So the passage of Proposition 8 (which I do not think needs any explanation since many people are talking about it, even here in Japan, which makes me feel that a disproportionate amount of attention is being paid to one proposition of one state of one country——not that I don’t care, just in case) has been largely attributed to the increase in number of Black voters who supported Barack Obama. The figures that people have obtained from the media look very fishy to me, but that’s not exactly what I am worried about. What I find very sad and problematic is that, if——and this is only “if”——the entire Black population in California were that homophobic, why should those gay and lesbian people who blamed them for the passage of the proposition not have been quick to respond to the figures (no matter how false they are) and take some action, or at least be alerted, to care for lesbian and gay people who lived in such “homophobic” communities? A personal friend of mine, a White middle-class teenage gay boy, said that he thought that Black people should have been more empathetic to gay people, that they only cared about themselves. Well, that’s you, young man.
Okay, first of all, I must admit that I haven’t read much about this incident (the two men getting arrested, not the kiss-in) and that a few tweets from LGBT-related accounts and this single article linked above are the only source of information I got of the story. So what I am going to say may not be appropriate or even based on facts.
But it really makes me think of gay Mormons who secretly have homosexual desire (and may or may not act on it) and get into even more trouble because of the planned kiss-in’s. If I were a gay Mormon, closeted and maybe obvious and yet totally or partially accepted by his or her religious community (and that sometimes happens, by the way), potential homophobic reaction that the churches might make in opposition to the kiss-in’s would totally devastate the history of, and the efforts that they’ve put into, negotiating and working towards complicated (and thus often not satisfactory) yet livable tolerance in the community.
Of course, I’m not saying that gay activism or queer activism should not interfere in religious matters, but it seems very risky and dangerous for us to jump into the bandwagon to go out and say, “whether you like it or not, we’re here.” It’s true that we’re here, but where does this “us” come from? I am assuming that most of the people who will attend the kiss-in’s are not Mormons. They are from the outside. If what we learned from the incident is that gay expression isn’t allowed in the religious establishments, then what we should care about is the people within the Mormon churches whose queer expression and behavior are probably oppressed and degraded. We should have contacted or at least tried to reach sexual minority Mormons and listened to their stories before heading to the churches to kiss each other.
That is exactly the same thing that came to mind when I learned that many queer people blamed Black populations for passing Prop 8. What we need to do when we learn that there is a community very homophobic/transphobic/anti-queer, is, not to go out and blame them, but to think about our fellow queers within the community.
When we queers feel loved and accepted by our families, we often see it as a beautiful thing, maybe even as one of the most desirable moments that can happen in a queer person’s life. We usually feel happy for the queer kid when we hear stories like the book by Cheryl Kilodavis. And, yes, indeed, I’m happy for queers whose parents are understanding. And I am very grateful to my very own mother who is super cool with my queerness and is an organizer of the monthly drag pub event. But I hate the stories of understanding parents——especially mothers——, the typical narrative of them being shocked at first and then gradually becoming tolerant and understanding of their kids.
I mean, yes, they exist——but why is the mother in these stories always “shocked” and “struggling” and, eventually, “over it” and “accepting”? I mean, living in the U.S. or any society that is westernized to some extent, mothers are more likely than ever to know someone who is queer themselves, more likely than ever to have been to gay clubs, queer marches, or at least been exposed to portrayals of queers on TV and in film, not just flamboyant figures who are the object of ridicule, but also those well-received ones like Ellen DeGeneres. Besides, what about working-class mothers? What about ethnic minority mothers? What about disabled mothers? You know, those mothers who have experienced marginalization themselves first-hand. Even white, able-bodied, heterosexial, cisgender, middle- or upper-class mothers have experienced (to varying degrees) some form of marginalization because of their gender (I know fathers have, too, depending on their class, ethnicity, etc. but let me focus on mothers at the moment).
I myself have a mother who used to be geisha and a hostess at hostess clubs. My grandmother who is incredibly accepting of my queerness for a 85-year-old used to be geisha/a sex worker, too. And they had known their queer neighbors long before I came out——even long before I was born. I’m not saying me coming out to them had no impact on their life, but it was totally additional, yet another queer element of their life introduced by me. They lived in poverty, experienced/witnessed sexual exploitation and violence, had friends/neighbors who were queer, spent some time with them and had good and bad memories of them, have occasionally thought about the lives of queers, and have had their own politics to pursue (anti-workplace sexism, anti-domestic violence, etc.). It is only natural (though, I hate this word ‘natural’) that they weren’t shocked to know I was queer, and that my mother incorporated queer politics in her activist scope.
