[event.12-7.tokyo]Rights to Asylum Seekers and Immigrants! Give Us Visa, Not Provisional Release!

PRAJ to Hold a March on December 7

http://praj-praj.blogspot.com/2011/11/praj-to-hold-march-on-december-7.html

Dear Friends,

We, asylum seekers and immigrants, have got the status of “Provisional Release” after more than a year of detention by Japanese Immigration Bureau. It is, however, always possible for us to be detained again and again. We are still not allowed to work. Then how should we afford our life? Since we are also stricted to freely moving, we can’t see our remote friends without permission of Immigration even in emergency. Moreover, we are forced to pay extraordinarily high medical expenses because we can’t get national health insurance which every citizen in Japan has. In summary, those in the status of “Provisional Release” in Japan, supposed to currently amount to one or two thousands in total , are deprived of basic human rights. So we demand to the Immigration and the Ministry of Justice: Give us rights to live, give us Visa! Please join us.

  • Stop Mental Torture
  • Stop Killing Overstayers 
  • Release Detainees from Your Torture
  • Stop Re-Detention

7 Dec. 2011 (Wed.), 12:00, gathering in front of Water Square in Hibiya Park, Tokyo, near Hibiya Sta. (metro) or Yurakucho Sta. (JR)
* If you come to the Hibiya Exit of Yurakucho Sta. (JR) at 11:30, then we’ll take you to the park.

Organized by Provisional Release Association in Japan (PRAJ)
Contact: MASUDA 080-3421-4060 / MIYASAKO 090-6547-7628

[PARTICIPATE!] What are the needs of LGBTQs when earthquakes hit?

UPDATE: Marcilyn in the comments below gave me the link to LGBTQ Disaster Assistance. “Supporting the resilience of sexual minorities and gender diverse individuals and communities in disaster and emergency management”. Some of the items in the Resources section are available online!

UPDATE: Fridae article “Japanese LGBT/PLHIV orgs report in OK, but uncertainty remains” details the situation as of March 18 for LGBTQetc in the affected areas.

UPDATE: Rainbow World Fund began accepting donations for Japan. Please go to http://www.rainbowfund.org/!

UPDATE: The Japanese version of this document has received so much feedback that at the moment I cannot keep the both versions 100% in sync. But here’s the major changes I have made in response to the feedback I have gotten so far:

  • Distribution of information will be two-fold: 1st phase and 2nd phase.
  • We will contact those LGBTQs directly affected by the disaster and other LGBTQs who have experience of a similar kind, so that our final write-up will most reflect the needs of those people.
  • We will consult medical professionals before distributing the medicine-related part of this document.
  • Therefore, the deadline, originally 6PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011, has been extended. Please keep sending us your input.
  • In the meantime, please take action by donating to existing organizations such as the one above (RWF).
  • I apologize for any anxiety that this project has caused the LGBTQ victims in the affected areas.

Dear my fellow queer-y friends and readers,

As you may have probably heard, the world’s 7th biggest earthquake (M8.8) hit Miyagi, Japan, and there have been a few more quakes in other cities in the northern regions as well (all of them above M5.0). The number of deaths and people missing has been increasing rapidly. Japan has a number of nuclear power plants and people are in great fear.

As a queer Japanese who has many friends and family in Japan, I am concerned about LGBTQs affected by the disaster and their life that follows it, just as much as I’m concerned about the immediate danger that is still taking place right now (the country is still experiencing minor quakes). To most people, the immediate devastation seems to be the biggest problem that has to be solved. But for those who are directly affected by the disaster, the next few months (and even more) will become part of their life routine and evacuation centers will be their homes for a long time.

My friends and I, equally upset and concerned about immediate physical dangers and the lives of marginalized populations for the following months, are compiling a document detailing the specific needs of LGBTQs in midst of natural disasters like this. The document will be sent to help organizations, accommodation facilities, rescue teams, and volunteers.

But we have yet to put together an exhaustive, comprehensive list of queer needs. We need your input. Some of you may be survivors of natural disasters, or friends/families of those people. We want you to share the experiences as an LGBTQ person who survived natural disasters. You may have no such experience whatsoever. But you can still imagine what it will be like if a natural disaster hits and you’ll have to live in an evacuation center for the next, say, 6 months. What concerns will you have?

