Gimme A Queer Eye If You Have Two

a queer & feminist critic / writer / vlogger / speaker / barowner

Gimme A Queer Eye If You Have Two

Queer Theory as a Critique of Society: the Closet and Gay Marriage

A guest lecture at Aoyama Gakuin University

On Thursday, December 14, I went to the Shibuya campus of Aoyama Gakuin University to give a guest lecture in a gender & law class (taught in English).

It was a big class, consisting of approx. 140 students, mostly beginners-level ESL speakers. That made giving the lecture quite a challenge for me since I’d have to speak a bit slowly, make sure everyone knew the words and followed the content of the lecture.

That, in hindsight, was quite an educational experience for me. By keeping things simple and slow, I was able to create a much more relaxed atmosphere than in any of my past lectures. Pauses here and there seemed to give the students the time to process the words I was saying, contrary to my baseless presumption that the more words the easier for them to understand. This made me think twice about my QueerESL videos and vlogs where I am trying to be “edutaining” (educating and entertaining) when that may not always be necessary.

Since I made a handout for the lecture and an outline for myself, I thought I might as well share my lecture here off of them. So, without further due, let’s get to it. (Note that during the lecture I paused several times to explain terms in Japanese and that’s not included below.)


There is a field called Queer Theory. It is a perspective with which you analyze things like literature, film, and social phenomena. We have Race Theory, Disability Theory, Feminist Theory, etc. giving us a variety of perspectives other than the dominant perspective that’s White, middle-class, disablist, male-centric, etc. and Queer Theory is one of them. And I’d like to introduce you to it today.

Please raise your hand if you have never met anyone lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer——thank you. Well, from now on, you can all say you’ve met one because I am bisexual. Also, my guess is, you also have probably met someone before who is or might be queer. They just haven’t told you yet. They are in the closet, we say in English.

The closet

Now, why do some people stay in the closet? Why do others come out of the closet? People stay in the closet because they are afraid that people around them might react negatively. People come out of the closet because they are hoping that people around them might react positively.

But in both cases, it’s the society’s homophobia and transphobia that’s making us queers choose whether to stay in or come out of the closet.

Now the question is, whose closet is it anyway? I’m here just being myself but the society assumes that I’m heterosexual and cisgender. The society is the one that’s built the closet around me, around all queer people. We never built it. The society did. The closet seems to function as protection from oppression, but we must understand it as oppression in and of itself. The closet is a form of oppression.

We often say it’s okay to be closeted when the circumstances don’t allow otherwise, as if it were up to each queer person and they had the choice. But staying in the closet or coming out of it isn’t a choice at all.

When we talk about LGBTQ rights and politics, we often think about them as a call for choice and freedom. While it’s important to demand rights and gain respect for our dignity, Queer Theory tries to go deeper, even questioning the very ideas of choice and freedom. What social structures make that choice possible? On what assumptions is that freedom based? Those are the kind of questions that Queer Theory asks.

Gay marriage

Let’s discuss gay marriage to see how Queer Theory might go deeper in analysis, beyond superficial praise of the new legal right.

First, is gay marriage a good thing? Many people think and say it is. It gives us so many benefits, right? But let’s pause and ask ourselves again, is marriage a good thing in the first place?

There are so many benefits when you get married: visa sponsorship, hospital visitation rights, the right to medical decision-making for your partner, inheritance, child custody, financial security, healthcare, pension, etc. Gay marriage advocates often mention them.

But the filp side of good things about marriage is exactly bad things about being single. Why can single people not enjoy those benefits? One of the regrets that many queer people have from the AIDS era is that they were often not allowed to visit their friends in hospital rooms——not just partners, but friends. For many queers back then, the traditional family was not exactly understanding or accepting. For them, their queer friends were often just as important, if not more so, as their families. People sometimes have friendships that are stronger than romantic relationships or family ties. The advocates of gay marriage, however, seem to have forgotten the importance of friendship and what it means for queers, but have instead favored and embraced the traditional family values.

The fact that you can only access the benefits through marriage indicates that there are flaws in other social institutions such as the immigration system, medical guidelines, family laws, welfare and social security, which all favor married couples over unmarried couples and individuals. Advocates of gay marriage argue that the fix to those flaws is marriage, that benefits afforded through marriage alleviate, if not eliminate, the problems people may face because of the flaws.

