Read before you write about LGBT politics in Japan

Edit (May 2): If you are using Google Translate or a similar service in order to read this, please do not trust the translation. If you think that Tokyo Rainbow Pride is the main topic of this article, that is not true. The main topic is English-language LGBT journalism.


Although this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive summary of history of LGBT politics in Japan, which I cannot possibly provide given my limited knowledge, I just couldn’t take anymore the shittiness of the news articles written about LGBT politics in Japan.

The most typical, all-too-common article written in English never fails to make the followings clear:

  • Japan lags behind the West. There’s nothing legal about gay partnerships, and people there are afraid to come out.
  • But things are changing. And such changes are welcomed with enthusiasm by all LGBTs in Japan.

And I say, THIS IS BULLSHIT.

I have no idea how authors of such articles could really think that the LGBT politics in Japan might be that simple. Japan is a former colonizer (and has not done much to take accountability, nor does it intend to). There has been a growing influx of immigrants as well as already-existing communities of non-citizens, and former citizens from Korea (whose citizenships were taken away in 1945). Japan has had movements like feminist movements, disability movements, anti-nuclear movements, anti-war movements, anti-racist movements etc. Some of them were radical. Some of them confronted each other and created a massive amount of dialogue about social justice and the complexity and intersectionality of different aspects of human life. The LGBT movement has its long history dating back to the 80s AIDS movement the 60s and possibly even earlier, as a friend of mine pointed out in private email – thanks, J! Japan is now excluding Korean school students from its tuition subsidies, and there are protests against that. And with the knowledge and truth that queer people exist everywhere, whether they call themselves ‘queer’ or not, it’s hard to overlook the diversity of queer people in Japan, who take up different social positions and have existed in every segment of society and thus every portion of movements. In short, the LGBT politics in Japan can NOT be simple.

Nonetheless, the authors of the English-language articles about LGBT politics in Japan just so gracefully ignore that simple fact, and just as gracefully and ignorantly believe that the feudal, conservative, lagged-behind culture is starting, only recently, to recognize the issues of LGBT the same way as the U.S., the U.K., etc. did.

The epitome of this is that the 2012 election’s gay winning candidate was celebrated as Japan’s first openly gay politician. That is simply erasure of contemporary lesbian politicians and older generations of gay political activists. This article or this more recent article has no mention of the transgender politician who has been elected multiple times.

The new pride parade, Tokyo Rainbow Pride, which only started last year, has been treated as if it were the very first pride parade in Japan. And that is not true at all. Tokyo has had pride for a decade (organized by a group separate from the recent one, which was disbanded a few days after the recent pride was held this year). Sapporo and Osaka have held pride multiple times. Nagoya joined the history of pride last year. Let me tell you——yes, the most recent pride, Tokyo Rainbow Pride, is the very first pride in Japan that is shamelessly commercialist, neoliberalism-friendly, war-friendly, and corporate-friendly. The list of booths who made presence at this year’s pride include Israeli Embassy, the U.S. Embassy, the U.K. Embassy, IBM, an insurance corporation, a wedding agency, Google, the city of Tokyo (its welfare branch), and Phillips Electronics. I saw a tweet during the pride saying the ambassadors’ from those embassies spoke on stage. Who were greeted with this:

No to Occupation, No to Osprey
“No to Occupation, No Osprey” – a tweet by @ r_i_m_y_o_n_g

The Israeli Embassy handed out hand-held fans. Which was used in protest against Israel in this way:

"No to Israel" - a tweet by @uokoba
“No to Israel”, “Against war” – a tweet by @uokoba

In Japanese-language Twittosphere (or Twittersphere, according to Oxford Dictionaries o_O), there were criticisms about the sponsoring of Tokyo Pride Parade (the one that got disbanded this year) by foreign-owned large corporations.

The Pinknews ran an article about the latest parade, strangely with the concluding sentence about the Walt Disney Company policy selling gay weddings and Tokyo Disney following suit. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, all three articles tagged with “Japan” on Pinknews are about the lesbian couple who did the wedding at Tokyo Disney.

All of 3 Pinknews articles about Japan.
All of 3 Pinknews articles about Japan.

Each of the articles has the following sentence.

In a country where homosexuality is still a taboo, and saw its first openly gay politician elected last year, their wedding was greeted with enthusiasm by local gay people and activists. – LINK

In a country where homosexuality is still a taboo, and saw its first openly gay politician elected last year, the wedding was greeted with enthusiasm by local gay people and activists. – LINK

However, in a country where homosexuality is still a taboo, and saw its first openly gay politician elected last year, the news was greeted with enthusiasm by local gay rights activists. – LINK

But if the authors had done some more research, they would have found out that in Japan, there is a huge number of people opposing the system of marriage, especially in conjunction with the family registry system (koseki), including queer and feminist individuals who show their opposition to marriage publicly. There are academic articles like this.