We need your input! Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at chicomasak[at]gmail.com. You can also tweet using the hashtag, #lgbtq_quake. The deadline is 6PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

The final write-up will be ready by Wednesday morning and sent to help organizations, accommodation facilities, rescue teams and volunteer individuals. Anything that doesn’t go into the one-page document, will be included in a longer version that’s going to be available for viewing online. The URL will be added to the bottom of the document.

*After the document has been sent, I will write an English translation so that anyone around the world can use the resource.

Here’s the list of ideas we have received so far. The Japanese original is on the wiki system.

Please be warned that the following list may trigger emotional reactions, flashbacks, and other disturbing responses in the reader, especially for those who are LGBTQ and survivors of natural disasters. Please make sure you are comfortable with this kind of information before proceeding.

Links

IDEAS for DRAFT (growing based on emails + comments I’m receiving)

  1. Please know that all these rights of LGBTQ individuals and families (and many others, in fact!) should be respected no matter what. However, this document is meant to call attention to how our rights easily go overlooked in times of disasters. This means…:
    • Don’t forget about LGBTQ rights after evacuation gets lifted and you go back home because for some LGBTQs, ‘back to normal’ isn’t safe enough since their ‘normal’ has never been as safe as what it is for many others.
  2. Provide clothes, cosmetics, razors, etc. regardless of what gender you might assume we have.
    • For sanitary napkins, tampons, etc., please organize it so that we won’t be seen as we collect the provided items
  3. We need a space to hide our belongings that are conventionally gender-specific.
    • Our parents, relatives, and friends may come to pick us up. But some of us queers have not come out to all of them. We need our clothes, cosmetics, and other gender-related items to be tucked away and hidden.
  4. Psychiatrists, counsellors, etc. should understand how hormones affect trans people.
    • We may experience great mental pains and physical inconveniences due to lack of hormones. And having someone who understands is of great importance.
  5. Look for notes in pockets, wallets, etc. for notes BEFORE reporting on us in the media.
    • Some of us carry around notes such as “I don’t identify as the gender on my ID. Please don’t mention my gender on TV or radio,” in fear of unwanted disclosure of our gender history. Please look for notes and, if you find one, respect their decision.
  6. Privacy in bathrooms, shower rooms, and near/within sleeping areas.
    • Gender-neutral bathrooms with the doors and walls completely enclosing the space.
    • Security buzzers in every cubicle.
    • Evacuation centers will be the victims’ homes. And everyone should feel comfortable using bathrooms in their homes.
    • With a lack of privacy in bathrooms, women and LGBTQs may find it preferable to go in to the dark by themselves, which increases the risk of being attacked (physically and sexually).
  7. Don’t assume that everyone is either female or male.
    • There’s no guarantee of safety in separating women from men. For example, physical and mental abuse by female volunteers against evacuated women is not uncommon.
    • Sexual, physical, and mental abuse do exist no matter what gender or LGBT status a group shares. By assuming that separating women from men actually ensures safety, you will overlook many kinds of violence and dangers that are hurting the people you’re trying to help. Separation can be effective to some extent, but please keep your eyes on the people and listen to their requests for special treatment. Please also do have some professional counseling service at each evacuation center.
    • However, do not assume that LGBTQs are the dangerous predators. LGBTQs are more likely to become victims than perpetrators because there is hatred toward them.
  8. Protect us from sexual harassment and sexual violence.
    • Women, LGBTQs, and disabled individuals are often tagets of sexual and physical violence.
    • This includes outing.
      • Evacuation centers are not the ideal place in terms of protecting privacy. LGBTQs experience great anxiety and fear that others might find out that they’re LGBTQs. In dealing with the victims of the disaster, their fear and psychological stress, please keep in mind that they may be LGBTQ. LGBTQs are generally more likely to experience mental health issues.
    • Any anti-crime, security-related items should be provided regardless of gender.
    • Medical professionals should not inquire unnecessary private information about the injured. The stress of the evacuated is massive and the fear can make the injured vulnerable to intimidation and at the same time unnecessarily willing to disclose any information in order to survive the situation. Don’t use the situation to violate privacy. This includes the HIV status.
    • Protect privacy at medical, counseling, consultation, and other support services.
    • Counseling services should have a sign or flyer posted at evacuation centers that say “talk to us about abuse and violence based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”
    • In order for those with gender identity disorder or HIV/AIDS, please use a sheet of paper with names of different branches of medicine, at which they can point their finger. This reduces stress and anxiety, as well as help those who do not know the names of medications they usually take.
  9. Don’t prioritize non-LGBTQs, or don’t even let LGBTQs worry that you might do so.
    • Just as much we need to be equally taken care of, we need to feel that we are taken care of equally
