Film Debut
New Ho Queen: Rat Rave 

New Ho Queen has been creating expressive nightlife spaces in Toronto for the queer Asian and QTBIPOC community since 2018 and from its inception amassed a dedicated and devoted following. Known for reaching capacity moments after the doors open, the desire for their presence was felt even during lockdown as their Club Quarantine event, TAKE OUT, garnered well over 400 attendees on Zoom. Toronto-based director Jessica JM Wu created a film covering New Ho Queen’s January Chinese New Year celebration, “Rat Rave,” as a way to celebrate the community’s intimate and passionate individuals, in such a public event whose future has since become precarious.

A Letter from the film’s director Jessica JM Wu

Amidst the fun and frenzy, partying under UV lights and captivating dance numbers, we wanted to give breath to soft intimate moments that exist within chaos. Touching moments between friends or partners––even instances alone. Fleeting tender embraces and erratic raving meet and meld with the sultry track, “Catch a vibe” by Korea Town Acid, featuring Cadence Weapon.

The year of the Rat, with all her unpredictability, let us remember the beautiful moments we all shared, continue to support one another, and look forward to when we can hold each other again.

An interview with New Ho Queen on the state of nightlife and the rise of anti-Asian sentiment amidst the COVID pandemic

COVID Limitations  
New Ho Queen’s intention is to bring queer Asians and QTBIPOC together to celebrate, heal and party on our own terms. With COVID-19 limitations in place, our intention hasn’t changed although it has admittedly become harder, or at least more challenging to bring that intention to life. It was on the heels of our Lunar New Year party that quarantine began and luckily we were still able to hold space for one celebratory night in January before social and physical distancing guidelines were implemented in late March. Our March event in collaboration with Yes Yes Y’all, a prolific long-standing nightlife space centering Black and brown folx in Toronto, was cancelled. Since then we’ve taken New Ho Queen online thanks to spaces like Club Quarantine who have made the transition from physical to digital events really easy. We believe that our community relies on our space whether online or in person as a way to cope with isolation and being othered in so many other spaces that do not centre them. Now more than ever, connection is critical and we hope to bring some semblance of normalcy to our community via online events until we can meet again in person. It’s been challenging but we remain hopeful. Nothing replaces the exchange of physical human energy, but seeing your favourite queer faces and friends in one Zoom call is a shot of much needed optimism.
The Future of Nightlife
The future of nightlife remains a mystery and we are especially worried for the livelihood of performers, DJs, party organizers and the very few remaining queer owned venues that New Ho Queen frequents, like Round Venue and Glad Day Bookshop. It is hard to know if we'll ever be able to party like we used to, but as restrictions decrease and wearing masks become even more normalized, there could be outdoor parties, safe capacity events, live streaming events similar to the Boiler Room, and the development of more community-based party partnerships and sponsorships to help fund things. Revolutions sometimes start on the dance floor, so we remain hopeful and dedicated to the work to hold much needed space.
Anti-Asian Racism
The COVID-19 pandemic has concretely led to a spike in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia in both our community and the global community. A recent online survey conducted by the University of Alberta reported that of 516 responses from Chinese Canadians, half have experienced verbal assault during the pandemic, while physical assault cases and anti-Asian hate crimes continue to spike all over the US and Canada. In fact, an Asian convenience store owner in Kensington Market was assaulted last month just down the street from where we usually throw events. Many of our collective members have also directly experienced or witnessed racism toward anyone who appears to be of Asian descent. One of the big themes during our first online event with Club Quarantine was discrimination toward Asians. We wanted to imbue our community with strength through Asian affirmations written by artists Shelly Zhang and Florence Yee, and held space for queer Asians and QTBIPOC to support each other. It’s important for us to say that in order to fight against racism, we need to fight against all forms of racism, especially Anti-Black racism.  We stand in love and solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities.