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。

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.”

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.

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.

A Talk with Prof. Chalidaporn Songsamphan

This article appeared in CGS Newsletter, Issue 12, Center for Gender Studies, International Christian University. HTML / PDF

Pornography

Chico Masak (CGS staff, CM)

What would you say your stand on pornography is?

Prof. Chalidaporn (SC)

I think we should look at pornography as a form of sexual fantasy, which each individual should have the right in their private time to enjoy. But the problem is, when you look at pornography in detail, you’ll see complex relationships between pornography and so many other things. And pornography itself is so diverse. So it is very difficult to have a stand on it. Instead, you have to look at particular cases and details. You’ll probably have a different stand on each one. We tend to want some kind of theory or explanation to which all similar cases can be reduced. But it doesn’t work that way. We have to be very specific with everything.

CM

Do you think there should be any difference between the way we see pornography and its problems and the way we see other forms of art like painting?

SC

For me, there should be no difference. But the problem is, sex has a very special meaning in our culture. Pornography is looked at very differently, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. Remember Foucault’s example of punching someone in the face and inserting a penis into a vagina. These two acts have totally different meanings because of the position of sexuality in our cultural consciousness.

Defining Pornography?

CM

But pornography itself can be quite fuzzy in definition. For instance, it is not clear if the comic genre, boys love a.k.a. BL or what’s called slash, is pornography or not. It certainly serves that function for some people. So there’s always this demarcation problem of what’s porn and what’s not.

SC

The line, constituted through our understanding and interpretation, is actually moving all the time. Whether something is pornographic or not totally depends on how you look at it. Anything could be pornographic.

CM

But how do we negotiate with other views on pornography?

SC

We should acknowledge that various different interpretations exist. People like Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin tend to prescribe certain beliefs, saying, this is good and this should be like this. We should stop being judgmental and recognize the differences first, and then, the question is, how are we going to live with those differences?

State Power v. Critique

CM

Legally speaking, do you think there should be any state intervention in the distribution of pornography?

SC

The problem is, the state would need a very clear definition of what is porn and a strong idea about what we should do about it. When you have this kind of clarity, it closes the doors to other possible interpretations. That’s the problem with law. No debate. No negotiation. What a dangerous society! People should be able to talk about sex as a social activity. We should leave room for argument and discussion.

CM

Then what can we do as individuals to fight such representational injustices?

SC

I think the most important thing is to express your opinion and disagreement with the particular phenomenon. Just because you respect freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean you cannot say anything against pornography. You probably want to take an element or two from the work in question and express your discomfort with them. As for child pornography, some people say they don’t agree with the element of forced sex. And if someone disagrees with you, then they have to come up with their own argument, some reason, against you.

Child Pornography and Feminism

CM

I wonder what difference there is between the anti-child pornography that’s going around today and the anti-heterosexual pornography movement by MacKinnon and Dworkin. When I wrote the article, “Child Pornography and Feminism” (CGS Newsletter 011), I said that we were sort of jumping on the bandwagon to search for a quick, legal solution to child pornography. And there’s not as much opposition to it as there was to Dworkin and MacKinnon when people thought that there was no problem in pornography. Today, when it comes to child pornography, we sort of assume that it’s something inherently bad and we don’t really question our thinking. We should ask ourselves, is representation problematic or not?

SC

Yes, but you have to look at this issue very carefully. The existence of child pornography aggravates many middle-class people because the middle-class sexuality believes in the category of “children” as sexless, so pure and sexually innocent that they need to be protected in order to mature–and that’s a myth. Many laws have been passed because they were allegedly for the purpose of protecting children from sexual abuse by adults. The problem is, no one really cares about how we define the category. Feminists have been questioned numerous times to the extent that the identity category of “woman” itself has ceased to be convincing. We should question the category of children, too, asking, how do we differentiate between children and adults? There is no clear-cut definition or indicator that we could agree on. So when you talk about child pornography or child sexual abuse, people at the same table most likely disagree on many points. They probably have totally different images of children. Going into details like this can be a very threatening experience for the middle-class, and that is why it is so easy to put forth policies and laws “for the good of children” because you’ll most likely convince the middle-class.

CM

Yeah, like Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law in California. By the way, when I think of child abuse, I always think of the law in the U.S. back in the 1890s, which said that a wife had to serve their husband sexually whenever they were required to. I think the motivation for working towards the prohibition of child pornography is the concern for the power relation between adults and children. Then, why shouldn’t it have been illegal for men to have sex with women when there was a huge difference between what men had and what women had in terms of power…

SC

I think, to them, consent is the most important indicator for differentiating forced sex from consensual sex.

CM

But if we accept that children cannot consent because of adult-child power relations, women must also have had no ability to consent due to harsh gender inequality.

SC

Actually, liberal thinkers and philosophers did not really think that women could consent. John Locke, for example, said women and children did not have the ability to reason, and that they must be represented by the male head of the household. It must not even have been a tiny problem for those liberal thinkers because they were not looking at women as the right bearers in the first place.

CM

It’s very interesting because now we understand that children and women are both put into the same category as immature, deprived of rights, and nonconsensual, but…

What Kind of Sexual Diversity Are You For?

Naomi Suzuki (CGS staff, NS)

But women have no protection from the middle-class. What could be the difference…?

SC

What you said is another concrete example of the diversity of the ways people look at sexuality, because many people can accept many things that may contradict the hegemonic sexuality, but there are so many other things that they are still upholding. So when people say they are for sexual diversity, you should ask them what kind of diversity they’re talking about. People say heterosexual pornography is a form of sexual fantasy, and that we should allow individuals in our society to have the right to freedom of expression and freedom to consume it. But as soon as those individuals start to prefer child pornography, they are denied the same right. Many of us fail to see the contradiction here.

Activism of Our Time

NS

To me, it seems like you two have very similar takes on this issue. What would you say is the difference between both your approaches? Like when you actually take action…

SC

If we have to decide to take action, our stands might be different or very similar–it depends on the specific case. The point I’ve tried to make today is that we can be inconsistent because when you look at pornography in a very specific way, each case has its own meaning since each case has its own details. You cannot use the same theory to explain them all. You can be anti-censorship AND disagree with the acts you see in child pornography. I think that’s one of the strengths of social movements of our time–people can work together when they agree with each other, but when they don’t, they don’t have to, or they can still agree to disagree. Given such flexibility, we have to think carefully, define what we are talking about, and ask other people what they mean by, let’s say, “child pornography” because they might be thinking of different things when they seem to be talking about the same thing.

NS

The World Congress III and advocate groups seem strongly united with one another. But each member of these groups must have different opinions and definitions of child pornography, right?

SC

When they do political activism, they may suppress different ideas within themselves. But if you just let them work on that and draft a certain law, the differences will come up anyway. When their ideas become concrete about the issue, they will start fighting because drafting a law creates lots of debates. And at that stage, people cannot overlook the obvious disagreement among them.

CM

Well, it’s been very fun talking to you, Dr. Chalidaporn.

SC

It’s been fun. Thank you!

It’s Texas, not America. It’s Scots, not the English. It’s a Black girl, not us Whites. It’s the Arab world, not our civilization.

Beaten and burned, a gay man was found dead in Cumnock, Scotland, possibly for being gay, although the attacker’s motive has yet to be investigated. I have seen some online responses to this incident describing how it was shocking. This reminds me of the now-almost-vanishing stereotype of Scots being brutal, savage monsters.

Earlier this year, a transgender woman was attacked and had seizure, with bystanders just watching her hit and dragged on the floor. It was a very brutal attack and it was painful to watch the video footage. It also made me go, “oh shit,” when I discovered that the suspects were Black female teenagers and that the first person to offer the victim any help was a middle-aged White woman. I wrote a short response here.

“IMMIGRANTS ≠ YOUR HOMOPHOBIC OTHER” – that was my sign at the Pride Parade this year. I am not an immigrant, nor are my parents. I was born in Japan. But I think I share some of the experiences that Asian queers face in the U.S. like, being frequently asked whether my parents know my sexuality/identity. I say yes, and they go on and ask, “are they cool with it?” Another version is this: “it must be so hard to be queer in Japan.” There you go. Bang. Slap in the face. I get hurt. Anyways.

I am constantly appalled at how White, self-identified liberals can ignorantly assume that everyone else is lagging behind them in accepting freedom.

In Germany, as Butler says here, there has been some sort of collaborative effort between White-centric queer organizations and the government to harshen the immigration policy to narrow the path for immigrants to live in the country. The idea behind the campaign is that immigrants are homophobic and transphobic, incapable of accepting the values of the West.