What that ultimately means is that the more problems you face in other social institutions (i.e. the more marginalized you already are), the more attractive marriage becomes for you.

Marriage, in a sense, is a first-aid kit. It has bandage, anti-infectant, painkillers etc. but it’s not surgery. It’s not a cure, it just helps a bit. On the other hand, fixing the flaws in all social systems is like surgery. That costs the government significantly more money and efforts. You see, the government is saving money by having the institution of marriage in place.

What’s really happening here is transfer of government responsibilities to people’s private, family life, giving the family the burdens of child care, elderly care, care for people with disabilities, financial support, etc.——things that should be afforded through the welfare state that most nations claim to be.

Marriage is a diversion——don’t look at those problems, just get married and you’ll be fine. Now, what does that make gay marriage? Gay marriage is a diversion even one step further.

Now, to make matters even worse, not all marriages are happy, and you may not get all the benefits anyway. First of all, we have big issues, within the family, of domestic violence and child abuse, be it physical, mental, financial, or sexual. Financially, your partner may lose their job, you may lose yours, you may be working for a bad company that doesn’t give social insurance to its employees, or your partner may even have debts you know nothing about, which you will nonetheless inherit just like you would inherit their assets.

Another thing to note is that the benefits of marriage are potential disadvantages in the case of divorce. Your partner may threaten to divorce you and take your visa away. I know of a woman who was unable to leave her violent husband for a long time because she was on a spousal visa. Your partner may also say things like, “you cannot possibly leave me and live on your own. You have been a housewife for years.”

See, marriage is a bad promise. It’s fraud that the government uses to deflect people’s attention from all the problems in other social institutions. Instead of trying to make gay marriage happen, therefore, we need to fix the problems in the entire systems, so that the benefits of marriage as of today will be afforded, not through marriage, but directly through each of the other systems.

That is just my opinion. Now that you’ve learned the perspective of Queer Theory, you can reach your own. That’s the end of my lecture today. Thank you.


Below is the handout provided to the class. (Everything is written in full sentence, as advised by the host lecturer, to provide a recourse for students who have difficulty understanding spoken English.)


(This post was originally published on my Medium site.)

LGBTQ politics in Japan, gay marriage, and sex education

I was interviewed by a student in the UK and here are excerpts from my answers.

On recent changes in Japan regarding LGBTQ politics

First and foremost, the acronym LGBT has gotten currency in mainstream media. Many people now know what it means or at least have heard of it and have a vague idea of what it is. The downside to it is that the LGBT politics usually gets reduced to either an economic concept to identify a newly found market. or interpersonal mannerism that gives rise to shallow allyship. Second, Twitter has become widely popular in Japan especially among young people who want to stay anonymous, which means many queer people can talk about their sexualities and gender identities on Twitter. Especially these two years, as far as I know, there has been a surge of queer Twitter users who voice their opinions and share their experiences and feelings, not just activists or activisty folks but also ordinary queer people, giving diversity to the online queer community. Third, and this is a bit dangerous to the advancement of the LGBT politics but, conservative, neoliberal politicians are starting to make alliances with LGBT organizations and startup businesses. The force to co-opt queer causes by the right wing is creating a political fissure among queer communities.

On gay marriage

I strongly believe that marriage as a social institution is a diversion from all the flaws in other institutions such as the immigration system, medical guidelines, family laws, welfare/social security, etc. We have so many problems in those systems because they are made so that one is more likely to suffer from their flaws if they’re single. Instead of fixing those problems, which would cost a lot more money, the government has the institution of marriage in place, like a first-aid kit, or a band-aid. So basically, the more marginalized you are, the more attractive marriage becomes for you. Advocates of gay marriage and gay partnership recognition say that gay people should get the same benefits of marriage, but we must fight for those benefits so they go to all people, gay or straight, married or unmarried. Right now, the most privileged are not straight people. It’s those who don’t need to get married but can choose to, who don’t need to get divorced but can choose to. We need to demand changes in the systems other than marriage, so that the benefits of marriage as of today will be provided through those systems instead of through marriage, and that marriage now will have no meaning whatsoever, making it only a symbolic union of persons. Only then can we say we have achieved marriage equality.

On sex education and the lack of mention of LGBTQ

A government official earlier this year, or last year, publicly stated that the national curriculum should not include information about LGBT people because people were not educated enough. That doesn’t make any sense, because people not being educated enough about LGBT issues is exactly reason why they should be educated through school curricula. But for the Abe administration, not educating is the answer. I’m sure there are individual teachers and school nurses who independently create ways of teaching students about human sexual and gender diversity, but it will be years until we finally see anything LGBT-related in Japanese school curricula. One concern, on a side note, is that many non-profits and queer startups and entrepreneurs are dying to make money off of education through lectures, seminars, workshops, teaching materials, textbooks, and many other products. I will be very concerned, when LGBT issues go into the national curricula, that children might be taught an assimilationist view of LGBT politics, a scientifically-unproven statement (e.g. gay people were born that way), or any other misleading, dishonest, and/or state-favoring messages.

(This post was originally published on my Medium site.)

Related content

[Interview] Masaki C. Matsumoto, queer and feminist activist

Read before you write about LGBT politics in Japan

The Privilege To Say ‘I Don’t’

The Monologue of Shizuka Minamoto

An unofficial feminist sequel to Doraemon: Part 1

Well, it doesn’t bother me much any longer now, but when the series began, I felt a massive amount of fury deep inside and it rose from the bottom of my stomach up my heart and throat. I had never expected my name to be used that way. I had heard a rumor that Takeshi-san would write manga about his childhood, but the way he described our childhood memories gave me quite a shock. I immediately contacted Nobita-san and Suneo-san. Nobita-san sounded nothing but confused and at a loss. Suneo-san seemed to be trying very hard to suppress his anger toward Takeshi-san who hadn’t responded to his calls. I was just as sad and angry. Not knowing what else to do, I tried to call Takeshi-san, but to no avail.

A year passed by and I was hard hit by the news about Suneo-san’s death. He had killed himself. By that time, I was already single, and without a child, so all I had had to endure was rumors and gossips going around in the neighborhood and some residents of the condominium I lived in occasionally bringing them up in casual hallway chats with me. Attempted extraction in disguise of genuine concern. But that’s nothing compared to Suneo-san. He had a family. He was an office worker. I heard some of the stuff that he had gone through at work. Shortly after, his wife and kids changed their last name to her maiden name and moved somewhere in Tohoku, or so I heard.

Now it’s been thirty years. With Nobita-san gone now, his mother Tamako-san and Takeshi-san’s sister Christine Goda-san are the only people I still keep in touch with. After all, women are strong, aren’t they? Or, maybe we women are just used to being taken our names away and written about in unconvincing stories. Well, except Kanae-chan, I guess, who as a kid used to hang out with the boys just like I did yet never made a single appearance in Doraemon. About 20 years ago I heard that she’d moved to Shikoku where her relatives lived, but I’m not sure if that’s true anyway.

Kanae-chan never got to know what it feels like to be distorted and transformed into a character, a role that sits well in a storyline. I, on the other hand, never get to know what it feels to be erased from the past, not portrayed at all. But one thing is certain. Either she or I needed to be erased. The tragedy that would fall on us immediately following the days described in Doraemon was too complicated, too cruel. There is no doubt that’s why Takeshi-san didn’t want two women in his stories, especially Kanae-chan, who was in a sexual relationship with the old man whom we called Doraemon.

As soon as we started junior high school, Kanae-chan was pregnant. I only knew so much about childbirth and violence——I naturally thought the baby was Doraemon’s. Looking back now, it might have been Takeshi-san’s. Come to think of it, when helpless Kanae-chan talked to us, Takeshi-san was the most eager to offer help. You may think that I’m committing the same crime as Takeshi-san’s through all this speculating, but since Takeshi-san’s no longer, please bear with me and let me continue. You can call it my version of Doraemon. So we gathered at the empty lot at deep night——yes, the one you all remember from the manga——to discuss what to do with the baby. All we came up with was, however, a pile of irresponsible advice like “you should talk to your parents” and “why don’t you keep the baby?” Then from Takeshi-san came one realistic idea: to beat her in the stomach very hard over and over till the baby dies. Very primitive, but with Kanae-chan doing nothing but cry in front of us, no one had a better idea.

It all happened in those Pipes. Remember the Pipes? The ones sitting in the middle of the empty lot? Well, the place wasn’t as beautiful and idyllic as the manga made it out to be. In reality, it was full of overgrown weeds and had an uncanny wooden storage house in the back left corner, whose roof, walls, and windows were all wrecked. It housed five or six pipes, leaving no room for the other two lying on the ground just beside it. The pipes were actually bigger than you see in the manga, big enough for a child like us to enter just by crouching a bit. In the beginning, we all watched from outside Takeshi-san kicking Kanae-chan in the stomach in one of the two Pipes laid on the ground. I was the first to give up, went inside the other Pipe, shaking and cowering. Suneo-san and Nobita-san followed suit. The sounds of violence, low and thick, mixed with tightly suppressed shrieks of Kanae-chan every now and then, would stay in my ears for years to come.

Most readers and viewers of Doraemon probably think that what Takeshi-san did was typical of him, who they know as Gian, the violent, selfish kid with a bad temper. To tell the truth, Takeshi-san was always the quiet kind. He always cared about what other people thought, never expressed his opinions unless asked, and just simply never spoke very much. Suneo-san, on the other hand, had a relatively large body and quite a low voice for a boy his age, and while not living up to the same level, gave a similar impression to that of Gian’s. Nobita-san was kind of in his own world all the time, didn’t care much about what people thought about him, never letting anyone tell him what to do. Shizuka-chan, well that’s me, was quite far from the girl depicted in Doraemon. I was chubby, had slanted eyes, and always wore work pants instead of a skirt. I would always get in a fight with Suneo-san and go home with cuts and bruises, my mother used to tell me in her late years. The only resemblance to the character that I can recall about myself is that I had pigtails.

Now you can see how horrifying it must have been for us to watch Takeshi-san turning so violent in that Pipe that we couldn’t face it. I guess we were not afraid of the violence itself played out in the Pipe, but of the fact that Takeshi-san was capable of such violence. The sounds halted. It felt like forever but couldn’t have been longer than twenty minutes. Instead of the sound of flesh hitting flesh, we were suddenly left with the panting and grunting, the former being of Takeshi-san’s, and the latter Kanae-chan’s. We scarily peeped inside the Pipe, and saw Kanae-chan soaked in blood in the lower body, and Takeshi-san fallen on top of her upper body. Then it happened. It was so quick I couldn’t remember. I almost instinctively jumped at Takeshi-san’s back. Next thing I knew, I had been punching and elbowing the back of his head over and over, grabbing his hair and banging his head against the pipe wall. I knew the baby was Doraemon’s, or so I thought, and I was only mad at the old man. But I was terrified of Takeshi-san’s action, and all I could think was that I had to finish him while he was tired from hurting Kanae-chan for the past twenty minutes. I don’t know why. I just felt that I had to.

It went on for about five minutes, then I was calm suddenly. I had already been dragged out of the Pipe by Suneo-san, his hands tightly grabbing my both arms. As the dark air lit only by the fluorescent streetlight gradually grew deep blue, we knew the night was over. We stood up, in no significant order, and started cleaning up. Kanae-chan was at the water faucet washing her body and blood-soaked skirt and underwear. Takeshi-san, as if he had known all along what was going to happen, took out towels to clean the Pipe. Nobita-san was splashing water into the Pipe using the bucket he had found in the storage. Suneo-san was sitting next to me on the other Pipe, staring at the stars in the starless sky above us. I jumped and started off onto the street. Suneo-san followed me, until he realized I would keep walking regardless. In the corner of my eye I saw him go back to the Pipes.

That morning was the beginning of our silence. We would never spoke again. We certainly had at least two questions about the previous night. Why did Takeshi-san, the quiet boy, become so violent in the face of Kanae-chan’s pregnancy? And why did I, Shizuka-chan, suddenly jump at him who only had completed the task that we had already agreed to assign him? But, those mysteries were to remain, we decided unanimously, without words. A few days later, Doraemon died. Of a heart attack. Tamako-san found his dead body. At least, that’s what everyone decided to think is what happened.

