Another new song! =]

Lyrics Video

Lyrics (no English translation available)

「高い金を払って 連れて来たんだから」と
男は恥じらうこともなく 当然みたいな顔で
「妻の帰りが遅い 飯を作らない
夜の生活が不十分だ」と 赤い顔をして怒る

だけど 殴りかかったその手を払って
別れれば帰るしかない
この国を去り どこへ行こうか
女は夢を見る

明日はもう少しマシだろうか
少しは笑えるだろうか
もう少し我慢すれば
いつかマシになるだろうか
空の雲を見上げれば
暗く輝く鳥たちが
門出を祝うかのように
今日も見送りに来ていた

「10万を用立ててはくれないかしら」と
女はこっそり囁いた 海の向こうの息子が
学校に行く手はずを整えたものの
ほんのちょっぴり金が足りない
この子が最後の賭けと

上の息子はここの同じ工場で
100円高い時給をもらう パートタイムで
行ってもいない 学校に通ってる

明日はもう少しマシだろうか
少しは笑えるだろうか
もう少し我慢すれば
いつかマシになるだろうか
空の雲を見上げれば
暗く輝く鳥たちが
門出を祝うかのように
今日も見送りに来ていた

明日はもう少しマシだろうか
少しは笑えるだろうか
もう少し我慢すれば
いつかマシになるだろうか
空の雲を見上げれば
暗く輝く鳥たちが
門出を祝うかのように
今日も見送りに来ていた

Words & music by Masaki C. All instruments are either played by Masaki or programmed in Logic Pro X.

New original song “RPG” is now available on YouTube and BandCamp!

Lyrics Video

Lyrics with English traslation

昔の仲間が集まってる場所は
避けて通るようになってきてて
(I’ve been kind of avoiding going to the places)
(where I used to hang out with old friends)
背伸びをしていた頃の自分にまた
戻りたくはないと思う
(I just don’t want to go back to the person)
(That I was, that always pretended to be someone else)

選択制の同調 我慢してたわけじゃなくて
(Optional peer pressure, it wasn’t like I was torn)
本気で同じことを 考えてるような気がしてた
(I really felt like we thought alike)

建前の平等 自由とゆう名のRPG
(As-if equality, a roleplay called freedom)
道を外れたら 自分のせいだよねって思い込んだ
(Every time I stumbled, I thought the blame was on me)
命令不在の a dictatorship
(a dictatorship without orders)
罰を恐れて 選ぶ freedom
(a freedom of choice, with consequences)

今日は一緒に戦った仲間たちが
明日になって急に敵になっても
(Even if todays friends may turn into)
(Tomorrow’s enemy all of a sudden)
適当な言葉で当たり障りのない
馴れ合いを続けたくはない
(I just can’t keep doing this anymore)
(Saying things I don’t mean)

拒否する選択肢 用意してれば oh you’re so liberal
(Make sure you give us the option to say no, and you’re so liberal)
その先に何が待ってるのか 本当はみんなわかってる
(Though in reality we all know what consequences might ensue)

Fight the fantasy of liberty 自由とゆう名のRPG
(Fight the fantasy of liberty, it’s a roleplay called freedom)
Oh 自覚のない 独裁者の声が鳴り響く
(Oh the voice of the ignorant dictator echoes)
賢明な人たちは その賢明さを
(The smart folks, just so they can feel better and smarter)
噛みしめるために 人を蹴落とす
(Make sure other people fail)

It’s the fantasy of liberty, you may choose to say no but you cannot afford
to, so long that you forget what you really wanted to do in the first place
As time goes by, you start feeling as if
your obedience were always your choice

建前の平等 自由とゆう名のRPG
(As-if equality, a roleplay called freedom)
Oh 自覚のない 独裁者の声が鳴り響く
(Oh the voice of the ignorant dictator echoes)
Fight the fantasy of liberty 自由とゆう名のRPG
(Fight the fantasy of liberty, it’s a roleplay called freedom)

Fantasy of liberty
Fantasy of liberty
Fantasy of liberty
Oh fantasy of liberty

Words & music by Masaki C. All instruments are either played by Masaki or programmed in Logic Pro X.