What I don’t understand is why these Western editors so much like to think of Japan as undoubtedly conservative, of its LGBT politics as undoubtedly so immature that everything that’s aligned with mainstream LGBT agenda would be appreciated and greeted with enthusiasm by local LGBT individuals who, in the authors’ dreams, have long waited to be liberated by the Western mainstream gay efforts. They are, in constructing LGBT politics in Japan as such, erasing local history and ignoring dialogues taking place among queers in Japan.

Look——I don’t even like Japan. It’s a country where I was born, and grew up until 16 years old. Still, that doesn’t matter, I don’t like it. I don’t like what it does to Korean residents, what it doesn’t do for queers, how they treat asylum-seekers, how they prioritize corporate interests over peoples’ interests, etc. etc. This country is full of shit. But there are people here struggling to change that. And the way some of them are trying to change it is way more complicated than waiting for a White savior to conquer and liberate the marginalized populations. And the change is taking place. It has always been taking place. Taiga Ishikawa isn’t the first openly gay politician. This year’s lesbian couple’s wedding was not entirely “greeted with enthusiasm.” The Tokyo Rainbow Pride is only new in terms of commercialism, affinity with corporate capitalism, and its indiscriminate teaming up with state violence and wars. Wake up, English-language journalists. For gods sake, do research.

ADD (May 13, 2013 Japan time)

Found a really annoying article about the pride march that took place in Tokyo earlier this year. Had to leave a comment. And here it is.

I’m a queer activist from Japan and here I’m talking to progressives only. I’m not gonna talk with anti-gay conservatives. I’m against gay marriage for a wholly different reason than theirs.

OK, I said it. Now to the main point of this comment – the “gay pride marchers with banners” at Tokyo Rainbow Pride were not “demanding marriage equality in the land of the rising sun.”

Okay, so, this phrase is annoying in many ways. First of all, what the hell is the “land of the rising sun”? What kind of ancient world does the author live in? For gods sake, New Zealand is the first country to see the sun rise in the beginning of the day. The rising sun rhetoric has been used by those in Japan with power in order to make the people proud of themselves so that manipulating them and fashioning them into soldiers and suicide weapons would be easier. So using the rhetoric today carries a lot of colonial connotations.

Second, marriage equality was not even the theme of the event. It was mentioned by some who spoke at the event, and I’m sure there were participants who wanted marriage equality. But the voices we heard at the event were much more diverse. A few years back, at pride, one participant had a sign that said, “F*** the imperial system.” Another participant’s sign said, “God bless no marriage.” Yet another, “Not marriage, we want visas.” There was also an internal protest against one of the floats themed “marriage [mar-riah-j]”, and the protesters had signs that said, “marriage is the gateway to poverty,” “We don’t need recognition through marriage,” “I am lesbian, married or alone,” “F*** the whole family system,” etc.

This year’s event also saw a multitude of voices and opinions, very diverse, very controversial. When the ambassadors’ from embassies of the U.S., Israel, etc. spoke on stage, they were greeted with signs that said, “No to Occupation,” and “No Osprey.” The Israeli Embassy handed out hand-held fans that said, “ISRAEL,” and someone added, “NO TO,” at the top, making it their political statement, NO TO ISRAEL. There was also someone who had a vertical flag that said, “I oppose war.” I wrote about those protests at http://gimmeaqueereye.org/entry/173 (“Read before you write about LGBT politics in Japan”) if you’re interested.

I am not only annoyed by the English-language LGBT journalism. I am also furious about the local media who don’t know shit about queer lives and experiences. But I am very aggravated by the English-language journalism because I know for sure that authors, editors, and whoever is responsible for contents must know that there is a diversity of opinions within any queer community. Queer activism in the US (and other English-speaking countries) has seen so much diversity, so many controversies, and battles so ugly. I sometimes wonder if those writers who write about LGBT politics in Japan simplifies it so that their fantasy of one united community of queers is protected. I say, f*** you. Japan isn’t your wonderland. It’s got a long history of rights-based movements, liberation movements, backlashes, and political lobbying. LGBT politics in Japan cannot be that simple. It cannot be as simple as English-speaking journalists want it to be.

ADD – 2:30PM, May 13, 2013 Japan time

I don’t know what’s going on. I first posted a comment on the Japan Times Today website. I had to edit it many times so the auto-foul words detector would accept it. And then a couple hours later I got an email from Japan Times Today saying they had removed my comment because it was “offensive/vulgar.” So I posted there the link to this blog post where I copy-and-pasted my original comment. And within an hour it was gone, too. So I left another comment (which looks like my first comment, which isn’t true), explaining the above, and said,

“I’m not trying to advertise my blog here, but if you want to hear a voice of a queer activist in Japan that has something to say about the rhetoric “the land of the rising sun,” and about the narrow definition of queer politics as a demand for marriage equality, you can do so by googling “read before you write about LGBT politics in Japan.””