Just one mistake, and we were suddenly children of destined violence and death. Or maybe it was not just one mistake. Perhaps the chain of violence and death, one ofter another, passed on through all human history, branched out and caught us somehow. I think Kanae-chan is everywhere, in the past, in the present, and in the future. In the bodies that are hurt, by gender, violence, and oblivion. I, on the other hand, was assigned a role in a pre-determined story that is Doraemon, as a girl who did not express anger or respond to violence by violence, who could not possibly done such a thing. But in the end, women are strong, aren’t they? We still are alive. Petty existences we may be, but we live. We live, trying to avoid the attacks of injustice that come our way from every direction, or even sometimes letting them reach our bodies and hurt us. On the other hand, Nobita-san will not be released while alive. Suneo-san is already gone. Takeshi-san was killed at his own apartment by someone who jumped out of his sister’s room that was supposed to be empty at that time.

Takeshi-san selfishly created a story to conceal our untouchable past. He probably wanted to rewrite our past to comfort himself with something more innocent, something we can finally call childhood. But by doing so, he removed the adhesive bandage off the secret wound and broke the promise that we all had silently agreed on not to lick the wound or rub salt in it but leave it as is. A past is multiple, and we should never pick one. A past is always a mystery, intangible and never reachable. That is exactly why we were able to live after what happened. Doraemon, to us, was a shadow. It was the shadow of the secret wound that we were so close to forgetting, that almost was a blur by now. Presented Doraemon before us, we were instantly drawn to negative theology——what truths are not written in Doraemon?——a question we had never dared to ask, but now desired an answer to very badly.

My eyes are not slanted. I’ve never been even close to being chubby my entire life. My parents bought me my first skirt at 3rd Grade and I was so happy I wore it to school every single day. But, I just so hated Shizuka-chan in Doraemon. She and I were so alike. Takeshi-san depicted me with near perfect accuracy. There are more to her, of course, outside the panels on the pages and the celluloids. But what you have all seen in the manga and anime is pretty much true. That’s why I cannot possibly forgive Takeshi-san. And that’s why I am speaking up now, after all these years. Not everything I said earlier today was a lie. Kanae-chan was real. Doraemon was an old man. I killed him.

Summer was over and school started, and I was wearing my very first skirt to school every day. The old man spoke to me on the street one day. He lived in Nobita-san’s house, but it was unclear, and still is unknown to date, what kind of relations he had with the family. But I assumed he was Nobita-san’s grandfather and followed him to the family’s house and into his room——or should I say, his closet. After six months of our “play” in the closet day after day after school, he suddenly stopped showing up on my way home from school. I found it strange and snuck into Nobita-san’s house from the back door to find out what was going on. Upstairs, Kanae-chan and the old man, was what was going on, in the same closet where he and I had been going on. I took a few steps back in shock, turned around quickly, ran downstairs and out the back door and more. That was it. The old man and I never spoke again.

That may sound like I was angry at the old man because I was jealous, or because I wanted to have him to myself but couldn’t. That is not true. For one, it astounded me that my existence, or more precisely my body parts, my crotch and breasts, were interchangeable with that of Kanae-chan’s. Another revelation was that, precisely because her body and mine were interchangeable, I suddenly experienced a feeling of my body becoming one with hers, existing in the same coordinates of the universe, a feeling of identification, where my pleasure was hers and hers mine. That totally changed the way I saw her. If my body and hers were identical, I thought, my body was hers, and hers mine.

So, when the old man was touching her body as he pleased, and when Takeshi-san was hurting her body in the Pipe, I was being violated, too. My body. My breasts. My sex organs. My womb. Those were the things I had to protect. Now I realize how arrogant I was. Kanae-chan’s body is hers and hers only. But I could not stop seeing it as one that I should protect. That was all I could think of. That was my desire. It’s the kind of desire that Doraemon never tells. It was my secret desire. It is far different from the wishes and hopes that Shizuka-chan should and could have had. Didn’t it, however, once explode, when I kept hitting Takeshi-san? Didn’t everyone, however, see that?

Like I said earlier, it was either Kanae-chan or me who would have been erased anyway. Why was it Kanae-chan, then? Well, that’s perhaps not because she was sexually assaulted by the old man or experienced unwanted pregnancy and had to terminate it. It was because she represented my desire. What was erased is not just her, but my desire. A woman nowadays is not erased from a story just because she is desired, abused, impregnated, forced to terminate pregnancy, or in other words, deprived of control over her own body. Easily erased is a woman who desires, a woman who abuses, a woman who impregnates, and a woman who forces another to abort. Doraemonerased my desire, my violence, and my possession of Kanae-chan’s body, by erasing Kanae-chan altogether.

