Dorothy Chan

A Poem About Killing Off Your Homophobic Characters


I swear, the homophobic women my brother loves are one recurring character in the soap opera of my life, where the actress is replaced mid-season, and no one notices.

She doesn’t have a fan base. But of course, every show needs a villain

(or two), and the writers are writing their way out of her storyline, because no one needs a homophobic villain. It’s television at its laziest,

And I think about how my brother’s current wife paints me as a villain—a bad Chinese girl because I will never worship a man simply for existing.

I don’t have time for that.

Boys worship me,

And don’t get me started on how movie villains are often coded gay,

As in you can’t be both queer and good on screen,

As in I love my gay villains but where are my gay heroes,

As in, let me tell you this, kids: brains and cunning >>>>>>>>>>>>> (to infinity) brawns, and who wouldn’t want a dungeon, an eel sidekick, purple eyeshadow with winged liner and a fur coat, curves for days, a serpent staff, and your own musical number so you can grind until there’s no tomorrow for your grand entrance, as you crash a party at the king’s castle,

And curse his baby just because you’re a little bored on a Thursday,

And because gender reveal parties are the true evil of the world,

And I want to be sexy Satan in fishnets eating all your cake, popping all your balloons.


If life really is a soap opera, then I demand an evil twin. I want to hug her.

                                                            Let’s take over the world, body double.

I remember how growing up, I dreamt of having an older sister rather than an older brother, because an older sister would shame me less—would not make fun of my growing body—

Would not ask me about my sexual orientation out of nowhere at a stoplight in Washington DC.
Would not assume the worst of any sexual orientation that wasn’t straight.

Would not say, “[Insert wife #1’s name here] was wondering,” as if my orientation is a source of heterosexual entertainment,

Because of course, bisexual women are just so funny for existing,

Because of course, it’s okay to pry into a woman’s business if she’s bisexual.

My brother and I haven’t talked in over a year.

I don’t miss him.


My name is Dorothy,

And I love laughing over how my parents unintentionally named me after the Wizard of Oz character,

As in the Hays Code era term, “friend of Dorothy,” meaning gay man,

As in remember Scarecrow’s line, “Of course some people go both ways,”

As in Scarecrow is my favorite Batman villain (besides all the sapphic women)
because he’s a professor,

As in some depictions, he’s the villain with the best voice and oh so smooth,

As in give a girl enough books, and she’ll turn queer,

As in no, I’ll never be a good Chinese girl who worships a man just for existing,

As in, I’ll wear the Dorothy outfit for sex. But I’m not Dorothy. I’m all the witches in one, depending on my mood that day.

My parents were going for “gift of god.” I can be both. I can be all—even if god doesn’t exist.



Triple Sonnet About Ghosting Your Best Friend

I remember us writing porn together
                    before evenings out, our characters
in Tokyo: a mythical headless woman
                    wearing a helmet with a neck full of smoke
lures another woman into the shower—
                    a blond man dressed like a bartender
seduces a brunette man in a fur coat—
                    two young lovers bond over glasses fetish,
also known as meganekko, also known as
                    isn’t your girl the cutest when she’s both
brainy and vulnerable—add in a fivesome
                    of mermaids dancing in a nightclub tank—
add in a sixsome of centaurs in a nightclub
                    bathroom. All of this happens before sunrise,

                    and isn’t the sun such an attention whore
no one wants? The moon’s the real queen,
                    everyone, and bonus: she’s got attractive
sisters on other planets, ready for discovery.
                    I told you I was afraid of centaurs while we
wrote that scene—after watching that Axe
                    commercial about women’s pleasures—
the shower curtain, h
oney, and your man’s got
                    horse legs, and it’s hilarious that I’m a Sagittarius.
I’m afraid of myself. Is that it? Or maybe it’s
                    what scares you the most also turns you on.
Or maybe it’s the idea that sex and horror
                    are the same thing: exposure and theatrics—
godly lighting or the worst camera of all time,

because there is no in between when it comes
                    to actual art. I remember you getting angry
when I kissed another girl friend at the bar
                    many moons ago, me and her pretending
to be tipsy on champagne, when we really
                    knew what we were doing, when the champagne
tasted like water at best, when I danced with her
                    the whole night, when you sulked—the exposure
and theatrics—the camera zoomed in on your face,
                    and what emotion tops confusion, anyway—
the horror and sex of it. I remember how years
                    later I went on a date with a man who was once
a porn writer in Hollywood. I laughed at him
                    the whole night. I’m sorry I never called you back.



Dorothy Chan is the author of most recently, BABE, a chapbook forthcoming with Diode Editions this winter 2021, in addition to Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), and Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2020 and 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry for Revenge of the Asian Woman, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Her work has appeared in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Poetry Editor of Hobart, Book Reviews Co-Editor of Pleiades, and Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization. Visit her website at