スクリーンショット 2013-05-13 14.34.11

ADD – 3:03PM, May 13, 2013 Japan time

I. Can’t. Believe. This. Japan Today edited my comment, and deleted the parts where I explained what happened to my previous comments. This is against all the values that journalism should embrace. This is not acceptable.

スクリーンショット 2013-05-13 15.03.49

ADD – 3:18PM, May 13, 2013 Japan time

I just left the following comment.

スクリーンショット 2013-05-13 15.18.06

ADD – 3:24PM, May 13, 2013 Japan time

And they deleted my comment again.

スクリーンショット 2013-05-13 15.24.15

ADD – 10:00PM, May 13, 2013 Japan time

I finally decided that I didn’t want anything to do with Japan Today anymore, and so asked them to delete all my comments, including the half post that I had posted and they chopped up. Below is the last comment I left. A few minutes later, they took down the both two comments (EDIT: with one email notification about the deletion of the second one. Classification: Off Topic).

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 21.57.20

See, I do not care if what they did was in alignment with their “moderation policy.” I mean, first of all, they were not even following their “policy” when they deleted my 2nd and 4th comments and didn’t send me notification emails (I received their email regarding the deletion of my 1st comment). And, second, the policy sucks. It states the moderators can edit readers’ comments, and their decision is final, not negotiable. I mean, deleting someone else’s comment is one thing, but editing it brings in a whole different dimension. It takes parts of a comment out of context, puts them in a wrong (or at least, unintended) context, and betrays the ethics of journalism (which is, by the way, betrayed all too often). The policy also states that readers cannot post any comment discussing comment moderation. And that is fucked up, since there’s no other way a poster can complain about comment moderation when it seems wrong. And I’m not saying they violated their moderation rules. I’m saying their rules and enforcement are wrong.

On a related note

[contentcards url=’http://www.animefeminist.com/interview-masaki-c-matsumoto-queer-feminist-activist/’]

Social Justice and Trigger Warning

I have always struggled with handling trigger warning in my own writings and presentations when they have a description of abuse and violence.

Usually, I write my stuff, and then go back to read it to see if any part of it requires trigger warning, although whether something requires it or not cannot be objectively determined.

But as soon as I start trying to come up with a warning, I get lost. I suddenly realize I don’t know how to warn people, and that I don’t even know why I want to give a trigger warning.

Don’t get me wrong. I take trigger warning seriously. I take abuse and violence, and psychological trauma that arises from them, very seriously. I myself am a survivor of sexual violence and have appreciated every single trigger warning that I have encountered.

But I don’t know what exactly I am trying to do by providing trigger warning.

I saw this post on Feministing the other day, looking for some answer to my question, but to no avail. Some say “everything is a trigger for someone” (I value trigger warning for gods sake!). Quite a few people there say they use trigger warning “to be polite” (what’s the purpose of being polite? to feel better about yourself?) This Melissa person even says (quoted), “because we don’t want to be the asshole who triggered a survivor of sexual assault because of carelessness or laziness or ignorance” (so that’s it? you’re not an asshole, and you’re happy?)

I wanted answers and I found none. I could’ve done google search but I was already tired by the time I finished reading the comments like the ones above.

True, I don’t want my readers to experience panics or flashbacks as they read my writing. I cannot force them to read. I should not. But the whole purpose of writing something and publishing it online is for people out there to read it. Whether it’s my own opinion, a piece of information I want to share, or someone else’s idea that caught my attention, I want people to read it, hoping that some of them might actually think it’s useful or insightful.

And by providing trigger warning, I lose a certain audience. I discourage certain people from reading my writing. Part of this is my ego. I want to be seen, read, and heard. But also, if my writing includes information that I think is very important and must be shared, why do I give trigger warning and prevent the very people who most likely need that information from acquiring it? Or, if I am writing about my experience because I hope people with similar experiences can relate and will leave a comment, those people are exactly who I want to reach, and exactly who need trigger warnings.

In the most recent conference presentation I gave, I talked about child pornography. I gave a trigger warning at the beginning, saying, “My presentation includes some description of sexual violence, so if you feel uncomfortable hearing the talk, please feel free to leave the room whenever you need to.” Looking back, I really, really regret using those words.

I mean, this trigger warning was a very unwelcoming, unfriendly, and indifferent one now that I think about it. “Feel free to leave”? I have no right to decide for the audience to stay or leave in the first place. And——this probably is the most important point I’m trying to make here——even if one feels uncomfortable hearing the talk, they might stay, despite the discomfort. And I don’t have a say in their decision to stay or not to stay.