I, too, first-handedly have heard people say that Black people are homophobic, that some people are too poor to think of others, or that I won’t like it in Texas if I move there. They fail to see that I myself come from a small town in Japan, grew up surrounded by poor people, and am racial minority in the U.S. I feel more comfortable around people like that than White “liberals” like them.

Nevertheless, until recently I held the view that the Middle Eastern culture was monolithically homophobic and transphobic. I have come to know the simple fact that the Middle East is just too big to make any generalizing statement about. Laws vary. People vary. Values vary. Knowing virtually nothing about the region, I have decided that I should be the listener, not the speaker, trying to learn, rather than tell, how things are in the Middle East. All I know, and thus all I can say about the Middle East, is that things are more complicated than many people in the Western world like to think, and that the Middle East is diverse. Some people still struggle with grasping that simple fact.

Hate crime is not the only indicator of homophobia and transphobia, but queers get killed everywhere. Not just the guy in Cumnock and the trans woman in Baltimore and gays in the Middle East (“except Israel!” say morons). It’s high time that we acknowledged that fact. Queers are killed just everywhere. Through physical violence. Through suicide-provoking bullying. Through governmental neglect.1

It’s time we stopped outsourcing homophobia and transphobia to Middle Eastern people, to Blacks, to immigrants, to working-class people. “Outsourcing” because all cisgendered, heterosexual individuals ultimately benefit from transphobia and homophobia through the privileges that they produce.

This outsourcing is harmful in many ways. It divides up racial minority communities because it places queers of color in an odd place between White “liberals” and “anti-queer” people of color. It puts working-class queers against their own cultures, families, and friends. It encourages White “liberal” queer activists to play the missionary role in helping the more oppressed out. It discourages people of color from joining queer activism. It allows Whites——or more precisely, those who are politically, socially, and culturally privileged (which consist mostly of Whites anyway)——to feel innocent, despite the fact that they are accomplices when they keep silent about injustice, get “shocked” at injustice, and feel sorry for the oppressed who are oppressed by someone else other than themselves.

If anything bad happens in the Middle East, the privileged say it’s because the Middle East is lagging behind the West. If anything bad happens in the West, they say it’s not their problem but someone else’s, outsourcing to Blacks, immigrants, etc. the dirty work necessary to keep their society heteronormative and cis-centered and thus advantageous to all privileged people like themselves.

We must stop this. We must acknowledge that not only the violent attackers but we ourselves are all responsible for what happens to queers and those otherwise oppressed and harmed.

I am not addressing this to just the highly privileged. I am also addressing this to, say, gay men chuckling about how straight men are misogynous, lesbian women laughing about how gay men identify against drag queens and other effeminate types, leftists criticizing the “social structure” that oppresses queers without reflecting on their own homophobia and transphobia, and queer elites looking down on LGBT activists to whom identity politics is still relevant.


  1. Queers also get killed in other ways. Through taxes. Through unemployment. Through criminalization of sex work. Through sexual violence. Through hate crime based on race. Through insufficient government support for people with disabilities. And on and on. 

UChicago Safety Issues and Student Privilege

Updated May 25, 2011

The Saferide Program at the University of Chicago provides free transportation for its students, employees, faculty members and other affiliated individuals from 5 p.m. through approximately 3 a.m. To take Saferide, one has to either call the operator or find one of the vehicles running around the campus. Last year, some UChicago students put together a petition to the Saferide Program, asking for service improvements to further ensure students’ safety. They explained that there had been instances where the Program operator did not pick up the phone at all, put a caller on hold for so long that the caller gave up and walk to her or his destination, and took more than 30 minutes to pick a student up when the student had been told to wait for only 15 minutes. The petition was in fact more or less a reaction to the neighborhood’s recently heightened security alerts due to recent violent incidents on and near the campus.

As a student of the University of Chicago, I am just as concerned about our security as my fellow students who felt scared enough to take such action. But the fact is, I do not feel represented by the petition at all. Thus, I could not sign it. My security concern is not limited to the University community but extends beyond the campus, and when you think about the economic diversity in the entire Hyde Park, using / being able to use convenient services like Saferide is a huge privilege. Granted, our student fees do go to Saferide, but how many people can actually buy safety like that? Having money to be spent on betterment of one’s safety is definitely a privilege.