So, neither my mother nor grandma fits into that category of the shocked-then-accepting mother. Was I lucky? Yes, I was. But were they lucky? I’m not sure about that, because they have become who they are today due to the marginalization they had to face as young women. What really bugs me about the shocked-then-accepting mother figure is that it totally overlooks the possibility that ‘mothers’——along with being mothers——are all sorts of various things, be it a sex worker, a politician, a low-wage factory worker, a single mother, a domestic violence survivor, a wheel chair user, a survivor of rape, an ex-girlfriend of a queer person, a daughter of a gay father, a sex education specialist, a feminist, a bisexual woman, a lesbian, an MTF trans, an FTM trans, etc. etc. Mothers are mothers, but that’s not all they are. They have their own experience with queerness, whether they like it or not. The figure of the shocked-then-accepting mother is based on the popular idea that reduces women with a child or children to the narrow definition of ‘mother’, who lacks autonomy, agency, and life-outside-motherness.
Which is annoying.
Found this article on Alas, a blog, and I have nothing against the idea that women on maternity leaves should be paid, but one thing I wanted to comment on was the use of the kind of rhetoric that I happen to find in many anti-US arguments and the like including this one. Which is, in this case, saying that:
Indeed, a study from Harvard University last year found that of 168 nations worldwide, the United States is one of only four whose government doesn’t require employers to provide paid maternity leave. The others are Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
Tapped; Having a baby? Put it in writing
As one of the comments to the post on Alas, a blog notes, it is unclear whether or not any state in the US does have such requirements written in state laws. But I guess another problem here is, what is the point of listing all the three other countries whose government doesn’t have such legislation? I am not suggesting anything about the author’s intent or any conspiracy theory or whatever speculation about anything in this particular article. But every day, we all see the rhetorical device in the same fashion, that is, when the argument is made against the US (government/people/culture), it lists the country as doing something that some “under-developed” countries1 are doing, and when the argument is made in approval of what US is doing, it’s described as something that other good-mannered countries2 are doing, too.
I understand that this rhetoric functions for some social justice, even effectively. But if we continue to be convinced by such rhetoric, accepting the post-colonial world view assumed by many writers3 who use the kind of rhetoric, consciously or subconsciously (doesn’t matter, because I’m not talking about particular writers but the general use of such rhetoric that many people, even social justice activists, sometimes embrace and adopt to amplify their truthiness4), then we will need to face our own ambivalence about what social issues can/should be put on hold for the sake of solving what other social issues.
- Which, by the way, my anthropology teacher from a year ago, Dr. Gallin, called “over-exploited” countries. ↩
- And they are sometimes Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, etc. and also sometimes France, Germany, etc. and also sometimes Japan, Taiwan, India, etc. depending on what it is that the “good thing” is about. ↩
- “Writers,” not in the traditional sense. It refers to the more general idea of authorship. ↩
- Maybe the word “truthiness” is quite too harsh. It’s more reliability and persuasiveness that gets amplified. ↩
When I first got that name, “gay,” I felt jubilant. I accepted the name and told people that I was gay. Since I was also bisexual from time to time, I sometimes called myself a “part-time bisexual.” At that time, I lived in the country where I was recognized as racial minority, which already made me “different.” So, through gayness, I thought I could become part of mainstream culture. I put myself out to the public as gay, rather than Asian. That was my assimilation tactics.
After I moved to another country, I learned that people look at gay Asians as nothing but gay ASIANS. Nobody would see me as simply gay. The I-am-gay strategy was supposed to help me integrate into the majority, but I soon realized that all I had done was dig down deep and descend into the status of minority within the minority. That was shocking to know. It followed that when I moved back to Japan to transfer to a university there, I hated the name, “gei,” a ridiculously simple equivalent to the English word, “gay.” Every time I saw the word in Japanese, it reminded me of the visual images typically displayed on the front cover of gay Asian porn DVDs targeted at caucasian populations that I had seen back in San Francisco. “I do not belong to this category,” I thought. Or more precisely, I thought, “I would do anything to avoid being called that name.” Which, also, brought to me the most horrifying idea, which I had always vaguely imagined, that all the people I had met in New Zealand and the United States only saw me as “one of those Asians, who happens to be gay.”