Besides, why did I say, “feel free to leave,” when I was there to be heard, and hopefully understood? It sounded as if I couldn’t have cared less about who and how many people would listen. I sounded very indifferent. That, now I think, was disrespectful to the audience.

But then, should I have not given a trigger warning but just jumped on to my presentation about child pornography? Definitely not. But what could I have done differently?

One thing that just came to mind is that, maybe it’s better to write without depictions of abuse and violence in the first place, than write them and drive certain people away by giving trigger warning. This should not be exercised to the extent that the content lacks enough information for the audience/reader to understand it. But certainly, in many cases, we can apply this strategy to write less details when they aren’t necessary, to write in a way that does not require graphic description of abuse and violence.

But there will always be situations where trigger warning is appropriate. I don’t know how best to warn your readers/audiences, but maybe there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I really could use other people’s input on this.

Queer By Choice and Ex-gay

I have always been sick of the born-this-way rhetoric that mainstream gay activism has so proudly spread all over the U.S. I don’t have anything against those who were born gay or born whatever, but feeling that one was born gay and saying so are two different things.

I understand that the born-this-way rhetoric has served many of the causes for social justice for most gay and lesbian people (and to a lesser degree, transgender people, too) especially during the AIDS panic where the gay-by-choice rhetoric was used against homosexuals as an excuse for the government’s taking no action about the epidemic.

But it also has created another dividing line between queers, between those with coherent identities and those who experience no such thing. And I fall into the latter category. I have been 100% straight. I have been 100% gay. I have been somewhat bi. I have been definitely bi. I have been “probably bi.” I have been somewhat genderqueer. I have been comfortable and uncomfortable around my assigned gender. I have felt lesbian. And I don’t know what I will be in a 3-year, 5-year, 10-years time.

Whenever someone says homosexuality is something that you’re born with, I feel left out. Me feeling left out is probably nothing important to mainstream gay activists, but I can see that we are going to have a problem if we stick to the born-gay rhetoric just because it comes handy at this moment in this culture. My take on nature vs. nurture is that asking the nature-or-nurture question is itself homophobic most of the time. If it’s nature, so what? If it’s nurture, so what? I mean, anti-gay folks have used both of those rhetorics to attack gays!

And I’m telling you, and all other by-choice queers are telling you, that not every gay is born gay. Just fucking accept that and stop saying “we are born gay” as if it were a universal truth.

I don’t buy the by-choice idea, either, to tell the truth. I don’t think our sexuality is that easy to control. By intentionally, consciously trying to change one’s sexuality, she or he may be able to eventually change it some day, but such effort is just one factor that influences his or her sexuality among other things like upbringing, media representations and languages that she or he has been exposed to, etc. etc. I’m not queer by nature or by choice. I just like what I like and I don’t care if that’s based on my biological disposition or environmental influence, and I won’t let anyone to attack me for loving what I love.

I said I’m not queer by nature or by choice, but I was gay by choice during high school. I (stupid me) thought identifying as gay would open a door for me to mainstream (read: white) New Zealander culture. But it turned out that being gay didn’t cancel out my racial difference, but only added crap to my life. So I stopped identifying as gay. So I could probably be classified as ex-gay, even. But I’m definitely queer in its most vague sense. And I didn’t choose to be queer, nor my queerness is something I was born with.

So my understanding of sexuality and gender identity is pretty much in favor of “right now, right here,” which means what one describes herself or himself as, who they feel like they are at the moment. And this has also led me to be shocked by comments made by pro-gay people to attack ex-gay movement.

A lot of anti-ex-gay people say there’s no such thing as ex-gay, and that if someone is gay he’ll always be so (and I’m using the male pronoun here because lesbians are rarely talked about in this kind of context). So, in their view, ex-gays either are liars (gone back in to the closet) or were straight all along since the day they were born. And I DON’T FUCKING CARE!

The reason why ex-gay movement sucks is not because they’re in the closet or they are straight or they identify as ex-gay, but because their politics sucks, their movement is harmful, and their paternalistic view on sexual diversity is annoying. So just stop saying ex-gays are liars, stop denying what they now identify as, and just focus on criticizing their politics, not their identities!

Don’t you remember the time when homosexuals were called liars just because they didn’t come out to everyone they met? Don’t you realize that calling someone’s identity fake is such a hurtful thing to do with which many transgender people have unfortunately been so familiar? I don’t know – some ex-gays might still be gay, or maybe most of them are still gay. They might be liars. But hiding in the closet is not wrong. Most of us have been there, and are still there. What’s wrong about ex-gay movement is what they do by using the ex-gay identity i.e. attacking homosexuals.

