Aiko on her former’s university rooftop at the beginning of the covid outbreak in New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2020 Aiko is a 23 years old trans woman from Nantou, a small town in the center of Taiwan. She moved to Taipei to study fashion design and now works for a fashion magazine. She chose the name Aiko, because she is greatly influenced by Japanese kawai and manga culture. Aiko's family is accepting of her trans identity, her mother even jokes around with the neighbors in her hometown saying that she had three boys, but that now she has two sons and a daughter. She supports Aiko to be herself. ‘Being alive is a revenge in itself towards this hateful world. Be smarter, read more books, so you can live a better life. Keep your romantic thoughts ; it will never be enough, especially when you’re getting older. You can think of killing yourself a hundred, even a thousand times, but if you are dead, you then lose the chance to love and to hate. So I would say cheers anyways.’ Aiko © Su Cassiano

A Brighter Summer Day

Su Cassiano

 2019-2020 – Taiwan

About this series

A Brighter Summer Day tells intimate stories from the LGBTQIA+ community in Taiwan in the period leading to the legalization of same sex marriage and the aftermath.
In 2017, the Taiwanese government declared unconstitutional to exclude same sex couples from marriage, giving Taiwan two years to vote for the bill and tearing the country apart. 7 millions people voted against.
On the 17th of May 2019, same sex marriage was legalized, Taiwan becoming the first country in Asia to do so. Nevertheless there is still no equality regarding adoption or marrying a foreign person just to name a couple issues that remain. Stigma and stereotypes are still attached to same sex relationships in Taiwan, and more so regarding gender issues. Gender diverse people’s existence is often hidden. Gender binaries are strongly enforced in the Taiwanese culture, and people who exist outside of this binary system are rejected or made invisible. Even within the queer scene, stereotypical representations of masculinity and femininity are prevalent. A Brighter Summer Day aims to break the stereotypical representations of the community by celebrating its diversity.

