High School of Science before continuing on to get her bachelor’s in biology from the City College of New York. After getting her bachelor’s in 1977, she then went to State University of Buffalo to earn her master’s degree. She also works in neurobiology. 

There was not much I could find on June and her coming of age story. She came out as lesbian to her family after graduating with her master’s and it was a positive experience.

In 1983, June met Katherine Hall and the two began working on a slideshow exhibiting Asian lesbian history throughout the ’80s. According to June, the slideshow gave “a larger context for ourselves as Asian and Pacific Islander peoples, as people of color in the United States, and as lesbians.”

Around the time she was making the slideshow, Chan was also helping form the Asian Lesbians of the East Coast, a group of, as the name says, Asian American lesbians living on the east coast. They also wanted to help create a place for lesbians at the time – especially when the LGBT+ community was mostly made up of white males. The group was also a place to learn and talk with people- they hosted workshops and sent out newsletters. It was a place of safety.

ALOEC was about more than learning, they were also a group that were willing to stand up and fight for their rights. In 1991, the group was a part of a demonstration against Miss Saigon on Broadway casting a caucasian man for an Asian character’s role. They worked to put an end to stereotyping of Asian culture and yellowfacing. Another time in 1989, LGBT people marched on Washington DC, and ALOEC joined them.

While in DC, Chan met other Asian-American lesbian groups and leaders. These groups came together to form the Asian Pacific Lesbian Network (later AKA Asian Pacific Bi-Sexual Lesbian Network).

The ALOEC was an important organization. It’s founding gave a place for Asian lesbians to come together and feel safe, especially at a time of oppression for the gay and Asian community. June Chan helped so many people with her work in the LGBT+ community. Not to mention as a biologist, she is probably helping change a lot of lives through scientific discovery.

Thank you, June.

Information from Wikipedia, this PDF, and NYTimes

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