Queer Vlog #002 – What Does It Mean To Act Like A Woman

So here’s my second vlog post. Today’s topic is constructed femininity and its relation to genderqueerness.

Vlog #001 Queer in Japan Critiques the Institution of Marriage

For the first time I filmed myself talking about queer stuff.

New Tumblr Project: Rad-queers Speaking English For You

Ever felt sick of English-language LGBT journalism that, no matter how many times we radical queers around the world denounce it, continues to portray and represent queers in non-English-speaking regions in often racist, ethnocentric, colonial, progressivist, and quite shallow ways with a hint of Messiah Complex? I have. Like, numerous times. They see our fellow mainstream, assimilationist LGBT locals struggling to be like them, but not us rad-queers who question capitalism, prison, marriage equality, and non-profit industrial complex. After nearly a year since the launch of its Facebook Page, The Rad-queers Speaking English For You Project has taken its way to Tumblr!

The project is intended to be a repository of blog entries, scholarly papers, news articles, videos, music, poetry, etc. etc. available in English but created by (mostly radical) queers from non-English speaking regions, to provide a collection of rad-queer voices in non-Western, non-English speaking worlds that are often overlooked by English-language LGBT journalism.

Of course, English-language journalism isn’t and shouldn’t be the only kind of journalism that counts. There are news outlets and activist presence available in other languages and that is just great. English-language journalism, however, is nonetheless in actuality the most used means by which most of us queer non-native speakers of English learn about fellow other queers around the world. That is why journalists who write in English have a certain responsibility as someone who relays information from one place to another, as a hub of queer voices around the world. And we hold them responsible, by providing this repository of rad-queer voices available in English.

Crappy journalism is often a result of insufficient research. So we let them have the information in English, and they’ll no longer have the excuse to ignore rad-queer voices saying they don’t read our languages.

At the moment the contents are scarce. I will try to post lots of stuff, though. And I am considering sharing the Tumblr blog with collaborators in some future. Meanwhile, follow the Tumblr and stay tuned!

RQSE4U logo

Compilation of Negative Responses to Akie Abe’s Participation in Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2014

The Tokyo Rainbow Pride, which I talked about last year on this blog, marked its 3rd anniversary on April 27, 2014. Its commercialization and increasingly neoliberal, militarist, and conservative crystallization of LGBT politics have become almost intolerably, grotesquely obvious. I could go on and on about sponsorships and participation of embassies and corporations at the Pride, but today I am so devastated by the participation of Prime Minister Abe’s wife, Ms. Akie Abe at the Pride, that I am almost in a shock state.

BmNC0KrCEAAqz6m(Ms. Akie Abe on the right. Photo source.)

Of course, many individuals responded positively, affirming Ms. Abe’s action despite Prime Minister Abe’s right-wing inclinations. But there are quite a few tweets responding negatively. And it’s important for us to reassure ourselves that not all of us are happy with LGBTQ politics becoming a conservative cause.

So, here’s some of the comments posted on Twitter by those who take issues with Ms. Abe’s appearance at the Pride. And I’ll provide translations along the way. (Note: LDP is short for the Liberal Democratic Party, headed by PM Abe.)

They say the wife of Prime Minister Abe joined the Rainbow Pride parade. I think this shows the true nature of the issues regarding how the policies of the LDP and Prime Minister Abe are “tricky and troublesome” (yakkai) and why the principles of neoliberalism entail such “solicitude” (kizukai) for minority individuals. It is not the case that the wife is better than the husband.

It seems that Prime Minister’s wife came to the Rainbow Pride. This shows how much the LDP knows its every move. No wonder they are the semipermanent ruling party. An academic says they want the wife to be Prime Minister instead, but that’s a naive view that I can not agree with.

So even Akie Abe and Hirotada Ototake joined yesterday’s Rainbow parade? The event seems more festive than ones about nuclear power, but I would feel very awkward marching in a demonstration with people like them.

