For my readers in Japan, I hope that you’re enjoying a relatively dry and very safe rainy season. Here in Kyushu, the rain has been causing a lot of distress, but hopefully we only have to deal with it for a couple of more weeks.
How has everyone been enjoying the various news articles that I have been translating over the past few months? As I’ve noticed recently, a lot of the English language news stories from major media outlets haven’t really included the voices of LGBT people living in Japan (sans the Human Rights Watch piece that was comprised of entirely from the first hand experiences of the Japanese LGBT community), so I think that it’s important that everyone has a chance to read those articles and better understand the situation in the context of Japanese culture. If you haven’t checked out the interview with Otsuka Takashi, I suggest you give it a read.
Maybe I’ve just been reading comments from the wrong corners of the internet, but I occasionally come across members of the expat LGBT community in Japan who seem to exhibit alarmingly ethnocentric attitudes that I feel may harm the cause rather than help it. There seems to be a feeling that Japan can go from 0-100 in terms of the majority of Japanese people coming to understand LGBT, pressure being put on the government to protect LGBT individuals, and a variety of LGBT legislation being proposed and passed to protect equal rights. However, I don’t think that this is the case.
First of all, Japanese people have their own conceptions of what “sexual minorities” are. I say sexual minorities (性的少数者, seiteikishousuusha), because as a recent survey showed, many people still don’t even know what “LGBT” stands for, or understand the term in detail. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: While there is not so much religious opposition to LGBT, there is very much a feeling that it is unnatural, perverse, corrupting to the youth, and so on. Also keep in mind that while very “overt and in your face” discrimination is sometimes disguised, as LGBT people in Japan begin to raise their voices, homo and transphobic individuals will also become emboldened and may strike back, as we saw with some politician’s twitter scandals and another conservative politician’s address.
To sum up, the point that I would like expats to keep in mind is that to get people to understand the cause, in most cases, we must start from zero. The road to understanding and creating allies lies in the process. If we want people to understand us, let’s try to educate others with patience while understanding where their misconceptions are coming from.
As for me, while I have been toiling as a language school student for the past nine months, I think a change is in order, so I’m in the process of getting back to work. I have to admit, things have been less than ideal since moving to Fukuoka, but at the very least, I’ve started the process of remedying my issues and looking forward to the future.
I’ve been enjoying living so close to Taku since last summer, but he recently left on a work assignment all the way in Honshu, so I guess that means we’re in a long-distance relationship now…The furthest we had been apart before this was between Kitakyushu and Fukuoka, but we were still able to meet almost every weekend. At this point, I have no choice but to take it one day at a time and keep busy until he comes back.