By nature or by nurture, exposed or hidden, our (and everyone else’s) identities should not be denied. Scrutinizing identities, whether to find out what’s causing them or to expose the “truth” to the public and humiliate others, is not the direction that I would like queer activism to go. Acceptance is a big word in mainstream LGBT activism today. But I find it hypocritical if we are not accepting of other people’s identities (that may change over time). I really hope that we will soon live in a world where even ex-gays join queer activism and fight for queer rights i.e. a world where people who used to be gay do not get questioned by other queers but can live as our fellow queers who have experienced a “queer” (in the original sense of the word) history of sexual preference changes.

Stop the Arrests! PERMANENTLY!

At SWAAY I found out about this new campaign calling for a moratorium on arrests etc. of sex workers until the end of the Olympics.

Stop the Arrests Campaign is calling for a moratorium on arrests, detention and deportation of sex workers in London with immediate effect until the end of the Olympic Games.

But what happens after the end of the Olympics?

Yes, those “clean up efforts” suck. But loosening the law enforcement for a short period of time can be as dangerous to sex workers as tightening it up for a short period of time.

In my opinion, these things may happen.

GOOD:

  • The existence of sex workers will be more visible to people than usual, INCLUDING the massive number of athletes and tourists in town. As the number of potential customers will rise (increase in demand), sex workers will have greater bargaining power, which means higher prices.

BAD:

  • This will generate a tourist fascination——the “London + Olympics = Paid Sex” image——, from which London and the Olympic Association will ultimately benefit.
  • As sex workers will feel safer walking around and picking johns, the police will have a greater chance of collecting information on sex workers’ profiles, whereabouts, and services, which all will be useful as soon as the moratorium is lifted at the end of the games.

My primary concern is the second point about the police. I believe that this moratorium, if carried out, needs to be a permanent policy. This isn’t an absurd idea. Some cities do have permanent policies not to arrest sex workers while the law remains that prostitution is criminal. I don’t see why this can’t happen, or why the people doing this campaign do not expect it to be possible.

MAKE ROOM FOR ME ONLY WHEN I ASK YOU TO DO SO

My mom and I had just gotten on the train when I spotted a space on the bench seat only big enough for my mother to sit in. I said, “go on and sit down,” to my mother. She sat and the three people on the seat moved along a bit (you know what people do when they want to pretend to be considerate). I smiled at them and said, “don’t worry.”

With the three persons sitting still a bit apart from each other, my mother was convinced that they could make room for me, too, so she said, “you can sit, too,” patting on the space to her right. And I said, “I’m fine,” because the space still looked a bit small (I have a big body) and a 30-minute ride, standing, would not be much better than one with sitting in that little space. But my mom said, “but room has been made for you. Come on and sit.” And the three persons moved even a bit farther to make more room for me, while not looking at me or my mother. I thought that was a bit offensive.

I really didn’t want to sit. But I didn’t want to embarrass the persons who had made room for me, either. So I quickly decided to act evil, so that it would be clear to everyone that the awkwardness was my fault, not their well-intentioned mistake. So I said, jokingly, “no, mom. I would have to curl up a bit and keep my arms in front in that small space if I sat. Really, don’t worry.”

Immediately, one of the persons on the seat stood up and left, without a word (not to mention any smile), into another car. Then the rest of the people on the seat immediately moved along toward the now empty area, and now, the space I was being offered was twice as big as a regular seat. I was embarrassed. And apparently, my mom was embarrassed, too. She looked like she was almost starting to cry. She looked at me and whispered, saying, “please sit down.” I was very pissed off. I looked at her face and, without saying anything, frowned, trying to show her how much I didn’t appreciate her trying to make me do this——sit down in that now very spacious space that was not, and had never been, necessary. She looked down, burying her face into my coat she was carrying.

Less than a minute later, she looked up. I was starting to feel bad for her, although I was still angry. I asked her, “do you want me to sit down?” And she said, “yes.” So I sat.

By the time we arrived at our station, everyone else on the seat had gotten off the train. I was still pissed. We left the station, bought some food at a store near it, and came home.

I still don’t know how to put my anger into words. I don’t even know if what I did was wrong. I had never felt that embarrassed.

Fake (?) MLK Quote and Its Inappropriateness in the Context of Osama bin Laden’s Death

ORIGINALLY POSTED ONLINE MAY 3, 2011.

The following quote has been and still is circulating rapidly on the Internet, even spreading beyond the English-language online communities.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

My initial reaction to this when I saw it in my friend’s Facebook update was, “yeah MLK might say that if he were alive, but would it be appropriate for him to say this in the context of Osama bin Laden’s death?”

As it turned out, after lots and lots of online research (too many bin Laden references!!), I found these webpages:

So, since I have been unable to find any source pointing to the realness of the quote being MLK’s, I have decided that the quote is fake.

But the quote being fake does not make the quote any less important or worth giving a thought to. I am sure that to many Americans, most of whom are celebrating this historical moment of the death of the terrorist of the century (so far), this quote allows them to think of what it means to treasure human life.