  10. Respect our partnerships, same-sex or opposite-sex.
    • Same-sex households and unmarried households are also families. We care about our families just as much as heterosexual married families do.
    • We need to phone our partners, we need to stay together with our partners, and we need to be respected as partners.
    • In times of disaster, one sometimes needs their partner’s emotional support especially when there are still people missing. To reject their request to take their partner to the police, fire department, hospital, military base, etc. is to deprive them of necessary emotional support.
  11. Please know that if you can’t handle something regarding LGBTQs, you have lots of options to choose. This will be a list of contact info
    • Contact us.
    • Contact human rights organizations.
    • Call hotlines.
    • Read websites.
  12. Please know that LGBTQs are not just LGBTQs.
    • What kind of care does a gay man with motor disabilities?
    • How can I understand the needs of a transgendered person who doesn’t speak the language I do?
      • Those with motor disabilities need support from other people most of the time. But please respect their dignity as a human being with their own will and desires. Listen and ask how much help they need, which body parts they don’t mind being touched on, how they want you to help them change clothes, etc.
    • Please inform people that xenophobia, which led to scapegoating of foreigners after the Kanto and Hanshin earthquakes in 1923 and 1995, does not help but creates extra obstacles for recovery.
  13. Don’t put us in the spot. We don’t represent all LGBTQs.
    • In making decisions, especially regarding issues about gender and sexuality, you may want to ask us for opinions as an LGBTQ person. But LGBTQs are just as diverse a population as non-LGBTQs.
    • When a ‘representative’ is chosen, they are typically the most advantaged among LGBTQs.
  14. Use the word, ‘significant other’ or ‘partner’, instead of boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, and husband.
    • Please do not paraphrase what we say using the heterosexist terms.
    • Please don’t refer to my same-sex partner as ‘friend’.
  15. Provide essential medications.
    • Provide them without inquiring any information other than the name of the medication they need.
      • for AIDS: protect privacy by labeling medications for AIDS in a way only medical professionals understand.
        • Help educate the people at your evacuation center on AIDS and STDs before they start fearing about possible contagion.
      • for trans people who need hormonal tablets
        • It’s good to know the names of hormones such as premarin, Ethinyl Estradiol-Norgestrel Combination, etc., but each trans person’s needs vary. Please listen to what they say. Remember that hormone users often feel anxious about taking hormones and access to hormones. If someone talks to you about hormones, please respect their privacy and discuss with them what may improve their quality of life as a trans person living in an evacuation center.
  16. Don’t take our requests as ‘selfish’.
    • The life-or-death situation is probably the most crucial. But LGBTQs spending weeks and months at evacuation centers experience tremendous psychological stress and we need support.
  17. Please know that some of you are LGBTQs.
    • In the military, police, fire departments, RedCross, NPOs, religious charity groups, affinity groups, and individual volunteers, LGBTQs walk among you.
    • They are a great asset to your rescuing activities because you have someone right beside you to turn to when you are not sure how to address concerns of LGBTQs whom you want to help.
  18. Please provide medical services regardless of gender on IDs.
    • For some of us, gender on our IDs do not represent who we are. Sometimes we don’t look like we belong to the gender on our ID. Please provide medical and other services regardless of gender on IDs.
    • According to NHK, insurance cards will not be necessary for medical treatment for the injured. One only needs to tell them their name, address, and date of birth. Therefore, we will ask them to make sure that no other information, especially pertaining to gender, sex, sexual orientation and sexual history (e.g. HIV status), unless necessary will be requested by medical professionals (and everyone else, for that matter).
  19. Please do not assume what we need just because we are/look LGBT.
    • Such assumptions may cause extra psychological stress for LGBT individuals.
    • This document has been written based on opinions of diverse LGBT and non-LGBT people. It does not always reflect what that person right in front of you needs and wants. Please listen to them, respect their dignity, and pay attention to what they say.
      • For example, avoid writing/saying “he/she”, “s/he”, and other PC euphemisms. Instead, ask what they need, what they want you to do for them, what can be done to improve their life at evacuation centers, what concerns they have about bathroom + shower situations and provided items, what medications (incl. hormones) they need, etc. Listen, and respect their decisions.
    • It is OK for you to assume a person’s gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Just remember always that that person right in front of you may not be what you think they are e.g. heterosexual, cisgender, a man, a woman etc. And listen to their voices, try to accommodate their needs (e.g. they want to be treated as a man).
  20. Create a space where we can comfortably ask for help, no matter what gender we are.
    • Trans individuals who are going through male-to-female gender transition, due to hormones such as estrogen, may not have enough physical power to work as a man e.g. carrying water tanks etc.
    • Such a space is not only LGBT-friendly, but also disability-friendly, mental health-friendly, children-friendly, and age-friendly.