I still see the English word, “gay,” as something positive, something I can relate to. But I loathe the word,“gei.” I wanted to become “just gay,” not “Asian gay.” I still crave the status of “no sign” or “no name,” which is, of course, based on the racist idea that whiteness means transparency and colors carry meanings. Advocates who use such rhetorical expressions as “we are normal” or “we are just the same as you” are the last thing that I want to become, but when it comes to race, I still haven’t found a way to settle and accept my own non-white body.
So the racist me sees the word, “gei,” in a very Orientalist way, while I hold the fear that when I say I am gay, people automatically supplement that statement with the word, “Asian.” I don’t want people to read me as Asian, nor do I intend to reveal my racial category to people who, luckily to me, do not know it. When someone IMs to me knowing nothing about my race, that’s the only time I feel safe to say I am gay. It’s the moment of “ascending” into the status of phantasmic “gayness,” in which the only difference I am forced to take for granted about myself is gayness, and I can say “yeah we’re different, so what?” But when the other person becomes conscious of my race, I shrink and descend. I do not hold Asian pride, I guess. I feel like a suck-up assimilationist who looks down upon other Asians because “they are not as white as me.”
Since gayness was introduced to my life as a potential bridge to mainstream culture, it means nothing more than just an option, something I can easily adopt and belong to, or discard. It is a choice. And choices do not have anything to do with my body. So, to me, gayness is an unreachable holy land (which, probably, no one has ever reached; what’s more, it’s probably just my imagination that there be such a thing). It’s just an useful name. It never gets in my way when I deviate from it. I mean, me and gayness are far too apart in the first place, and there’s no way I can deviate from it in any noticeable way. So, unlike the name, “Asian,” which is strongly associated with my body, I do not hold abhorrence or dread against the name, “gay.” “So what?” would be my stand, and that actually describes my true feelings pretty well. But no matter how many times I tell people that I am gay or gei, I can see that expression’s reflection in the mirror with the contours of my body being freakin’ Asian. Thousands of thousands of words, repeated and paraphrased, will never get me where I feel I should belong, where I can be “just gay.” As soon as people see me, hear me, or touch me, the totality of “I” falls apart. So I hide. I hide behind the closet doors. And when I successfully have my body disappear from the visual field at the scene (like, in email or something like that), that’s when I do communication in somewhat satisfactory way. I get to assume the kind of body that I want.
I hate identity politics. I hate it when people label me. I also hate it when “liberal” people let me choose from labels. I mean, not all names are equal. And if you choose wrong, that name is a one-way ticket to hell. And refusing to choose means you’re nothing. Nameless. Sometimes people even decline your choice, saying, “that’s not what your body is, honey.” And the biggest reason why I hate identity politics is because I am, as I have explained, a twisted white supremacist. I feel torn apart every time someone pronounces that my body isn’t white. It makes me feel like I am less, and thus need to be fixed with better care and more efforts. It also makes me feel exhausted and helpless, thinking back on my enthusiasm to approximate to whiteness which never bore fruit. Saying I am white would only help the world feel less sorry and guilty for labeling me “crazy.” If I were white, and if people saw me as white, I’d be happy to be gay. Gay activism based on identity politics would not bother me, because it’d sound just so irrelevant that I don’t care. And that’s because I chose, and am still choosing, the name, “gay,” based on my own decision. I second Foucault who said being gay isn’t about sex but lifestyle. I enjoy being gay but it doesn’t define me. I have been straight, gay, bisexual and everything in-between in my teen years, so I first-handedly know that sexuality flows and changes. So I play with sexual categories. But race, oh race! Why would I want to “come out and express myself” when it’s not what I want to be and it’s the only racial category to which I seem to have the right to belong?