Learn what? RT @gonoi: Members and supporters of #LDP have a lot to learn from the attitude of Ms. Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister, who joined the Rainbow Pride. RT @TOKYO_DEMOCRACY Rainbow Pride AIDS …pic.twitter.com/3zVFsgVXNb”

From this, it seems like the LDP’s double standard is tolerated… well, they seem to be ok with Israel, so. RT Tokyo, la first lady Akie Abe … http://larep.it/1ki5bVH pic.twitter.com/lZDItZvsjU #TRP2014

https://twitter.com/jyonaha/status/460309014551621633

I wish they had asked, “Do you think your husband will someday come to pride?” RT @rekopekopako At Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade, we interviewed Ms. Akie Abe!! #TRW2014 #lgbt #lgbtq pic.twitter.com/MDcuNhqsbW

Add (April 30)

Since some people just can’t stop nitpicking, here’s my tweets regarding this post.

Queer Dining Bar FAT CATS to Open in Gunma, Japan in June 2014!

As some of you already know, for the past 4 years I have been doing the Bar OccaMan project in Gunma, Japan with Eva, Cherry, and several other semi-permanent and occasional volunteers. The project is a monthly outdoor queer bar event and since its start in May 2010 we have been quite popular thanks to our loyal regulars in the neighborhood and those who come from other places like Tokyo.

01-occaman-counter

In starting OccaMan, we hoped to create a space for local LGBTQ individuals to feel comfortable and enjoy food and drinks as well as for LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people alike to have an opportunity to get to know and learn from each other. We also sometimes provided informational resources about welfare, sexuality, single motherhood, etc. We have been saving all the revenues from each month so that when the amount is big enough, we can donate the money to local support organizations. Oh, we also did a free-soup-for-the-job-less campaign back in 2011. The same year, we invited persons with hearing impairments and their families for free meals. As you can see, I believe that what makes OccaMan special and different is that we are committed to equality and social justice.

02-occaman-logo

Now, Eva, Cherry, and I have the means to expand this integral part of OccaMan and put more of our beliefs into practice.

In June 2014, we will open a real bar. A real, physical existence that is permanent. It’s called Dining Bar FAT CATS.

03-fatcats-logo

FAT CATS is a bar with good and inexpensive food, authentic cocktails made by experienced bartender Eva, stage performances every now and then, and a nice and urban-ish atmosphere with a hint of community warmth. We want you to think of FAT CATS as a community space instead of just a regular bar. We want it to be a space where no one is assumed to be anything but everything, where pretending to be something that you aren’t is not expected or necessary, where people of all sexualities, genders, ethnicities, and bodily and mental variations can enjoy eating, drinking, and chatting without fear, and finally, where everyone takes an equal share amount of comfort and natural discomfort arising from communicating with others, instead of minority people feeling disproportionately more uncomfortable than their majority counterparts like they do everywhere else.

04-counter

The entrance and the unisex restroom will have boards to display information about healthcare, welfare, sexual violence, sexuality, gender identity, recent law changes, job opportunities, hotline numbers, relevant databases, queer and other events, single motherhood, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), HIV/AIDS, self harm, medical services, mental illnesses, queer deafness, immigrants’ and refugees’ rights, workers’ rights, sex work, etc. etc. We will also set up some kind of shelves in the restroom for flyers, tickets, welfare application forms, brochures, leaflets, etc. for customers to take home. We will also provide cotton swabs, sanitary napkins, and possibly condoms in the restroom (details are being discussed among the staff).

05-mindmap

The staff members are quite knowledgable about various topics. For example, Eva has a lot of previous job experience that makes her an expert in labor and insurance matters. Cherry is a wonderful patissier who knows what it takes to be a working single mother and what obstacles lie in the way. Omomi is an English-Japanese bilingual UChicago graduate school dropout who studied gender and sexuality in conjunction with racial and socioeconomic diversity. And all three of us are continuing to learn more about things that affect people’s lives significantly such as healthcare and public assistance, so that we can also provide information orally in conversations with customers. Although we cannot, nor are we legally allowed to, provide legal advice, if you have any life concern, we can walk you through basics so you can choose and decide what to do about it.