We need more input! Please leave a comment below or shoot me an email at chicomasak[at]gmail.com. The deadline is 6PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

[vid] “Judith Butler refuses prize at Berlin’s CSD 2010” (w/ English subtitles)

Text in English: http://www.egs.edu/faculty/judith-butler/articles/i-must-distance-myself/

Interview with Judith Butler on her refusal of the civil courage prize: http://www.blu.fm/subsites/detail.php?id=4035

Jaspir Puar’s response to Butler’s speech: http://bullybloggers.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/celebrating-refusal-the-complexities-of-saying-no/

I owe you one, Hiroko

What came to my mind when I watched yesterday’s Heart TV on NHK, which focused on the intersection of disability and queerness, was the question of why happiness is so important in celebrating differences. Hiroko, the main guest on the show, who has cerebral palsy and is transgendered, was quite frequently referred to as a “happy person” and a “cute person” who has strength to live her life the way she wants to live it. But what if she were depressed? Well, she HAD been depressed.

In the interview at the studio, Hiroko told the audience that she had attempted to commit suicide when her spine was severely injured in an accident and she found out that she could no longer had control over what she wore (i.e. putting on ladies’ clothes when she was alone). The only reason she survived the depression was because the motor functions of her arms were damaged due to the accident and she wasn’t able to cut her wrist. Now THAT is exactly what we should really think about, that is, the erasure of her sexuality/gender identity due to her disabilities. The topic of yesterday’s show was “double minority,” meaning some people face more than one type of discrimination, in this case cisgenderism and ableism. And what it means in reality is that people easily forget that disabled individuals are also sexual beings just like the rest of humanity, not that they simply suffer from both cisgenderism and ableism at the same time as the MC guy, who looked like he was trying so hard to show empathy, claimed. To Hiroko, loss of the freedom she had had before the injury meant the end of cross-dressing which she had enjoyed in her entire life until then. It took her years to find an understanding personal assistant who helps her dress up as a woman and walks beside her like that, and I’d call it a miracle.

Indeed, she looked happy to me. She looked happy in that pretty red checkered miniskirt that she was wearing. But, I cannot tolerate the comments made by some of the other people in the studio. One repeatedly said, in an affirming manner (of course!), Hiroko looked very happy doing what she liked to do, and she had learned so much from her and been encouraged/empowered [translation may be wrong, but it was something along that line] by her. Another person commented on her “charming” personality, saying, “she is very cute!” Let’s put aside the problematic use of the pronoun, “she,” instead of “you,” which clearly illustrates his lack of respect for Hiroko’s subjectivity. What bugs me most is… what’s this all “happy” “charming” “cute” thing about?

From what she said during the show and in the footage shown to the guests and the audience, there is no doubt that she had been through lots, lots of predicaments which most able-bodied people could not even imagine. And now, just because she’s finally recovered from depression and gained some (partial, I’d say) freedom in the way she’s dressed, do they suddenly start celebrating today’s bright sides of her life, saying, “yeah, it’s cool she’s doing what she loves! Right on!” and “she made me realize that I could live my life the way I want it to be!” blah blah blah? Treating her like everyone else may be a good thing in many situations, but what it does sometimes is to completely ignore the richness of her life, the ups and downs she’d been through. Instead of glorifying her “strength” or “courage” that they may find fascinating and educating, they should be paying attention to what she says about her life, respect the darker side of it, and stop saying “happy” and “charming” and “cute”!