To live in a society/community strongly influenced by Western modernism (including the West) means to be forced to pay penalty when you fail to follow the categorical imperatives based on the academic discipline of biology. In a queer context, it would be to pay penalty for not acting, identifying and performing sex like you’re supposed to in biological senses.1 But not all cultures have adopted Western modernism, or at least, there have been modifications at the time of introduction. The same is true for seemingly Western regions like the U.S. and Western Europe. When I was a high school student in a town called Ojai, CA, it felt as if there had not been categorical imperatives based on race. The town is mostly populated by caucasians and I only knew one Japanese resident a few miles away from the dormitory. Nobody spoke Japanese. But I felt more accepted and free than I did in Bay Area where I went to college. Friends groups were not divided along the racial lines. Classmates were more curious and respectful about cultures
that were not of their own. They saw differences and accepted them, while also finding joy in having things in common with other races. I wouldn’t say things were perfect in Ojai, but surely much better than any place else I’ve been to. It was as if my being Asian had been put aside, invisible, but called for when it was convenient for me. Being Asian was, for the short one-year period of time that I spent in Ojai, shrunken to the size of being gay. I could control the display of Asian-ness, sometimes disavowing it, and sometimes summoning it, just like I would be able to with my gayness if I were white (or so I wish).
I’m not saying I am human before I’m gay or Asian. All I’m saying is that no single label can override others and triumph as the defining feature of the person that I am. I want my features to be detachable, or at least controllable in terms of output flows. But reflection in the mirror moves the slider up on the mixer, resulting in the amplifiers blowing up. Life is like a cheap mp3 player; you never hear details but high frequency tones, superficial and ornamental. And ordinary people don’t bother getting a set of high quality headphones for their p2p-shared free music. My highest tone is racial. It’s what people notice first. I mean, I know there’re so many positive messages out there about being Asian. For example, I admire Margaret Cho and Dr. Christina Yang (Sandra Oh). Sometimes I wish I were more like them. Asian pride seems like a beautiful thing to embrace. I wish I were proud of my race. It’s not entirely because of societal racism that I’m not proud. The deep-rooted cause for self-degradation is my own racism. I mean, why else do I want to be “just gay” while I completely understand that “just gay” means “white gay” and that that idea is based on racist bullshit? Like I said, being “gay” is a detachable part of me. I chose it. I bet on it. It’s a label that does not represent me. It never speaks for me. If I detect some unexpected noise from it, I’m happy to discard it. It’s a mask that I wear. Never tells what’s behind it. Race, on the other hand, seems to travel through the speakers, randomly hit the walls and come back at me even louder, so loud I can’t hear myself.
Categories of human beings are partly the aftermath of the Enlightenment. Like I said, we are forced to pay penalty when we fail to follow the categorical imperatives. But they also kindly offer you “different” categories, into which to classify you when conventional categories do not seem to work for you. The Western thoughts, especially those of Christianity, pretty much require you to have an identity, deep-seated yet explicable, waiting to come out. Good identities and bad identities: bad ones only need to be confessed and corrected. But I don’t believe in identity. Sexuality flows. Gender identity changes over time. Bodies grow and age. I swirl in the sea of melting pot. But there’s one thing attached to my leg, an anchor, weighing me down so that I won’t drown. And that thing… is race. It doesn’t seem to let go of me. It seems static. Never changes. Reminds me of who I am supposed to be, who I don’t want to be. I want to drown.
Now, let me ask you this again; why would I want to come out?
- But biology itself is a set of ideas constituted through language. Biologists, just like other natural scientists, gather up data that are diverse and scattered, in order to get a larger picture of overall tendencies or divide them up into categories that they give names to and study the tendency of each of them. I do not hold anything against scientific methodologies, because they sometimes bring good to society (like medicine). But people seem to believe in biology more than biologists themselves do, thinking that biology is the language that describes nature precisely. Which causes me so much trouble personally. I am too tired to get up my ass and talk back when someone says, “hey, that’s what biologists say,” grinning like they are guaranteed victory. ↩
This piece of writing was submitted to the Office for LGBTQ Student Affairs at the University of Chicago as part of their OUTober: Coming Out Stories Project. The original text can be found in the project website under “Masaki.”