However, whether or not the quote is authentic, I do not believe that the quote is appropriate in this context.

First of all, would MLK consider Osama bin Laden “an enemy”? I think not. MLK was a prominent activist in the African American civil rights movement in which he and a massive number of Black people, who were disadvantaged and discriminated against severely, gradually gained rights and respect from the white-supremacist society. Who would have been his “enemy” in this historical context?

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend,” said MLK. The enemy in the context of the civil rights movement is the one that’s got the upper hand in violence. Then, it’s only natural to think that by “enemy” MLK would have meant “white supremacist.”

Now, when War on Terror is used as a rhetoric that backs up so many anti-Muslim campaigns and public hatred towards Middle-Eastern people in general, do you think that MLK would be happy to be quoted in today’s context where the quote is used to mean, basically, “well, bin Laden is our enemy but we don’t take pleasure in his death”? The question is, who is “we”? If those people who are quoting MLK think that the “we” includes MLK, then I would say they’re utterly wrong.

Indeed, MLK did say, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence.” But let’s call that first “violence” in the sentence V2, and the second V1. So it goes: returning V2 for V1 multiplies violence. And whose violence is V1 here? It seems to me that many people think that the 9/11 was V1. But that is absolutely bullshit.

There is no way of tracing back all the violent incidents throughout world history, but based on range, length, and effect, I would say V1 was the series of (physical, economic, and social) violence exerted on the lands of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, including the support of Israel, by the Western world and the United States in particular. The 9/11 is V2. What Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda comrades did was “returning violence for violence,” which, by the way, of course, as we have seen in the last decade, resulted in multiplication of violence (mostly done by the U.S. and its friends).

Even if the quote is MLK’s, I do not think that American citizens deserve to quote it. I believe that it is to be quoted by people in the Middle East in trying to end world-wide violence. I am not saying that Middle Eastern people are responsible for the world-wide violence and thus must stop it——in fact, it’s obvious that in MLK’s time, too, even though his anti-violence words were addressed to Black people, it wasn’t Black people but white supremacists that should have stopped attacking Blacks violently, and so, likewise, it is the Western world especially the U.S. that must stop its violence in the Middle East.

Quoting MLK (or pseudo-MLK) does not make a person quoting it any less responsible or guilty for the violence done by the United States. Let’s not defend Osama bin Laden as if he had started the whole thing. Instead, we must blame the U.S., blame the U.K., blame Japan, blame all other countries who have sent troops to the lands of Middle Eastern people, because it is we that responded to V2 by V3.

CORRECTION

No, MLK did not say “returning violence for violence multiplies violence.” Instead, he said “returning hate for hate multiplies hate” and “violence multiples violence” (see this for proof). This does not make my above statements any less plausible, but I apologize for the misquotation.

Another Transgender Hate Crime? Of Course the Assailants Are Blacks!

(This a repost of an old blog.)

Hate Crime: Young Transgender Woman Beaten Into Seizure At McDonald’s | The New Civil Rights Movement reports:

A young transgender woman who was in a Baltimore, Maryland area McDonald’s was beaten by two teenagers on Monday, April 18, as she was trying to go to the restroom. As the incident began, a McDonald’s employee filmed the violent attack, which you can see below, and later posted the video on YouTube and reportedly to his Facebook page. The video shows McDonald’s employees did nothing to stop the attack, and actually laughing. The McDonald’s manager did little more than yell, “Stop!” Only one customer, a middle-aged woman — who subsequently also got pushed and kicked — made any attempt to aid the young transgender woman.

This news is very upsetting. I saw the video of the attack and, while I usually have to watch any kind of video at least twice because my ability to focus attention on one thing is somewhat limited, I could not watch it again. It was full of violence and the pains documented by the video are extraordinary.

But there’s another thing I am concerned about, at least equally but possibly with greater worry. And that is the use of the term “female black” to refer to the suspects, which you can see in the police record here (PDF).

I wonder why the suspects are described as “the two female black suspects” as many times as four when “the two suspects” is totally sufficient.