I really, really think that able-bodied people (including me) should be aware that we owe her one. She surely educated us on the intersection of disability and queerness, but we have not returned the favor yet, or do not even plan to.

Oh, I’d like to add that I personally didn’t find the footage offensive. I only hated the conversations that took place at the studio.

Such “Homophobic” Communities & If I Were a Gay Mormon…

[Such “Homophobic” Communities] and [If I Were a Gay Mormon…] were two different blog posts from my previous blog. I put them together here because they are closely related to each other.

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,” well, hopefully so——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.

If I Were a Gay Mormon…

Gay ‘kiss-in’ slated for Mormon church

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 I’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.

I Want To Drown

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?

*1: 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.

Don’t leave ’em alone, but don’t bother, either.

At Below the Belt, Someone (I’m sorry but I can’t find their name) posted an entry on class divisions and the invisible working-class in queer community. Granted, economic disparity within queer community, or at least gay community, isn’t really represented in the media or quite existent in our urban-washed cultural consciousness, and that’s a problem, no doubt. I, however, do not necessarily find it attractive to have scientific data covering those who do not fit with the stereotypic gay image.

There are so many reasons why some people’s faces do no appear in our vision. Like the original blogger says, some may find it impossible to come out at work or school or in their rural town where homophobia and transphobia prevail. Some may fear stigma and violence. Hence the original poster’s comment, “if the working class person does not live in an area that is accepting, s/he is more likely to not publicly identify, even if they privately do so.”

But there are dozens of other reasons, too. They may be too poor and thus busy to care in the first place. They may be happy enough in the closet. They may not identify as L or G or B or T or Q or anything that derives from the urban imaginary. They may cherish the local and choose it over things urban, thus not inclined to migrate to urban areas. They may find everyday negotiation with friends, families and colleagues more attractive, bringing richness to their life as a working-class person with working-class people surrounding them. Or they simply don’t like the gay culture at all and prefer more countryside-ish social occasions where homosociality does not always lead to homophobia (I guess we all know that, don’t we?).

I am not saying urban queer politics should not intervene in local struggles faced by queer people, but it seems very wrong to frame them in the urban imaginary where being out is a privilege and remaining in the closet is a sign of restriction or oppression. What underlies our struggles as queer individuals, rural or suburban or urban, is not that some of us cannot come out, but that we need to identify and come out as a comprehensible name in the first place to become visible and understandable. To me, that’s one of the big issues that we queers are collectively confronted with. If we fail to acknowledge this kind of collectivity that hovers over all of us, the term “queer” starts to seem meaningless, failing to bind together sexual/gender minority peoples coming from diverse economic/ethnic/disability/etc. backgrounds, because that’s how diverse we are.

So, while it’s important for some of us to attempt to take into account the invisible queers in our scientific research, which will richen the literature which people will have access to and learn from, we should nevertheless use our imagination to think about local contexts that shape the invisible queers’ identities, allows ways of negotiation that are different from urban ways of negotiation, and provides them with different ways of enjoying life. This of course has its own dangers, because it easily slips into mere cultural relativism and pluralism, making little room for understanding of inter-regional interactions. But my point is, it is precisely that very inter-regionality that we must look closely at as a site of construction of urban/rural dichotomy. Every time we say things like “queers in rural areas have less freedom,” and especially when we say them in the presence of rural audiences (e.g. on TV) i.e. at the site of inter-regional interaction, it becomes a part of the construction of urban/rural dichotomy. My point rejects both the idea that each region has its own context and the idea that it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re queer. Refusing to go neither way, we should create a path that leads us to a kind of collectivity that works for everyone no matter where they are–and that “no matter where they are” doesn’t mean we’ll preserve and extend the urban framework to understand ourselves, but we’ll somehow undermine the urban imaginary itself, destroy it to some extent, to really account for our diverse experiences as queer–no matter how little “queer” means to us.

