Interestingly, Skip said that since he has been working with these gender illusionists, his understanding of women has improved. The transgender experience is very complex and still entails hardships for many individuals dealing with issues of gender identity. Concepts such as openness and tolerance are consciously practiced at Asia SF, and Skip concluded that social change often comes from women. Asia SF’s female customers have certainly embraced the concept.
My Baby Bok Choy
We sat down for a nice meal at the bar that also acts as a catwalk, and enjoyed delicious Tamarind Chicken Satays, Baby Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushrooms and a generous portion of Truffled Soba Noodles which include grilled portobello mushroom and asparagus slices, tossed with sesame soba noodles, white truffle oil and sweet tomatoes.
Truffled Soba Noodles
Then finally the performance started. One after another we saw the Ladies of Asia SF come out on the catwalk and perform their craft. Dressed up in tight-fitting sexy costumes and stunningly beautiful, they danced rhythmically on the stage and lip-synched to popular dance tunes. The crowd was cheering and loved it.
In between dance performances the ladies worked the crowd, chatted with customers and served drinks. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy interacting with the audience. I wanted to find out a little more about these graceful performers at Asia SF and was able to catch a few of them in between their performances. Most of them were very willing to talk with me and shared a bit of their life stories with me.
Action at Asia SF
Darna, for example, arrived in San Francisco 11 years ago from the Philippines. She just graduated with a major in sociology and social welfare from Cal State University and now works with a non-profit organization that helps Asians and Pacific Islanders suffering from HIV. She feels that working at Asia SF empowers her and added that her work environment here is more like a family than a workplace.
Arianna, an African-American performer from Chicago, is a professional ballet dancer and started transitioning in July of 2007. People had always thought she was a girl since she was small. Her work at Asia SF is a conscious choice and her family supports her. In addition, San Francisco’s transgendered community is very welcoming and made her transition easier. Although Arianna does not feel fully at home here yet, she loves living in Berkeley and enjoys coming to work at Asia SF.
Sharon and the security guard at Asia SF
Also hailing from the Philippines, Sharon has been working at Asia SF since 1999. She works full-time as a nurse and has a Master of Nursing degree. Today she works as an educator on infection control and teaches her coworkers and patients at the hospital about infection prevention. Despite the fact that her mother is a strict Catholic, she is very open-minded, and accept Sharon’s gender transition which happened in 1999. Sharon loves the environment at Asia SF which allows her to interact with people of all different walks of life in a safe, accepting environment. She also views her role as educational and wants to open people’s minds.
Lima, Peru, is Branny’s home town. She moved to New York City 15 years ago and arrived in the Bay Area two years ago. She finished a diploma in design and is now studying psychology at San Francisco State University. Branny made her transition at age 15 and added that her parents were cool about it. They always knew that making the gender transition in Peru would be difficult and were there to help her. She added that she finds people in San Francisco more open than in New York City and loves living here. Even when she was a child she did not fit in and children picked on her. But strangely enough she loved the attention, and performing on stage at Asia SF gives her a chance to soak up the adoration of the audience. Branny loves fashion design, and when she is finished with her psychology degree she wants to give something back to society.
Branny from Peru
What stunned me the most was the diverse backgrounds of these talented performers: they hail from places such as the Philippines, Mexico, Peru and many others. The Ladies at Asia SF are not only beautiful, but also intelligent and caring individuals. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know a little bit about some of the performers and their interesting backgrounds. These conversations really showed me what talented, multi-dimensional individuals these dancers are.
The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the audience interaction with the performers. Some special dance moves elicited exuberant whistles and cheers from the audience, and the atmosphere was very boisterous. Many of the tables were big groups celebrating birthdays or other special events. In addition to serving drinks and chatting with the audience, many of the dancers also get their pictures taken with various customers. For the finale, six Ladies of Asia SF got up on the catwalk and surprised the enthusiastic crowd with a final group performance of the day.
The beautiful ladies of Asia SF
We had a great evening at Asia SF: delicious food, excellent entertainment, and a bit of an insight into the open-minded mindset and diversity that is San Francisco.