Affiliation (Staff, Faculty, Alumni, Student): Student
Coming Out Story:
I will come out tomorrow. I will come out to new friends, their families, faculty members, and colleagues. I will come out tomorrow. I will come out the day after. I will be coming out next month, next year, ten years later unless someone hateful of queers kills me by that time. Coming out is not beautiful. Love is. Acceptance is. I’d do anything to be loved and accepted. And that’s why I come out, exchanging my coming out for love and acceptance. But when will we live in a society where we can be neither in or out of the closet, where no one cares about our sexualities and identities and we are not degraded at all? I will come out tomorrow, because I want to be loved and accepted. I won’t stop, because otherwise my sexuality and identity would never find a home in this world. They would wander about, scattered, sliced into pieces, so tiny that no one could see them. I won’t stop, because I’m weak and always in need of love and acceptance. It’s the reverse of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell——today’s (at least) urban queers face Do Tell, but We Won’t Ask, the slightly altered, liberal version that together with DADT stems from the whole closet system.
I’m not sure what, or who, or how, or where I am. I am not L or G or B or T or Q, but I’m in no way what’s usually seen as non-LGBTQ. But I’m not interested in “I” anymore. Here’s my note for you, reader; stop reading this as soon as possible, and start thinking about the entire system that is homophobic, transphobic, misogynous, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-abortion, ethnocentric, able-ist, and classist that we have in the United States of fu*king America and beyond. I’m sure coming out stories are insightful, sometimes beautiful, sometimes heart-breaking, and by and large meaningful in our larger queer politics. But, let us not focus on what WE have to say to the world, but what YOU can do, either individually or collectively, no matter what sexuality or identity you may have, to change the world. Please, oh please! Writing this piece so far has already taken me a good 2 hours. And tonight I will most likely dream of a society where no queer person has to write a coming out story for the rest of the world. No offence; I’m glad you’re reading this. Thank you for your time. The only thing I would like you to remember when you go home and watch TV and take a shower and go to bed and wake up tomorrow morning and leave your house and go to school/work/etc. and chat with your friends/coworkers/et al., is, please thank us, at least to some extent, for taking our time writing these stories, which required all of us to go back to memories that are not always pleasurable to recall.
(This is a repost of an old blog.)
Child pornography is one of the most controversial topics to blog about, especially when a blogger is openly “queer” like me. The long-standing stigma and (wrong) stereotype of homosexuality is that homosexuals are pedophiles. And today, I assume that anyone intellectual enough or marginalized enough can tell the difference between the two. But what I am concerned with right now isn’t the problem of stereotyping homosexuals as pedophilic. I am concerned with how anti-regulation sentiments against restrictive laws regarding child pornography could be both queer (in terms of protecting the right to privacy of queer people including pedophiles who may or may not act on their desire (of course, child molesters and abusers do and should receive legal penalty for their action)) and hetero-male centrism (in terms of only defending pedophilic male heterosexuals‘ right to assume spectatorship in the realm of sexual display). And I’m appalled at how hard it would be if I tried to make and keep it queer since mainstream anti-restrictionism usually goes with the flow while the “flow” is always invariably in favor of heterosexual males.
I must admit that I am against the laws that make it punishable to possess child pornography. There are so many things in what anti-child pornography activists say that I agree with; for example, I agree that as a society we need to protect children from harm, that child abuse and molestation are cruel crimes that occur at every site of creating live-action child pornography, and that producing, distributing, and earning money by selling child pornography should not be done and should be prevented by all means. Period. Production of child pornography is always accompanied by some kind of sexual activity between the child and the crew. Getting money out of such products is totally unethical and unacceptable, just like it is to sell a video specifically intended to entertain viewers in which real murder takes place. Also, distribution of child pornography without earning money from it is problematic because it violates children’s privacy and their right not to be publicly exposed without consent, the violation of which puts them in jeopardy in psychological terms and their social life ahead. But watching child pornography for excitement does not push such injustices any further. Yes, the gaze that they direct at children in pornography might be very twisted and disturbing to some people, but that does not and should not constitute a legal ground for punishing consumers of child pornography. Punishing them does not reduce the number of actual sexual abuse/molestation cases because for the most part, a child molester is the victim’s relative such as a father, uncle, and cousin or acquaintance such as a neighbor, sport team coach, and teacher–and they are usually the same people who make child pornography by videotaping their abusive activities.