As for accessibility, we are remodeling the restroom so that it will be large enough for anyone with or without a wheelchair. The entrance will have a ramp and the floor will be entirely gapless except the kitchen and the performance stage. Should you need any help, the staff will be more than happy to assist you.

06-toilet

Meanwhile, the Bar OccaMan project will continue. All revenue from the project will be added to the accumulated savings for donation. OccaMan customers will also enjoy the privilege to try new courses and dishes before they make it to the FAT CATS menu.

07-occaman-tent

We are also planning a new project for next year. At some point in 2015, FAT CATS will begin to open on Sunday afternoons, not as a bar, but entirely as a community space with unlimited refills on any of the 200-300 yen beverages like iced tea, orange juice, coffee, etc. Our collection of resources will expand on Sundays and include books and other reference items (ones that cannot be taken outside). One order of any beverage and you can spend as much time as you need/want in the house until the closing time. We will also have WiFi available, and a couple of laptops or tablets so that people with no or little access to computers and the Internet can come and enjoy Facebooking, Skyping with family, or even practice using Microsoft Excel for their next job-hunting spree. If there’s a demand, the staff may be able to provide computer lessons and ESL classes on Sundays. We may also be able to hold free workshops, for example, for migrant workers on how to read pay statements, or for part-time workers on their rights. There are many possibilities.

FAT CATS / OccaMan has a multilingual website at http://barfatcats.com (or google “bar fat cats japan” and make sure you search all languages), a Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/barfatcats (or search for Dining Bar FAT CATS on Facebook), and Twitter @barfatcats (or search for barfatcats on Twitter). Subscribe, Like or Follow and let us keep you posted!

08-fatcats-logo

09-fatcats-logo2

Back to blogging

As I was increasingly sick and tired of the allegro call-out culture of Twitter (I quit my main jpnz account recently), I looked for a new platform. Tumblr, maybe? I thought. Then I remembered I had my own domain and hosting here. For a change, I picked a new design template and modified it a bit. Especially useful was Richard’s Modifying OpenGraph Data from WordPress’s Jetpack.

I’m hoping to blog as often as I used to, like in the pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook era.

Pass ENDA?

I found this animated GIF by glaad for the ENDA campaign.
noreason-not
I added a few more slides to show the larger picture of the way that labor laws operate in the U.S.
2013-11-07 12_46_58
To read more about this issue, click here to read Yasmin Nair’s “ENDA, We Hardly Know Ya.”

The Privilege To Say ‘I Don’t’

As I was going through the daily routine of browsing Facebook & Twitter, I found a NYT article, Gay Couples, Choosing to Say ‘I Don’t’, the title of which caught my eye, as I oppose the institution of marriage, and the like-minded people who shared the link in FB/TW seemed content with anti-marriage opinions circulating at last in the mainstream media. Excited, I read on, only to be disappointed, but in a way that was quite unexpected, by the elitist tone of the article.

Whose reality?

The article captures a variety of anti-marriage voices from lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals, most of which I agree with. Yes, the arguments made there are quite convincing and reality-based. But I wonder, whose reality are they based on, really?

The voices quoted in the article are coming from these people: restaurant owners (Brian Blatz and Dan Davis), an artist in New York (Sean Fader), a couple living in Brooklyn (Stephanie Schroeder and Lisa Haas), current and former university professors (Jack Halberstam & his partner, Catharine Stimpson, John D’Emilio, and Mary Bernstein), a retiree (Jim Oleson), a filmmaker (John Waters), a singer-songwriter (Erin McKeown), an East Villager (John Carroll), a New York Medical College student (Eric Routen), and two persons whose backgrounds aren’t disclosed to the reader.

Except the couple in Brooklyn and possibly the artists, the persons/couples quoted/mentioned in the article are mostly on the affluent side of the entire queer population. This socioeconomic bias is especially appalling when you think about the massive activist work that has been done by organizations like Queers for Economic Justice who have maintained close connections to the working-class and homeless people.

