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.”

New song! My anti-Olympics “Queers You Dare Not to Know”

Lyrics Video

Hangorin’s anti-Olympics statement is used in the video.
Hangorin. “WE CALL FROM TOKYO TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE OPPOSING THE 2020 OLYMPICS BID IN ISTANBUL AND MADRID.” June 2013. Retrieved on September 17, 2013. Available at http://hangorin.tumblr.com/post/52049285247/we-call-from-tokyo-to-the-people-who-are-opposing-the

Lyrics and Japanese translation

I don’t want no expensive games
(高くつくゲームなんて要らない)
You may be so rich you don’t care
(金持ちのあんたにはどうでもいいことかもしれないけど)
Go clean the streets, get rid of the reality
(ストリートをキレイにして、現実を排除すればいい)
rid of those you dare not to know
(あなたが知ろうともしない人々を排除すればいい)

You like to invite but forget to provide
(あんたは招待するのが好きだけど、人に与えることは忘れる)
Last thing we need is the games to play
(プレイするゲームなんて、いま一番要らないものだ)
Wiping that sidewalk won’t make you a hero
(その歩道の拭き掃除をしても、あんたは英雄にはならない)
It only proves that you are an idiot
(馬鹿者だということを証明するだけだ)

Find me, sure you can
(わたしを見つけてごらん 見つかるから)
We are everywhere
(わたしたちはどこにでもいるし)
And we all hate you
(わたしたちはみんなあんたが嫌い)
Promise it won’t be hard
(きっと簡単に見つかるって約束する)

I don’t want no expensive games
(高くつくゲームなんて要らない)
You may be so rich you don’t care
(金持ちのあんたにはどうでもいいことかもしれないけど)
Go clean the streets, get rid of the reality
(ストリートをキレイにして、現実を排除すればいい)
rid of those you dare not to know
(あなたが知ろうともしない人々を排除すればいい)
Don’t tell me you thought we liked you
(わたしたちがあんたのことを好きだと思ってたなんて言わないで)
What did you expect? We are queer
(なにを期待してたの? わたしたちはクィア)
’cause we hate anyone that treats us like shit
(だって、わたしたちをクソみたいに扱うやつは誰だって嫌い)
and by “us”, we mean anyone queer
(そして「わたしたち」ってのは、クィアなすべての人のこと)

You’ve got the audacity to “grant” us human rights
(私たちに人権を「認めます」って、何様かと)
Thank you sir, you can go now, fuck yourself
(どうも本当にありがとうございます さぁ今すぐ消えてください)
Did you know the players are boycotting Russia?
(プレイヤーがロシアをボイコットしてるの知ってる?)
I’m just a little person but I’m boycotting
(わたしなんてちっぽけな存在だけど 私はボイコットする)

Tokyo
(東京を)
How dare you?
(よくもまあぬけぬけと)
Don’t you hide the true you
(本当の自分を隠すんじゃないよ)
or hide us from them
(彼らからわたしたちを隠すんじゃないよ)
so you look better
(自分がいいかっこしたいからって)

I don’t want no expensive games
(高くつくゲームなんて要らない)
You may be so rich you don’t care
(金持ちのあんたにはどうでもいいことかもしれないけど)
Go clean the streets, get rid of the reality
(ストリートをキレイにして、現実を排除すればいい)
rid of those you dare not to know
(あなたが知ろうともしない人々を排除すればいい )
Don’t tell me you thought we liked you
(わたしたちがあんたのことを好きだと思ってたなんて言わないで)
What did you expect? We are queer
(なにを期待してたの? わたしたちはクィア)
’cause we hate anyone that treats us like shit
(だって、わたしたちをクソみたいに扱うやつは誰だって嫌い)
and by “us”, we mean anyone queer
(そして「わたしたち」ってのは、クィアなすべての人のこと)

I don’t want no expensive games
(高くつくゲームなんて要らない)
You may be so rich you don’t care
(金持ちのあんたにはどうでもいいことかもしれないけど)
Go clean the streets, get rid of the reality
(ストリートをキレイにして、現実を排除すればいい)
rid of those you dare not to know
(あなたが知ろうともしない人々を排除すればいい )
Don’t tell me you thought we liked you
(わたしたちがあんたのことを好きだと思ってたなんて言わないで)
What did you expect? We are queer
(なにを期待してたの? わたしたちはクィア)
’cause we hate anyone that treats us like shit
(だって、わたしたちをクソみたいに扱うやつは誰だって嫌い)
and by “us”, we mean anyone queer
(そして「わたしたち」ってのは、クィアなすべての人のこと)

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

Original song “Proud Drag” Uploaded!