(This post was first published on my Medium site.)

If You’re Not To Marry, Everyone Else Makes Sure You Want To Die

For those in the progressive circles who’ve always seen the radical queer left and their anti-(gay)marriage politics as mere hindrance, or even a pain in the ass, the news of gay marriage legislations (possibly) lowering LGB suicide rates among the youth probably comes as a belated surprise Valentine’s Day gift. Now that gay marriage has proven to deliver real benefits to not just upper- and middle-class working-age gay elites but also young lesbian, gay, and bisexual folks in general, we can finally say that gay marriage was the right cause, that it was just as good a priority as it had been proclaimed and advertised, right? No?

Well, I’m not gonna lie. I am very happy that more queer youth are finding life less painful, that they can now imagine a better future for themselves, so much so that the thought of killing themselves doesn’t occupy as large a portion in their mind everyday as it did before. What a wonderful outcome. There’s no doubt about that.

It hurt me, however, to see this news and have to digest the obvious fact that nothing really has changed. Yes, gay marriage and its campaigns have probably lowered queer suicide rates. Yes, laws can be powerful like that. But isn’t it also true that we still live in a society where being unlikely/unable to marry equals being second-class citizen? What the lowered suicide rates really demonstrate is that our culture is such that if you are not to marry, everyone else makes sure you want to die. And that culture lives on.

Same-sex partners may have now joined the likely-to-marry clique, where most heterosexual folks have celebrated, affirmed, and justified each other and never questioned their values. Welcome to the club. You’ll stick around, because you can now legally marry but you’re no legally blonde.

Elle, protagonist, saying "Oh, OK. I'll just leave, then" while smiling awkwardly, after being rejected by her classmates at a study group session.

A scene from Legally Blonde (movie). Captured from YouTube

My Interview on Feminism, Queer Activism, and Representation in Japanese Pop Culture Is Now Online at AniFem

Amelia Cook, Editor-in-chief at Anime Feminist, contacted me after I posted this video on YouTube.

Amelia said she wanted to interview me for the AniFem website, and I agreed, part of the reason being it’s a new website and yet they promise to pay all writers starting 2017. That should not be a big deal, but it kinda is when so many writers around the world are underpaid or not paid at all. That, and I just liked the idea of creating a sort of like an online hub where you can find lots of queer and feminist information, resources, critiques etc. about otaku cultures.

You can read the entire interview here:
[Interview] Masaki C. Matsumoto, queer and feminist activist

News: “Same-sex partner code proposition: Shibuya ward’s “human rights” double-standard?”

Translated by Masaki C.

Same-sex partner code proposition: Shibuya ward’s “human rights” double-standard?

Different stances on sexual & gender minority and the homeless

In March, the Shibuya ward council will submit the bill that if passed would allow the local government to issue partnership certificates to same-sex couples who would then be recognized as having a relationship equivalent to a married couple. There is no doubt this ordinance is of an exceptional value in that it will protect the human rights of gender and sexual minority (LGBT) individuals; however, it is also important to note that the ward has been kicking the homeless out of its public parks. Such a contradiction that seems to many to be a human rights double-standard is causing confusion among some LGBT individuals. (Author: Chiaki Sawada)

LGBT is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. There is no legal recognition for same-sex couples in Japan, and same-sex couples, who thus do not belong to the same koseki, the family registry, face disadvantages in finding an apartment and attempting a hospital visit to their partner. The proposed bill would allow issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples and seeking cooperation from citizens and local businesses.

While I feel tempted to praise the ward’s great awareness of human rights, the question arises as to how the ward has been treating the homeless people in its jurisdiction. In 2010, when NIKE Japan, the big sports-goods manufacturer who had obtained the naming rights for the ward’s public park formerly known as Miyashita Park located near JR Shibuya Station, embarked on its renovation plans for the park, the ward government forcibly removed the tents that were inhibited by homeless people. In 2011, it restricted access to the park during the night and locked the gates around the New Year season, interrupting the soup runs provided by support groups.

