The Passion of the Cut Sleeve

Our name comes from a story of Chinese emperor Ai of Han (27-1 BCE). Legend has it that Ai’s lover, Dong Xian, fell asleep on the arm of Ai’s robe one night. In order to slip away without disturbing Dong, Emperor Ai freed himself by cutting off his sleeve.

Today, the story of the cut sleeve serves as a euphemism for same-sex relationships in China. The story reveals Asia’s far-reaching and often overlooked LGBTQ+ history.

Why it matters

Unfortunately, the rich traditions of Asian countries often come with a history of homophobia. 

Queer and questioning members of the Asian diaspora face the added challenge of reconciling gender identity/sexual orientation with familial and cultural values—coming out to family can mean risking embarrassment, disappointment, or rejection.

Without understanding the nuances of Asian identity, general LGBTQ+ support groups and services often struggle to help youth through these issues.

About the Team

Cut Sleeve Stories is organized by a group of high schoolers based in Seattle, WA.

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