This is the 3rd queer-themed song that I’ve created and uploaded online, the 1st being “High Heels 6.5″ and 2nd “I Am Nobody”.

I’ve been trying to learn how to use EQs and compressors properly and I think I did my current best in this one. I know there’s a lot more to learn, but I’m eager to make more music and have more experience so that I can be a better musician/composer.

Anyways, here’s the track. It’s sung entirely in Japanese but I’ve attached a rough English translation after the jump (or, cut? I remember using the term ‘cut’ back in the LJ days, but maybe that was specific to LJ). I hope you enjoy!

Video

Photo By Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany (ws’08 (21)) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lyrics and translation

私たちの世界は ろくに何も変わらずに
Our world keeps spinning around, not so much changes
歴史を忘れるため ただ回り続けてるだけ
keeps spinning, so that we can forget our history
情報に振り回され 私たちは簡単に
The media manipulate us, and we easily
仮想敵を叩いて すぐまた忘れてく
attack imaginary enemies, and keep spinning, forgetting

物知り顔のオヤジたち 「事実を羅列しただけです」と
Self-identified male experts, grinning like they know better
悪びれるそぶりも見せずに 得意顔
they think they have the right to say whatever they want as long as it’s a fact
「ギョウザは中国産でした」 「容疑者は韓国人です」と
like “oh those dumplings were imported from China,” and “the suspect is Korean”
日本人は棚に上がって 上から目線で裁く
as if the Japanese never did such things

私たちの世界は ろくに何も変わらずに
Our world keeps spinning around, not so much changes
歴史を忘れるため ただ回り続けてるだけ
keeps spinning, so that we can forget our history
情報に振り回され 私たちは簡単に
The media manipulate us, and we easily
仮想敵を叩いて すぐまた忘れてく
attack imaginary enemies, and keep spinning, forgetting

「戦場には必要だった」 「米軍は風俗を使え」と
When you say “they were necessary in the battlefield,” and “US soldiers should use local prostitutes more”
女を男の道具かのように言って
as if women were tools men could utilize and control,
同性婚を支持しますと言われても あたしゃ許さないよ
your support for gay marriage just doesn’t make you forgivable
「ババア」と「かわいそうなホモ」と「三国人」は ここにい続ける
And the ‘Babaa,’ ‘pififul homos,’ and ‘sangokujin’ will always be here

私たちの世界は ろくに何も変わらずに
Our world keeps spinning around, not so much changes
歴史を忘れるため ただ回り続けてるだけ
keeps spinning, so that we can forget our history
仲良く出来るのなら とっくに仲良くしてた
They say it’s our turn to be friendly to them, but we would have done that long ago if we could have
許せないことがある そのくらい わかるでしょ
There are things that just are not forgivable, and you should know that

面倒な やつと 思われ続けて
Some things are only attainable by being trouble to the majority
手にする明日がある
by being a drag, a proud drag

私たちの世界は ろくに何も変わらずに
Our world keeps spinning around, not so much changes
歴史を忘れるため ただ回り続けてるだけ
keeps spinning, so that we can forget our history
敵は一人じゃないし 一握りの人でもない
Our enemy is not just one person, or a handful of people
やつらを許してきた 私たちが敵なんだ
The real enemy is ourselves who have tolerated such douchebags

Original song “I Am Nobody” Second Version (Japanese)

Video

Translation

Locked myself in, alone in the closet
Eyes full of fear, just waiting for the right time
“It Gets Better,” say those who have come before me
Magazines, TV shows, they all said the same thing

Thinking and dreaming of leaving this town behind someday
Not knowing I couldn’t get everything I wanted, I hated and hurt people

Last month, this month, not a single thing changes, just the routine
My work clothes got stains and all that, but just not rainbow, no matter how hard I try
Can’t leave alone, can’t leave people alone here
Can’t just put such feelings of mine aside, I finally see that

Using ‘love’ as a rhetoric, they’re trying to change the world
Using ‘tolerance’ as a rhetoric, they blame someone else for their wrongdoings
Nonetheless, proudly, they are flapping the 6-colored flag around
Their faces, full of glitter, so self-confident they find it easy to look away

It’s not that I truly believed what they say
But it was all I could find, the only thing that could seem slightly better than anything else

Last month, this month, not a single thing changes, just the routine
My work clothes got stains and all that, but just not rainbow, no matter how hard I try
People say, ‘be who you are’ but
Everyone knows that I’m nobody
One more successful queer means another excuse going away

This month, next month, not a single thing changes, just the routine
My work clothes just keep getting stained and sweaty
That doesn’t mean I’m fine with the status quo, with nothing changing
It just means that now I know, for sure, that I’m the one who decides how I change the world