We still see many homeless individuals around the park today. One 52-years-old man says, “they’re kind to lesbian and gay people, all the while sweeping bad-looking people like me under the rug or even downright excluding us. Why can’t they even ignore-tolerate (translator’s note: the exact word in Japanese is “mokunin” lit.trans. as “silent approval”) our use of the park during the night and soup runs?”

Daisuke Kuroiwa of the support group Nojiren (Shibuya Free Association for the Right to Housing and Well-being of the HOMELESS) says in anger, “we have so many dreadful experiences with the local government. The ward and the members of the council are supposed to take equal care of the social disadvantaged. But they are biased and I can’t help questioning their sense of equality.”

A question by a council member Ken Hasebe at the June council meeting in 2012 became the catalyst for the partnership bill. Hasebe worked as the mediator for NIKE Japan and the ward and played quite a part in the park’s renovation project. Interviewed by Kochira-tokuho-bu (a team within the Tokyo Shimbun), the council member responded, “exclusion of homeless people is not what I want. The ward has provided public assistance and self-support programs, but unfortunately things remain as far apart (translator’s note: the exact word is Japanese is “heikousen” lit.trans. as “parallel lines” and the sentence is missing a subject, making itself ambiguous and the translation may not be accurate). I am suggesting that the ward staff try seeing things through homeless people’s eyes. I’m trying to get Shibuya diversified but having many homeless people around is not a good thing. I will demand the ward enhance its support systems.”

Izumi Yonezawa, a transgender individual, on the other hand responds to the diversification plans of Shibuya, saying, quite skeptically, “to be tolerant of no discrimination is to understand that we are all equal human brings who live in all sorts of different circumstances. Protecting the rights of gender and sexual minority people and saving the lives of the homeless are of equal nature, but perhaps Shibuya ward thinks otherwise. I can’t help but suspect that they may be using gender and sexual minority people for public relations purposes.”

Yuki Tsuchiya, a lesbian activist, sharply criticizes the ward, saying, “I do not feel comfortable when the government shuts out homeless people from Miyashita Park while proposing human rights bills like this. I am suspecting that, rather than as a human rights issue, the LGBT population was discovered as a fashionable trend coming from the West that provided utility value for the staging of Shibuya as the “it” city.”

Former Toshima ward council member Taiga Ishikawa, the first openly gay officeholder in Japan, appreciates the initiative taken by Shibuya ward. “They are there for LGBT people, listening carefully to what they have to say. They did not make the proposition for the sake of fashion,” says Ishikawa. He continues, “I hope that Shibuya is going to be kind to all sorts of minority populations. If they understand the LGBT issues and not homeless issues, it is saddening and disappointing.”

*Text hand-copied from the photo uploaded by @tomiyukix.

Translator’s comment

While I agree with the author in most parts of the article, there are some nitpicking that I have to do.

1. Regarding the expression, “of an exceptional value in that it will protect the human rights of gender and sexual minority (LGBT) individuals”: First of all, the ordinance will mean nothing to most transgender people, and second of all, for LGB individuals, too, the ordinance will not guarantee their human rights at all. So, all in all, it is not “of an exceptional value in that it will protect the human rights of gender and sexual minority (LGBT) individuals” when it’s only beneficial to a small fraction of LGBTQs.

2. Regarding Taiga Ishikawa mentioned as “the first openly gay officeholder in Japan”: When Ishikawa was elected, another gay man was elected, too. His name is Wataru Ishizaka, and I wonder why Ishikawa always gets a lot of media exposure as the gay pioneer politician while Ishizaka doesn’t. Also, if we stick to the English sense of the word “gay” as referring to both female and male homosexuals, then Kanako Otsuji of Osaka was the first openly gay officeholder in Japan.

3. It is not clear why Taiga is so positive that Shibuya ward “did not make the proposition for the sake of fashion.”

同性パートナー条例案 渋谷区『人権』使い分け?