So if child pornography is growing, spreading, circulating and ever increasingly easy to obtain and possess, especially because of the Internet, then what we should do is to enforce the laws prohibiting sexual abuse/molestation and distribution of child pornography (profit or nonprofit) in stricter ways, not to bust consumers totally uninvolved in the process of production or distribution of whatever pornographic product he or she may have and enjoy (if they are involved in production and/or distribution, then they must face penalty according to the laws prohibiting those actions, putting aside the fact that they possess child pornography). Gaze cannot be controlled by the state. History alarmingly tells us that when it comes to “fixing” or deflecting deviant sexualities, no attempt has been successful. So in order to protect children from harm, I would suggest the followings: (1) to make harsher the laws against production and distribution of child pornography, as well as, of course, child abuse/molestation where pornography is not produced, (2) to supply some kind of alternative–and I’m thinking about animation or 3DCG pornography–to people who have relied on child pornography for sexual satisfaction and would not be able to access it because of decrease in number of child pornography available in store or on the Internet because of the laws with (now) harsher punishment, and (3) to better educate children, parents, teachers and citizens on child abuse/molestation: for example, teaching protection tactics for children and offering prohibitive workshops for parents to help them understand that their child’s body belongs to no one but the child him/herself and that even if the child seems to enjoy it while having sexual interactions with them, it might leave deep scars in their mind for decades that sometimes cause flashbacks and emotional confusion.
Those things are what we need to do in order to really protect children from harm. In other words, as a society, they are the only ways that public administration can interfere in the matter of sexuality. Criminalizing possession of child pornography, or in other words, criminalizing possession of pedophilic gaze, should not be the answer. Such restriction on having certain desire would be based on the categories of sexuality, which has its history (remember the sodomy laws and spousal exemption in rape laws which honored and advantaged male sexuality within marriage). Instead, we need to focus on reducing real harm like child abuse, molestation and violation of children’s privacy.
(We, however, must not forget that what can be done legally is not all we can. Critique can play a significant role in opening up the ways that we critically interpret, evaluate, and judge child pornography in non-restrictive ways. It can produce many counter-arguments against the ways children are portrayed and represented in child pornography without appealing to state power that might enact censorship or criminalize possession of child pornography, which would give them monopoly over cultural representation of children’s sexuality.)
The above is the argument that I made in my other blog in response to the Japanese parliament’s reformative proposition of child pornography laws. The World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents (November 24, 2008) reached an international agreement that all participating countries would undertake to criminalize the possession of child pornography including cartoons (animation, comics, 3DCG, etc.). The parliament decided not to include bans on possession of animation/comic/3DCG child pornography in the bill but apparently they wanted to. Fortunately, though so for only a little while I guess, the parliament is going to be disbanded pretty soon and all the bills currently up will be turned down. But I’m sure the bill will come back on the table sometime soon if not immediately. So I made a Twitter account (LINK–requires Japanese language compatibility) specifically designed to deliver related news, articles, academic papers and blog entries that I think will bring some insight for people who find the bill dangerous.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, as I will explain later), there are so many people on the Internet that explicitly protest against the bill. Online forums are flooded with anti-reform comments including ones celebrating the disbandment of the parliament. This seems like a phenomenon that Cass Sanstein calls “cyber cascade”, creating echo chambers and accompanied by another phenomenon called group polarization. That means, for example, people first respond to something (like a news article) and search on the Internet using terms such as “problem child pornography reform” and “importance child pornography reform,” but putting words like “problem” and “importance” in the search box already reflects their initial response to the news, and websites that show up are the kind of websites that they wan
t to read, allowing them indulgence and interactions with other people who also hold the same or similar views with them, which makes it more likely for them to agree with each other and believe that their opinion is flawless. And that sometime leads to extremism.
But there’s nothing one can do to prevent or stop a cyber cascade once it’s started. But several attempts have been made to slow down cyber cascades, among which the most relevant would be this. When anti-feminist backlash gained so much popularity and some influence on real politics between 2002 and 2005, a famous blogger and friend of mine, Chiki Ogiue, created a comprehensive web page (Japanese) where he provided correct information about feminism and what was called gender-free movement, the two of them being two different things while overlapping each other in some aspects. And the web page became good resource for Internet users to bring up in online forums and use for better understanding of what was going on. Chiki thinks that the decay of the online backlash in 2005 had nothing to do with the web page, but it definitely played a role.