Unhappy Queer In Denial – I Am Not Who I Am And That’s Fine, Thank You Very Much

People say, “happiness is all that matters,” “it’s fine as long as you’re happy,” “I just want you to be happy,” “you gotta make yourself happy,” and all that shit. Don’t get me wrong, I know what they mean. They’re nice people, probably the nicest kind of human beings. But it just annoys me when they say such things as if we had to be happy to gain freedom. I feel the same kind of aversion towards the Be-Who-You-Are discourse. Why can’t we just have the right to pretend like something else AND be free?

Look, I’m not happy. I don’t like who I am. And that’s fine. Period.

I wonder what makes them assume the right to decide whether or not it is okay for us to live depending on the level of happiness that derives from our life. Failing to prove happy will always lead to an educational, paternalistic lecture on how we should be proud of ourselves, how our life can be “healthier” if we listen to them. I think they, rather than we, have problems with life. I want to say, “mind your business,” precisely because they apparently gain something through lecturing us–and I think what exactly they get is a covering that obscures their own unhappiness.

The epitome of such discourses of theirs is when they comment on sex work. Lots of people say they think it’s okay to do sex work as long as the sex worker feels comfortable doing the kind of work they do. But how many people in our society feel totally comfortable at work, with no complaint or any kind of risks they take? I am not saying that work is always accompanied by sweat or (physical/psychological) damage, nor am I saying that we shouldn’t enjoy working. I think improvements in work environment and social security are very important no matter where you work. I also think that work isn’t necessarily a beautiful thing to do, and I believe in basic income. All I want to say is that they should just back off and think about the very line they’re trying to draw between sex work and other kinds of work before they start to venture to judge sex work as if they had the right to do so.

In the queer context, lots of coming-out narratives tell us that “cool” people say they don’t mind because they’re happy for us being happy and who we are. So if we’re not happy, or if we aren’t in actuality who we are (e.g. in denial), will they not accept us as whole beings? We do have the right to be queer AND unhappy. We do have the right to be queer AND in denial (of, say, racial categories we’re assigned). We do have those rights, just like everyone else.

[video] “Queer Faces from Lost Times” by Judith Halberstam

On November 28, 2009, the LGBIT student organization, Sumposion, at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, invited Prof. Judith “Jack” Halberstam from the University of Southern California to join them in a conversation on what it means to study queer theory.

The volunteer staff filmed Prof. Halberstam’s photographic slide show on queerness, photography, and authenticity. Please take a look. Six videos in total. (Also, you might notice, yes, it’s me in the first video.)






Is Queer Theory Really a Theory?

Among all theories that exist in academia, why are queer theory and feminist theory (and probably some others, often collectively called critical theory) often questioned by people saying, “if it’s theory, it must have coherence and logical foundations”?

First of all, queer theory is just an umbrella term for a lot of different theories, just like economic theory and sociological theory are, as well as biological theory, within which a variety of theories exist and, often times, contradict each other.

I mean, all theories, from those in physics to ones in economics, are just speculations, statements, or even, ways of understanding the world. They are not expected to speak to the truth, but to approximate to it and give only a way to look at things based on the information available. Take Newton’s laws and Einstein’s theory of relativity, or maybe superstring theory, as an example. If physicists believed in theory as a language to explain the truth, they would have to choose either one of the theories, because they contradict each other. I mean, they don’t even know whether light is composed of particles or waves! And yet, they still use both light-as-particle theory and light-as-wave theory, because they both WORK in explaining what happens in the world. They switch from one theory to another when the second theory explains better, or sometimes, when it requires less time and calculation even if the result could be slightly more inaccurate than the first theory. See, that’s how theory works. That’s how theory should be understood. Hence, diversity of queer theories.

Reality is way more complicated than theory, and that’s exactly why we need theory, to better understand what’s going on, and yet never succeed in explaining the whole. Theory doesn’t prescribe, but attempts to describe. Which theory to use totally depends on what is to be described. And producing theory is an endless attempt to explain what has not been explained.

As a side note, I want to add that, precisely because theory is created to explain the unexplained, it may often look irrelevant, an armchair kind of thing, to people who have the knowledge of what has been explained and sometimes even believe in the explained. But to some people, a new theory is a language to explain what has been *wrongfully* unexplained, a language that gives them a power to articulate the *unspeakable*, things taken for granted, which they have always been told not to utter.

That’s what I think theory is. And that’s how I think theory should be used, evaluated, and criticized. It’s just like natural science theories that attempt to explain what other theories are incapable of explaining.