性的少数者 対応に違い 野宿者

 東京都渋谷区は同性カップルに「結婚に相当する関係(パートナーシップ)」と認める証明書を発行する条例案を三月議会に提案する。性的少数者(LGBT)の人権を保障する画期的な施策だが、一方で区は公園から野宿者(ホームレス)を閉め出している。人権の二重基準にも映るこうした対応に、LGBTの人びとからも戸惑いの声が漏れる。(沢田千秋)

 LGBTとは、レズビアン、ゲイ、バイセクシュアル、トランスジェンダーの総称。日本では同性婚が認められておらず、同性カップルは賃貸住宅の契約や病院での面会で、戸籍上の家族でないことを理由に不利益をこうむっている。条例案では同性カップルに証明書を発行。区民や事業者にカップルを夫婦と同等に扱うよう求めるという。
 渋谷区の人権意識の高さをたたえたいところだが、疑問なのは区の野宿者らへの対応だ。JR渋谷駅に近い区立宮下公園で二〇一〇年、区から命名権を取得した大手スポーツメーカー「ナイキジャパン」が公園整備に乗り出した際、区は公園にあった野宿者用のテントを強制撤去。一一年の整備後は夜間の立ち入りを禁じ、年末年始も出入り口を施錠。支援団体による炊き出し作業に支障が出た。
 いまも公園の周囲は野宿者があふれている。ある男性(五二)は「同性愛者には優しく、見栄えの悪い自分たちは臭い物にフタか排除。公園の夜間利用や炊き出しくらいはせめて黙認してくれないか」と訴える。
 支援団体「渋谷・野宿者の生存と生活をかちとる自由連合(のじれん)」の黒岩大助さんは「渋谷区からはひどい目に遭わされてきた。区や区議は等しく社会的弱者に対応すべきなのに偏っており、その平衡感覚を疑う」と憤る。
 パートナー条例のきっかけは、一二年の区議会六月定例会での長谷部健区議の質問だった。長谷部区議はナイキジャパンと区との橋渡し役を務め、宮下公園の整備事業に一役買った。「こちら特捜部」の取材に対し、同区議は「野宿者の排除は望んでいない。区が生活保護や自立支援プログラムを提供しているが、残念ながら平行線。職員に野宿者と同じ目線に立つよう提案している。渋谷のダイバーシティ(多様性)化を目指しているが、野宿者が多くいるのは好ましくない。区には支援を強化するよう求める」と話した。
 一方、こうした「渋谷のダイバーシティ構想」について、トランスジェンダーの米沢泉美さんは「差別を許さないということは皆、同じ人間で、さまざまな事情を抱えつつ生きているという視点を持つこと。性的少数者の権利擁護と野宿者の命を守ることは等しいはずだが、渋谷区にもその視点はなさそう。区の宣伝材料として、性的少数者が利用されているのでは、とすら思える」と懐疑的だ。
 レズビアン活動家の土屋ゆきさんも「宮下公園で野宿者を閉め出す行政が、人権施策を打ち出すこと自体に違和感がある。人権問題としてのLGBT問題ではなく、おしゃれな渋谷の演出のために欧米発のファッショナブルなトレンドとして、LGBTに利用価値を見いだしたのではないか」と辛らつに批判する。
 いっぽう、日本で初めて自身がゲイであることを公表した公職者である石川大我元豊島区議は、渋谷区の取り組みを評価する。
 「LGBT当事者に寄り添い、丁寧に耳を傾けている。決してファッションで条例を提案したのではない」とした上で、「すべてのマイノリティーに優しい渋谷であってほしい。LGBTを理解しても、野宿者を排除するなら悲しくて残念だ」と語っている。

【紙面の写真を公開したツイート】

翻訳者のコメント

この記事の趣旨には大賛成だけど、念のため重箱の隅をつついておきます。

(1)「性的少数者(LGBT)の人権を保障する画期的な施策」という表現。まず(a)トランスジェンダーの多くの人にとっては全然意味ない施策だよね、というのと、(b)LGBにとっても、これで「人権を保障」したつもりになられたら笑っちゃうわよね、という点。一部のLGBT他しか恩恵を受けられない施策を「性的少数者(LGBT)の人権を保障する画期的な施策」って言っちゃいかんよ、と。

(2)石川さんが「日本で初めて自身がゲイであることを公表した公職者」とのことだけど、(a)同じタイミングで石坂わたるさんも公表したし当選したよね、というのと、(b)「ゲイ」は英語圏では男女問わず同性愛者のことなので、本来は大阪の尾辻かな子さんが初だよね、というのが気になる。

(3)石川さんが「決してファッションで条例を提案したのではない」と断言している根拠がわからん。

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

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

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.

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.

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.”