But the question is, why is it that cyber cascades in Japan have never happened in favor of feminism or queer activism? Putting aside the problem of cyber cascades being misinformed and narrow-minded, how come we have never had a feminist or queer cyber cascade? It’s easy to imagine that such a thing would be similarly misinformed and narrow-minded, but let’s just say it’s okay for a moment and ask, why always conservative? Because it’s easier for the average person to be conservative? Because conservatism can be spoken about in everyday language and thus easy to jump onto? Maybe because many feminists and queer activists are not brave enough to take a definite stand but willing to take time to take into account more things than they can handle within the length of their life? Well, I don’t have any answer. In fact, it could be very dangerous in many ways when a cyber cascade of that kind (feminist/queer) occurs; for example, one particular feminist idea might be picked and celebrated in the cascade, whose opposing idea, also feminist, is completely discarded and disrespected by those flowing in the current of cascade. Or, perhaps more probable is that some feminist idea gets picked and all the queer ideas (even ones shared by many feminists) are ignored, or vice versa. So it might be a good thing that there’s no feminist or queer cascade.
But the Twitter account that I opened is my attempt to somehow create a queer cascade, or more precisely, make the anti-reform cascade currently going on into a queer one–or, if that’s just too optimistic, just put a little bit of queer twist into the cascade. And I am doing this because (1) now is one of those rare times that there is a huge flow of ideas that some (but not all, I know) feminists and queer activists can actually agree with and there are so many people who support the ideas, and because (2) without queer intervention, the anti-reform cascade would most likely end up being yet another heterosexist, male-centric defense against egalitarianism that attempts to protect marginalized people (women, children, foreigners, disabled people etc.) from erotic male gaze that has historically been by all means defended and even promoted by various cultural artwork, especially pornography. So what I want to do is to make people in the cascade realize that what they are doing is not, and should not be, only to protect male heterosexuals’ right to have pedophilic fantasies, but also part of a larger movement of queer and feminist nature and thus supported by queer and feminist theories, whether they like it or not.
I myself personally couldn’t care less about male heterosexual fantasies about young girls. I wouldn’t raise my voice and say I’m against the reform bill if that were the only thing we are going to defend. But I’ve gotten my ass up, thinking that this attempt, if successful, would create a society a little bit more inclusive of our queerness. In other words, what I am trying to do is to use the cascade for the sake of queer mobilization.
I don’t know if that’s gonna work. I don’t know if other queer activists and feminists will agree with the idea. So, yeah, wish me luck.
Here are the photos of the messages on my boards I carried around at the parade.
“Not Everyone Can Walk This Long”
“Safety and Rights to Sex Workers”
“WANTED: Not Gay Marriage But Safe Society For Everyone”
One of the floats, and the only women-themed one at the parade this year, was created in the name of “celebration of marriage” (they actually used the French pronunciation for “marriage,” i.e. “mar-riah-je”). Not a few friends of mine got enraged and organized (link to their blog in Japanese) a small group of people to walk in the float with placards with anti-marriage (not anti-gay marriage) messages and make their voices heard not only by the bystanders on the sides of the street but also by the people marching with us.
Their messages included:
- Marriage = Discrimination!
- We Don’t Need Recognition by Marriage!
- Marriage Leads to Poverty!
- Lesbians Can Be Single Women!
- Equal Social Security for Sexual/Gender Minorities!
- Abolish Romance!
- We Claim The Night Back!
I also loved the attire they chose to wear. The sounds they made, words they spoke, the way they walked, the giant puppets they carried around, etc. etc. They were so awesome and powerful that the entire group almost looked like they were practicing some kind of ritual to cast a curse on somebody. I certainly believe that their performance was the highlight of this year’s parade.
Here’s the video:
How is it that just because I am sexual minority my understanding mother must be a “wonderful mother” to whom I “should be grateful”? I AM grateful to her not because she knows some queer theory and feminist thoughts which may make others believe that she’s studied for the sake of her son, but because she is and has always been smart, independent, supportive (financially and as a friend), and “taught me” feminism.
She was a feminist even before I was born. Her circumstances FORCED her to be one. And there’s a happy side and sad side to it. Indeed I am lucky, my fairly lucky circumstances are built upon my family’s history of marginalization. If someone tries to reduce her words, ideas, and activism to the love of a mother, that’s fucking degrading and disrespectful, and downright misogynous. Mothers, not because they’re mothers but because they are human beings with wisdom, knowledge, and their own experiences, are capable of various things, just like many others are.