Crawling on the Rainbow Band

Sometimes I suppress my urge
to cut the rainbow band on my wrist
just so carefully, along those lines
where colors meet, where we meet

Sometimes I caress my nails
hoping someday they’ll shine like pearls
’cause they’re the only body part I love
where colors meet, where we meet

But we never meet
we never see each other
instead
we look away
away,
from all the shit that’s better off
unreported

We don’t have much in common anyway
do we
We don’t mean that well when we say we care
do we
We don’t all dance, we don’t all dress
we don’t all eat, we don’t all sleep
now, do we

You’re the color red
and I’m the color green
you’re always the first color
and there’s more colors down below me
but on the wrist, we face other ways
red and green, we face other ways

Sometimes I look at myself
and think of my other fellows
who don’t look like you, talk like you
but talk like me, and live like me

Sometimes I want to forget
so I can hold myself together
just so carefully, like holding a bubble
where colors meet, where we could meet

“An Openly LGBT Politician in Japan!?” Is Not A New Phenomenon

actup.org, which has revived itself last year with new outlooks and aims, tweeted today that:

#Japan’s first openly #gay #politician wins seat http://i.actup.org/fXKkTq #lgbt #politics

This “first openly gay” thing has also been circulating in Japanese language blogosphere, via Japanese language tweets, and listserv’s for the last couple of days, and I have been extremely upset about it because it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE that Taiga is the first openly gay politician in Japan. The article was originally published on PinkPaper.com, “Britain’s leading gay news website,” by journalist Stacey Cosens. Here’s what the article says:

Japan’s first openly gay politician wins seat

Taiga Ishikawa has become Japan’s first openly gay politician after winning a seat in the Tokyo ward assembly in local elections on Sunday.

Stacey Cosens
Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Taiga Ishikawa has become Japan’s first openly gay politician after winning a seat in the Tokyo ward assembly in local elections on Sunday.

Speaking to AFP he said: “I hope my election victory will help our fellows nationwide to have hope for tomorrow, as many of them cannot accept themselves, feel lonely and isolated and even commit suicide,”

“Many LGBTs, or sexual minorities, realise the fact when they are at elementary and junior high schools, many of which are operated by the municipality,”

“As a ward assembly member, I would like to reinforce support to LGBT children at schools.”

Ishikawa revealed he was gay in his book “Boku No Kareshi Wa Doko Ni Iru” (Where Is My Boyfriend?),”published in 2002.

The Toshima race saw 53 candidates compete for 36 seats.

I left a comment to the article, but I’m repeating myself here.

First of all, Taiga is not the first openly gay politician in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that an openly gay candidate running for a seat in a ward assembly for the first time winning is a great thing. I personally know Taiga and I’m really happy for him and his supporters who must have put lots of efforts into his winning the election. It’s great, no question about that. But that doesn’t make him the first openly gay politician in Japan.

Not only are there and have been closeted LGBT politicians, Kanako Otsuji, former Osaka Prefectural Assembly member, has been out as lesbian for quite a long time. She published a book about her lesbian identity during her assembly membership and her name is not only known to LGBT individuals but extends beyond the community.

Aya Kamikawa, member of the Setagaya ward assembly, is a transgender politician. Her recent election marked the beginning of her SECOND 4-year term in the assembly. (Edit: not that I’m conflating gay and transgender, but Aya is definitely worth mentioning when reporting on queer politics in Japan.)

Click on their names, and you’ll see wikipedia entries about them. There is even a category page on Wikipedia, Category:LGBT politicians from Japan which lists Otsuji-san and Kamikawa-san, easily accessible to anyone who knows how to use Google search and how to type “LGBT”, “Japan”, and “politician.”

I am sure that the journalist, Stacey Cosens, is not the only one to blame. Her sources probably include ones from Japan and, as I said in the beginning, the Japanese online LGBT community is also praising Taiga as the first openly gay politician in Japan. But a journalist’s job is to evaluate her or his sources, do research on her own, and publish an article that’s worth the trust from her readership.

This “first openly gay politician in Japan!” thing, both in the PinkPaper.com article and in the Japanese-language LGBT online community, is aggravating because what they are doing is ERASURE OF HISTORY, making it seem like this is somewhat a NEW phenomenon, after decades of oppression finally blossoming! or something. And that is bullshit.

The other reason why I’m concerned about this pseudo-new phenomenon is that, combined with the now popular Taiga-is-the-first (false) statement, the word “openly” has all of a sudden gotten in the past week so much currency in the Japanese-language online LGBT community and been used in a grammatically incorrect way (according to the English grammars, at least), where it is followed by the suffix “-na” which makes the preceding noun an adjective. So the adjective “open”, once turned into an adverb “openly,” is now made into an adjective to mean, well, exactly “open.” This is a tricky process, and I don’t think people just now spontaneously came up with this terminology individually. My guess is that there was some sort of organizing around this new terminology among supporters of the candidates which then spread over the community.

I am not for or against new terms or new frames because language is not fixed but instead flexible, changing all the time, transforming our understandings of the world every day. What I’m concerned about is that by using a new term “openly”, which sounds different from “open” which, to Japanese-speaking individuals, can mean many things, in talking about queer politicians, those in the community are making the recent electoral victories of these homosexual politicians look like a historical turning point for LGBT politics in Japan when in fact it is not.