Aiko, a young trans woman from Nantou in Taiwan, sits at her desk at the beginning of Covid 19’s outbreak in New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2020 At the age of 23, she had never been in a relationship. Even though Taiwan is probably one of the most queer friendly country in Asia, it still enforces quite rigid gender binaries. The way gender is portrayed by society is very stereotypical and makes gender diversity harder to be expressed. © Su Cassiano
Ryan cutting Tang Tang’s hair on their apartments rooftop before going to work, New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2019. Tang Tang and Ryan have been together for 4 years and flew to Las Vegas to get married as it remained illegal in Taiwan. They respectively work as actor and hair dresser, and have to hide their relationship in order to keep certain costumers. They live in the outer suburb of New Taipei City in a small apartment they share with their puppy dog. Ryan lost his mother shortly before he met Tang Tang, and never took the chance to tell her about his sexual orientation, even though she kept asking and reassuring him that it would be ok if he was gay. But after he started dating Tang Tang he dreamt that his mother came to eat with him and gave him her blessings for their relationship. © Su Cassiano
Menu Ma and Yellow on Menu's family rooftop after lunch with Menu's mother, New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2019 Yellow and Menu Ma have been together for nearly three years, and it took a long time for Menu's mother to accept the fact that her daughter is gay. She never came out to her dad who still hopes she will get married to a man.Traditionally, kids in Taiwan only express their feelings with their mothers, so a lot of gay kids will never come out to their dad. © Su Cassiano
Monlagine posing on her sofa, New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2019 ‘My parents didn’t know I’m gay. I’m a good actor! Be brave in life to make your own decisions.
 Fall in love with your courage.
 Be yourself and don’t regret what you have done.’ Monlagine Johnny was one of the first drag queen in Taiwan. Costume designer by day, he makes his own clothes and tell stories to children while in drag. He sometimes faces aggressive behavior from the parents. He likes to bring drag culture into the light and outside from the nightclub life where it’s usually confined. © Su Cassiano
Dan Yao posing in a traditional dress at their home in Taichung, Taiwan, 2019. ‘I think I’m meant to break the rules, these gender roles. I still care a bit about what people think so I don’t want to look cheap. I want to look elegant, to be beautiful. I want people to think he/she/they is beautiful and I want them to forget if I am a boy or a girl.’ Dan Yao Dan Yao lives in a one room apartment in Taichung, a big city on the west coast. They make jewelry and are a make up artist in their spare time. We first met in Miaoli, one of the most conservative region in Taiwan, as the city was holding its first gay pride. © Su Cassiano
Wei Yi and Jay in the morning, Taipei, Taiwan, 2019 ‘Always trust yourself, and help others. The broken pieces will turn into courage. Be kind.’ Wëi Yi ‘Before high school I had to avoid showing my true colors regarding my sexual orientation. Before I stepped into art school, I had to pretend to be a straight man. I think our education doesn’t include embracing who you are, and your classmates don’t understand what it means to be gay. So it was pretty tough when I was a student.’ Jay Wëi Yi and Jay met on Grinder, an app for gay men. They were chatting on internet for a month before meeting. They’ve been together for 7 months. Wëi Yi is a fashion designer for men clothing, and still lives with his parents. Jay is a theatre actor and writer and recently moved into a shared appartement. © Su Cassiano
Darice at the arcade, Taipei, Taiwan, 2019. Darice is Taiwanese American and identify as non binary, which means they don't identify as male or female. They discovered quite recently the term non-binary, and realized how much it fitted them. Growing up they were quite a tomboy, and were thinking that one day they would grow to become an old man, but that never happened. They trained as a beauty pageant in the U.S.A. and learned to perform femininity as a skill. We met at their favorite place, an arcade in Gonguan, the student area, where they go when they can't sleep. © Su Cassiano
Li Ting and Jaeden (left), New Taipei City, Taiwan, 2019. Jaeden define as trans and non binary, and as an English translator they were able to find a lot of ressources on internet to reflect upon their identity, ressources that are not available in mandarin. Li Ting is originally from Singapore and moved to Taiwan seven months ago. She is a play writer. When I first met them they have been together for a month.
 ‘Trans and non binary visibility is so crucial because that’s how I got to be able to be like this with such comfort and love for my trans, queer and Asian body. Even though I want to have top surgery it doesn’t change the fact that I love my body so much. I love that it goes through all these traumas for me. And without visibility I would be so confused and frustrated. Getting to know other trans and non binary people gave me the ability to know what’s going on and have the capacity to love it. It’s very big for me personally.’ Jaeden © Su Cassiano

Photographer: Su Cassiano
Nationality: French
Based in: Istanbul, Turkey
Instagram: @su_cassiano

Su Cassiano is a self taught award winning photographer born in Paris, based in Istanbul. Specialized in narrative portraiture and documentary, their work is characterized by the intimate relationship and collaboration created with the people they portray. Their approach straddles an often blurred line between personal diary and documentary.
Their story telling aims to deconstruct stereotypes while making dissident voices emerge. The camera becomes an excuse to connect with people and to look for meaning in the world.
Their work has been exhibited internationally, including in Malta (EuroPride 2023), Melbourne ( CCP Salon, Best documentary image 2022, Best Portrait 2019), Ballarat ( Foto Biennale 2021), Bristol (RPS 2020), Yangon (Yangon Pride 2020), Sydney (Head On 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022), Kuala Lumpur (KLIPA, 2019 ) and London (Palm Photo Prize 2018).
Su is a collaborator of The New York Times, Libération, Hey Barista and Frankie Magazine.
In 2017 they won the Iris Award at the Perth Center for Photography. In 2022 they were an alumni of Eddie Adam workshop XXXV. In 2023 they were selected by Holma to participate in Representing Pride, a workshop with mentor Samira Damato and Tanya Habjouqa. In 2023 they organized and curated a print sale to raise funds for the earthquake relief in Türkiye and Syria that involved 18 photographers.
They are a member of Women Photograph and Middle East Images.