I don’t need it, but you may need it

What was most striking about the article for me is, I think, the lack of empathy, or some sort of attentiveness, expressed by the interviewees or the editor for those who do need to use the institution of marriage.

John D’Emilio “sees no need” to marry. Brian Blatz and Dan Davis “[see] little point in marrying.” Jack Halberstam doesn’t “feel the pressure to marry.” Mary Bernstein and Nancy Naples “see little tangible benefit in marrying.”

As someone who has witnessed marriages and divorces in the family, neighborhoods, and friend circles, I know for sure that people get married for various reasons and that there is so much risk-management going on in their minds. And for many people, there does exist a little need, benefit, or point in marrying, and it is a little more complicated than just “the need for external validation” that Mary Bernstein says people wishing to marry have.

The institution of marriage, in complicity with other social institutions such as border control, healthcare systems, social security, etc., is made so that it creates such need, benefit, and point in marrying. Marriage is a package product of the government-owned minority-targeted business in which the flaws and failures in other governmental systems are covered up and kept intact, preventing radical transformations in them and thus saving money.

In the article, Stephanie Schroeder says, “I don’t want to deny anybody the right to marriage,” but marriage is not, and has never been, a personal matter of choice. As opposed to Catharine Stimpson’s idea that “[h]aving the choice doesn’t meant [sic] you have to do it,” having the choice really makes you and almost everybody around you feel that you have to do it.

So basically, the more marginalized you are by the multitude of social institutions, the more point you see in marrying. In the institution of marriage, the most privileged are not married people or heterosexual people, but those who do not see much of either gain or loss from marrying or divorcing, and thus can choose or choose not to marry and divorce when they want to.

The interviewees having or seeing no need, benefit, point, or pressure to marry, therefore, is itself a privilege, the privilege to say “I don’t.” And what’s puzzling is that, these people seem like the kind of people who care about equality, liberation, and stuff like that, and yet they do not sound ashamed or humble at all about this privilege of theirs.

John Waters is quoted to say, “I always thought the privilege of being gay is that we don’t have to get married,” which sort of resonates with what I think about marriage to some degree. But instead of treasuring or protecting that privilege of not having to get married, we must extend that insight to an actual distribution of the privilege to those who do not have it.

Again, marriage is not an issue of personal choice. We must abolish marriage, or at least the form of marriage as we know it today, and by that I mean, abolish the entire social system that creates the need, benefit, and point so that marriage will have no meaning at all.

Queer Anti-Marriage Movement vs. LGBT Alternative Marriages

Another thing I noticed is that, not only are the voices in the article overlooking other realities, the realities of people who do or can marry, the overall tone of the article gave me the impression that the history of feminism is being simplified, and that the roles of women, feminist and married or divorced, in it are simply erased.

Mary Bernstein is quoted in the article to say

“For people in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a feeling that L.GB.T. [sic] people can do better than marriage, that relationships can be more egalitarian” when built around untraditional families

Is our queer anti-marriage movement based on the idea that non-LGBT people’s opposite-sex marriages are traditional and thus less egalitarian than that of LGBTs?

So many women, married or single, have fought for women’s rights, for both married and single women. We also know that many of the feminist efforts, including anti-marriage ones, that have existed have been made or joined by a huge number of married women.

If relationships built around untraditional families are going to be more egalitarian, and that is considered better than marriage, what does that make married couples? Are they fools who once felt “the need for external validation”? Were they so weak that they gave in to the social pressure? Or, are they just unlucky to have that bit of need, benefit, or point because they are marginalized in this society the way they are, unlike the people interviewed in the article?

No. Our movement must have at its core, along with our queer voices, the voices of heterosexual and bisexual individuals whose life has been, is, or can be greatly affected by the fact that they can choose to marry. And that means, we are looking to make a large-scale social transformation, the scope of which must include immigration, prison, poverty, sexism, disability, health, aging, taxes, labor, and many other things that affect our lives every day. And that is not just for queer people. Not just for single people. Not just for legal citizens. And not just for people waiting to say, “I don’t.”