In this Twitter era, it is ever increasingly becoming easy for the community (as diverse as it may be) to be lured into a uniform framing of LGBT politics. Already, prominent mainstream queer bloggers and activists in Japan are using the new term “openly” so frequently that it almost looks like they have quotas. And to me, that’s frightening.

Oh, another thing I noticed while signing up for an account at PinkPaper.com (you need to have one to leave a comment) is that on the registration form page, “Title” is one of the required information where Mr., Mrs., Miss, Rev., Prof., etc. are the only options, leaving no gender-neutral, non-professional options available to individuals who want to sign up.

As a “gay news website” that they call themselves, I really hope that they’ll stop forcing non-professional potential members of their website to choose a gendered title for themselves.

UPDATE 2012/5/26

A couple of days ago I posted a comment on a Guardian article:

Very, very inaccurate information. First of all, Taiga Ishikawa isn’t Japan’s first openly gay politician. There was Kanako Otsuji, an openly lesbian politician, from years ago. If the term “politician” includes those who have not been elected, there had been more than a few. Second, last month’s pride parade was not the capital’s first rainbow pride event. There have been pride parades in Tokyo for years. The one last month was just another parade by a new organization. Also, there have been hundreds of “events” in Tokyo that dealt with queer celebration and queer knowledge. Seriously, do some research before you write.

Gay Marriage: Why I Don’t Like It——or Why Anyone Who Doesn’t Support It Must Fight Against the Notion of Citizenship

There is no doubt you can get all sorts of benefits and rights through marriage. I myself will not stubbornly stick to my anti-marriage belief if I really need to marry someone for, say, the purpose of surviving. I will even let myself take up a job in the marketing industry who utilizes gayness as a commodity, if there is no alternative. To me, survival always comes first and always before my political beliefs. However, in fact for precisely that reason (that I will put priority on my life), I should not act as if there were no problems in the marriage system or the LGBT marketing. When I take part in those things, I should not feel I have the right to. I should be ashamed.

However, I can not necessarily picture myself getting married and all of a sudden my life getting better. To some people, marriage is a gateway to poverty. Not everyone has a stable job. You probably don’t. Maybe your partner, too. Marriage as a safety net does not fulfill such function anymore, although most people believe that marriage is the solution to lots of issues like lack of access to social security and non-citizens’ immigration-related burdens. This is exactly why I do not attack pro-gay marriage folks just because I don’t support what they believe. But personally, I believe that anyone, married or unmarried, should be able to lead a safe, stable life.

Yes, there are people who want to get married but cannot because it would be illegal. That’s no good. But more importantly (at least to me), there are people, including those who cannot get married, who are single and live unsafe, unstable lives. Moreover, there are people who are married and live unsafe, unstable lives.

I agree that the ban on gay marriage is discriminatory. But I have things that I am more concerned about which I believe to be more pressing than gay marriage. Everyone’s got her or his own priority so I am not trying to convert anyone here, but I do not think I can fight the fight for a better legal system for partnership together with those whose first and foremost goal is to legalize gay marriage.

I am not saying that securing a stable life is such an important thing that wanting to marry is always less significant and must wait. If you want to get married and you can’t because of the same-sex status of you and your partner, that’s downright discrimination. But I choose not to spend my energy or any resources that I have on taking part in the gay marriage agenda.

This probably is due to my own upbringing and my relationships to class issues. Among all my friends, relatives, and other people I personally know, foreigners, single mothers, and workers in the sex industry whose lives are far from being secure totally outnumber those who lead a stable life and whose only concern is that they cannot get married.

Newer friends of mine, i.e. my friends in California, Tokyo, and Chicago, probably have no idea what my life back in Northern Kanto (Japan) was like, because if you look at me right now, my life totally looks middle-class (which, in fact, by the way, is not true——if it had not been for the full-tuition scholarship, I would be working multiple jobs in a local town in Japan). But that does not mean that my family, neighbors, friends, and those in my social network back in Northern Kanto are also middle-class or have middle-class cultures.

I recognize the danger in prioritizing the issues that confront the people who are immediately around me, since it makes it really easy for me to overlook the pains and inconveniences experienced by people whose lives I am not familiar with. But, while I try to avoid that, I also believe that if I fail to care about people surrounding me, I will never be able to sincerely care about anyone else, either.

Therefore, to me, social security comes before marriage. Marriage should not be a solution to social security issues.

Now, that automatically holds me responsible to fight against the notion of ‘citizenship’. Why? Because at the moment, marriage is the most accessible means of obtaining a citizenship or permanent residency in most of the developed countries, to which, of course, same-sex couples do not have access. By prioritizing social security over gay marriage, I am already guilty of contributing to the postponement of the wider opening of opportunities for homosexual non-citizens to legally establish residency. If my scope of ‘better social security’ falls within the confines of the notion of ‘citizenship’, then my decision not to rigorously support gay marriage becomes utterly unjust.