From September 8 to 12, I was in London. The flight connecting from Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow, London was delayed for a good 14 hours and me and another presenter, Sonja, were sent to a hotel by heavy loaded buses. But that was the only thing that I hated about my trip, and that hotel turned out to be a luxurious one anyway.
On the night of the 11th, two of my co-presenters and I went to see Billy Elliot the Musical. The boys were cute, the dancers did a pretty good job, and I loved the ballet teacher and the particular accents the actors had (due to which, unfortunately, I probably understood as little as 50-60% of what they were saying, though).
But towards the end of the story, I found myself having to wipe my tears off my cheeks because I was too sad. I was sad not because the story was touching. I was sad because I realized that I was that Billy boy, of course metaphorically. I’m not as cute or talented as Billy, but we have so much in common in terms of upward mobility.
Going through his coming-of-age, his life largely revolves around the fact that he wants to dance. That’s fine. But the dilemma on his family’s part only resolves at their understanding of his will to continue dancing. The money the ballet school costs, the needed separation of the son from his family, the lives of local people left behind by Billy and remaining the same old routine… they are all compromised and made into minor issues compared to the promising child’s bright future.
It struck me when the ballet teacher told Billy’s father that he should support Billy because he’s talented and has got a future. Good things keep piling up and he successfully gathers up the money for tuition. I don’t know if Billy is going to repay him (and the laborers who contributed) after he develops his dancing career. He probably will. But it’s not only money that is invested in his career. It’s more about the time they would have spent together if he had stayed home, the working-class culture they would have shared, and the future that his father would have envisioned for himself.
I have a mixed feeling regarding Billy’s upward mobility. Just because one is talented doesn’t mean he will be successful. There are tons of things that get to be sacrificed for the sake of his (possible, sometimes scarcely promised) success. And Billy gets to have everyone join the Support Little Billy club.
What irritates me is, ultimately, that I am also that boy who gets support from a formerly working-class family. The investment in my future is massive (not only financially). For one thing, my life has been violence-free unlike the lives of other members of my family. And it’s not a natural consequence of the change of times, but is utterly artificial——someone had to work hard to stop violence. And watching Billy Elliot got me thinking about how I would/could repay them.
I am working towards a Ph.D. degree. That will take at least 6-7 more years. And after Ph.D., when am I going to get a full-time job that pays me well enough for me to support my family PLUS repay them? But if I give up on my academic career at this point (or at least after the M.A.), what good will that do? Our family (mother, grandmother, and me) depends on my mother’s income only, and even if I get a job and start earning some dough, she won’t be able to quit her job. She’s got a mortgage loan that will last until 24 years later. I am more than willing to pay about half of it, meaning I will have to get a good-paying job in 12 years. I see that’s possible, despite the scarcity of academic positions (or am I too optimistic?). Only then can she quit her job and go back to school. Yes, she wants to go back to school. She wants to study abroad. There’s no way she can go abroad and study for even 3 months without quitting her job. So when she does go abroad, she needs to quit it.
And…, when am I going to be ready to let her do that? It’s now (or soon), if I decide to seriously look for jobs that pay me well. It’s next year, if I decide to stop developing my academic career after the M.A. It’s within a 6-7 (or more) years time, if I decide to stick to my goals. I am still not sure because——what about her goals? She sacrificed her teen years for her parents’ sake. She sacrificed her adulthood to date for her ex-husbands, kids, and parents. The three options above basically boil down to: “how long and how much more do I make my mother sacrifice?” In 10 years, she won’t be young.
My grandmother often says she devoted her whole self to her harsh and demanding parents. My mother’s life was similar, but in different ways. I’m the only one that, say, got exempted from that chain of child sacrifice. I’m not going to have children; so the chain will be cut eventually. But why am I enjoying the cut one generation ahead? Can’t even imagine what it took my mother to cut the chain (of poverty, violence, etc.) for my sake. Why did she have to do that? Why is she the last person to suffer? Why am I in graduate school? Why did she have to ascend to a high position at work? Why does she happen to be queer-friendly? Why? Why? Why?
I am Billy Elliot. He represents what I hate about myself. He represents the sacrifices my mother’s made. He represents her decision to disinherit me of the family legacy of violence and poverty. It utterly hurts. It hurts that my relative freedom stems from the pains on my mother’s part. But I am not brave enough to do anything to change things at the moment.