Now You See Me

A photographer makes it her mission to bring trans and queer Asian women into visibility

June 19, 2013

Avani, Austin, TX. Photograph by Mia Nakano.

Growing up in the ’80s, queer Asian Pacific Islanders were invisible to the general population. As the founding photo editor of Hyphen in 2001, I wanted to ensure broad Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) representation in the magazine. But most of the queer API groups I found were geared toward men. I felt alone and frustrated. Feeling invisible as a queer API woman in the San Francisco Bay Area, I wondered how other queer API folks found solid ground in cities without prominent API communities. These thoughts laid the groundwork for the Visibility Project, a nationwide portrait and video series. For the past five years, I have traveled across the United States, interviewing and photographing queer Asian American women and transgender people. Participants are everyday people from all walks of life; collectively, we create the largest snapshot ever taken of our diverse community. Each of the over 120 people I have worked with to date helps to break down the stereotypes that pervade us. This project enables us to connect and grow from shared experiences. Together, we are ensuring that our stories and voices can never be disappeared. To see the latest stories and profiles, and to find out how you can participate, go to

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Mia Nakano

Mia Nakano
LGBTQ Editor + Founder

Mia Nakano is a freelance photographer, videographer, and web designer based out of Oakland, CA. She is the founding photo-editor of Hyphen. Her work has been seen in dozens of media outlets including Colorlines, the Kathmandu Post, and Democracy Now!. Nakano has contributed to organizations such as the Smithsonian,, and the de Young Museum.