Each Saferide driver is supposed to ask all passengers to show her or him their UChicago ID card. And I have seen quite a few people denied access to a ride on Saferide because they “failed to provide” a UChicago ID, as well as many people who did not even bother trying to get in. As a student myself, however, only 1 out of 10 times am I asked to show them my ID. Such ratio is, based on my observation, pretty much the same for other students as well.

What does this mean? It means that UChicago students and the rest of the Hyde Park community look different, or at least, we are in principle supposed to look different. And what kind of people are we talking about when we say “the rest of the community” who do not look like us? They are predominantly African-American, some of whom, I have seen, would have to ask someone for change in order to get access to public transportation if denied access to UChicago vehicles. That is common sense to those who understand the economic reality of Hyde Park. However, staying ignorant of such economic reality throughout their years at the University is not impossible at all. Most students here spend only a few years on campus (varying from 2-months summer programs to a 5+ year PhD programs). To most of them, safety is their safety, not that of the whole community.

My concern is, first, the ID display requirement is doing nothing but reinforce the economic polarization between UChicago students and others. Second, the security measures employed as of today do not take into account the racial and economic diversity of the students.

The Saferide Program is operated by the University (Department of Transportation and Parking) who took over the operation from the University of Chicago Police Department in 2007. This means that, unlike the 171, 172 buses that are run by CTA, there would be no economic harm even if they stopped enforcing the ID display requirement and checking “suspicious” individuals’ ID cards. The number of passengers may increase as more people would be able to take Saferide, but very slowly, unless the University decides to make a huge announcement to the neighborhood about the end to ID requirement (which they wouldn’t). And most importantly, as the University has expanded its campus onto the southern side, local residents have suffered the relocation, separation from families and friends, and rise in rent. Providing Saferide services to local residents, to me, seems like a necessary part of the University’s compensation for the loss that it has caused them.

Well, even if you don’t agree with any of the above, you know it’s friggin’ COLD in winter to the extent that everyone deserves to be provided sheltered transportation!

On the second point about student diversity – coming from a marginalized family background myself, I do not feel included fully in the petitioners’ “we, students” tone. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Minority students come from diverse backgrounds where most of us have been taught not to trust police officers, security guards, and other professionals who say they are protecting us. True, we don’t feel safe when transportation services are not adequate. But some of us will still not feel safe when safety is guaranteed only for student-looking students (read: typically white, middle-class, able-bodied, with no mental disability). Ultimately, we are not safe until the entire community feels safe and protected.

I must immediately add that, as a UChicago student, I do have the privilege——the privilege to be educated, to be protected, and to get access to libraries, air-conditioned buildings, University-owned/sponsored transportation, etc. I can never speak for non-UChicago-affiliated people who live in Hyde Park. Nonetheless, it is our responsibility not to look away from this weird relationship we as students have with the rest of the community, with privilege attached to us and not to the others. We have a responsibility not to try to maximize our security at the expense of others. By “at the expense of others,” I mean demonizing “strangers” on the street. Those “strangers” are humans, typically African-American, who live here, and may have even lived here for their entire life, surviving the expansion of the University and thus dislocation of their relatives/families/friends/selves.

Yes, Hyde Park is not the safest town in the world and UChicago students have all the right to be afraid, to ask for protection, and to feel safe——but so does everyone else.

I think I’ll finish by quoting from one of my favorite scenes from the movie, “Hairspray,” where African-American student Seaweed takes to one of her mother’s dance parties a white boy (Link) and two white girls from school (Tracy and Penny):

Motormouth Maybelle: Well, looks like y’all took a step outta bounds.
[to Seaweed]
Motormouth Maybelle: Who’ve we got here?
Seaweed: Mom, I want you to meet my new friends. This here is Link, Tracy Turnblad…
Tracy Turnblad: [interrupts] This is just so afro-tastic!
Seaweed: And this young lady right here, is Penny Pingleton.
Penny Pingleton: I’m very pleased and scared to be here.
Motormouth Maybelle: Now, honey, we got more reason to be scared on your street.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427327/quotes

SUCH “HOMOPHOBIC” COMMUNITIES

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.

‘Mother’ Is Not All She Is

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.